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SALOON MAY HOLD SECRETS TO EX-SLAVE LIFE IN OLD WEST 04/28/99 Historians and archeaologists working together to learn more about ex-slaves in the Old West have discovered the remains of a rare black-owned saloon that catered to all races in the 1860s. The Boston Saloon was owned and operated by a free black man from Massachusetts from 1864 until it burned in a fire that destroyed most of Virginia City in 1875, researchers said in interviews Wednesday. Not much is known about the enclave of about 100 blacks who lived in the bustling mining town of 20,000 _ the biggest city west of the Mississippi River at the time. "In general, a mining camp like that may be perceived as a white phenomenon," said Ron James, Nevada's state historic preservation officer. "African-Americans who are visiting Nevada and go up to Virginia City are not always aware that they have roots in that community. "But there were a lot of (black) business owners who were well known and much respected. One ran for mayor. Another fellow was a doctor practicing for well over 10 years." The fact that Virginia City was a "remarkably integrated community" has deterred efforts to learn more about blacks of that era, James said. Unlike the Chinese, who formed their own Chinatown, blacks lived among the Irish, French and German immigrants. Whites rented rooms from blacks and blacks rented rooms from whites, he said. "To me, that means it was a healthy society, but it's not a good environment for archaeologists," James said. "There isn't a black neighborhood. If there were, it would be easy. We would excavate the black neighborhood," said James. He said the saloon "may very well be a one-of-a-kind site in the Inner-Mountain West." The gold and silver mined from beneath Virginia City and nearby Gold Hill and Silver City helped finance Union efforts in the Civil War. In fact, President Lincoln rushed Nevada into statehood in 1864 for that very purpose. The state motto is "All For Our Country." "The Comstock was fiercely pro-Union, so they tended to be sympathetic to slaves and ex-slaves," James said. "We think of Nevada being a little more conservative about that kind of thing, more reluctant to buy into 20th century civil rights, but in the 19th century it was leader," he said. To walk the streets and wooden sidewalks of Virginia City is to take a trip back in time to the Old West. The entire city makes up one of the largest National Historic Districts in the nation. The newly discovered site is beneath a small asphalt parking lot behind the Bucket of Blood Saloon, which was established in 1876 and still stands at the corner of D and Union streets. In addition to the old opera house, insurance maps show a series of female boarding houses near that intersection_ "the designated red light district," said Kelly Dixon, administrator and archaeologist for the Comstock Archaeology Center. Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, got his start a block away at the local newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. "It really will provide windows into the past," Dixon said. "It's a way to find out about people who don't have as much written about them in the historical record." The Great Fire of 1875 has proven to be a blessing for researchers at the site because it will provide a "nice ash lens cap" under which everything found likely was part of the saloon, James said. The asphalt parking lot _ which archaeologists want to dig up in the summer of 2000 _ "complicates things but it also ensures preservation. "I can talk about where it is and not worry about anyone pawning it out," James said. The Boston Saloon was founded by William A. G. Brown, who "started working in Virginia City as a `boot black' _ a 19th century term for a street shoe polisher," Dixon said. "Literally from the bootstraps, he pulled himself up and opened this saloon." Test holes already have recovered a shard from a white porcelain cup and crystal stemware, "probably from a wine goblet or brandy snifter," she said. James and Dixon said the discovery of the saloon defies long odds in a number of respects. It's rare to find a business that operated in the same spot in mining boom town for more than a year. It's even more rare to find one sealed beneath the ashes of a fire and rarer still to have it owned and operated by a black man. "To have all that line up in the 19th century is outstanding," James said.

