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Angels Camp

Mark Twain, Dan’l Webster and uncle Zachary
by Donna Bailey

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I s’pose everybody at one time or ‘tother has had somebody either born in their town, or come to their town that was famous. Well, right here in Angels Camp one day back in 1864 came this writer fellow, who wrote for newspapers people said.

Well, he was stay’n in a cabin outside of town on Jackass Hill and he came around now and again call’n his‘self Mark Twain, but I heard later that he was really Samuel Clemens. He had white hair that stuck out ever which way and a big thick, white moustache and smoked big black cigars. He had a high squeaky voice too. Pa said he sounded much like if a violin could talk.

He’d come and sit in the bar of the Angels hotel and drink toddies, talk to nere do well’s and listen to what was a go’n on here ‘bouts in the mining camps. At the same time there was a boy ‘bout nine years old with thick yellow hair, and bright blue eyes who lived here too and he was a bit of a scamp. His name was Zachary Sahlstrom and he was my great uncle Zac and lived to be 93 years old.

Around this same time ‘nother man also lived here in town that Mr. Clemens made rather famous in one of his stories. It was in that one about that frog called Dan’l Webster. Mark Twain, was right what he wrote in his story ‘bout the frog and that old guy Smiley bet'n on anything, anything a-tall. That was purely true. Smiley once bet an ol’ man that he could undress and then dress again faster than he could right out’n the street.

A group of people gathered around the hotel that day when a small argument between Smiley and old Sam Rankin who cleaned out the livery up by the Love house got into it. Old Sam was ‘bout seventy-three years old; tall, skinny and his clothes rarely saw hot water or soap.

“ If a fire happened,” Smiley was say’n, “why I could be in my clothes quicker than you could spit and be out of sight afore you could get your boots pulled up.”

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Last Update: 4/2/2003

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