SURPRISE FIND: EX-SLAVES A PART OF 19TH-CENTURY LIFE 04/28/99 The buried remains of a black-owned saloon that catered to all races in the 1860s may prove to be a gold mine for archaeologists trying to learn more about ex-slaves in the Old West. The Boston Saloon was owned and operated by a free black man from Massachusetts from 1864 until it burned in a fire that destroyed most of Virginia City in 1875, researchers said in interviews Wednesday. Not much is known about the enclave of about 100 blacks who lived in the bustling mining town of 20,000 _ the biggest city west of the Mississippi River at the time. "In general, a mining camp like that may be perceived as a white phenomenon," said Ron James, Nevada's state historic preservation officer. "African-Americans who are visiting Nevada and go up to Virginia City are not always aware that they have roots in that community. "But there were a lot of (black) business owners who were well known and much respected. One ran for mayor. Another fellow was a doctor practicing for well over 10 years." The fact that Virginia City was a "remarkably integrated community" has deterred efforts to learn more about blacks of that era, James said. Unlike the Chinese, who formed their own Chinatown, blacks lived among the Irish, French and German immigrants. Whites rented rooms from blacks and blacks rented rooms from whites, he said. "To me, that means it was a healthy society, but it's not a good environment for archaeologists," James said. "There isn't a black neighborhood. If there were, it would be easy. We would excavate the black neighborhood," said James. He said the saloon "may very well be a one-of-a-kind site in the Inner-Mountain West." The gold and silver mined from beneath Virginia City and nearby Gold Hill and Silver City helped finance Union efforts in the Civil War. In fact, President Lincoln rushed Nevada into statehood in 1864 for that very purpose. The state motto is "All For Our Country." "The Comstock was fiercely pro-Union, so they tended to be sympathetic to slaves and ex-slaves," James said. "We think of Nevada being a little more conservative about that kind of thing, more reluctant to buy into 20th Century civil rights, but in the 19th century it was leader," he said. To walk the streets and wooden sidewalks of Virginia City is to take a trip back in time to the Old West. The entire city makes up one of the largest National Historic Districts in the nation. The newly discovered site is beneath a small asphalt parking lot behind the Bucket of Blood Saloon, which was established in 1876 and still stands at the corner of D and Union streets. In addition to the old opera house, insurance maps show a series of female boarding houses near that intersection_ "the designated red light district," said Kelly Dixon, administrator and archaeologist for the Comstock Archaeology Center. Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, got his start a block away at the local newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. "It really will provide windows into the past," Dixon said. "It's a way to find out about people who don't have as much written about them in the historical record." The Great Fire of 1875 has proven to be a blessing for researchers at the site because it will provide a "nice ash lens cap" under which everything found likely was part of the saloon, James said. The asphalt parking lot _ which archaeologists want to dig up in the summer of 2000 _ "complicates things but it also ensures preservation. "I can talk about where it is and not worry about anyone pawning it out," James said. The Boston Saloon was founded by William A. G. Brown, who "started working in Virginia City as a `boot black' _ a 19th century term for a street shoe polisher," Dixon said. "Literally from the bootstraps, he pulled himself up and opened this saloon." Test holes already have recovered a shard from a white porcelain cup and crystal stemware, "probably from a wine goblet or brandy snifter," she said. James and Dixon said the discovery of the saloon defies long odds in a number of respects. It's rare to find a business that operated in the same spot in mining boom town for more than a year. It's even more rare to find one sealed beneath the ashes of a fire and rarer still to have it owned and operated by a black man. "To have all that line up in the 19th century is outstanding," James said.

STUDENTS GET HANDS-ON EDUCATION ABOUT AMERICAN INDIAN CULTURE 04/29/99 Rule No. 1: Never look up when inside an authentic American Indian pit house. Debris from the pine-needle roof will fall through the log frame and into your eyes. Rule No. 2: Divert water away from the pit house base. Otherwise, you'll be sitting in mud. Skyview School intermediate students learned these and other practical tips while building a shaggy, 10-foot-tall wickiup this spring. Their house mirrors one-room dwellings the Sinagua people built when they inhabited this area between 800 and 1400 AD. It all began when Mark Dorsten, a Prescott College senior, did a primitive craft workshop as a senior project with 49 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students at Skyview. Twice a week for three months, he taught students to make bowls and canteens out of gourds, rattles of willow and dolls and figurines from cattail and tule. They also learned to twist rope from yucca fiber and rawhide strands. Another lesson was making fire by friction. In Dorsten's experienced hands, the bow drill threw sparks that set cottonwood bark aflame. Those studies added a new dimension to the children's study of pueblo-dwelling Native Americans of Arizona, but Dorsten wasn't done yet. After completing the craft workshop, he offered to show the class how to build an authentic pit house. They jumped at the chance and did some research, finally deciding on a teepee made of locally available materials. In October, the students began meeting twice a week to dig a 12-foot-diameter hole in the stony yard behind the school office. It was tough going, even with metal shovels instead of the sticks and rocks ancients used. Dorsten loosened the hard ground ahead of time with a pick, but excavation still took several weeks. "It was really hard work," said Jesse Robbins, 12. "Then we hit a pipeline and had to stop at 1 1/2 feet, but it still looks OK." The winter weather cooperated. "When it rained, we would get buckets and shovel mud out and put it in a pile," said Lacy Wood, 10. "Now we call it Skyview Mountain." Ten-year-old Jessica Smith and several classmates made an aboriginal pick out of a stick tied to a rock. "It worked better than the modern one because it got sharper with each dig," Smith said. Meanwhile, Dorsten got permits to remove poles (for the conical roof) and flagstone (for the floor) from Prescott and Coconino national forests. He brought those and other natural materials to the school yard. Carly Regina, 9, was on the crew that measured, cut and lashed pine logs together with willow and river cane rope to form the frame. "We made a door on the east, where the sun rises," she said. "That's what they did centuries ago, and ours goes to the garden, like theirs probably did." Ten-year-old Jacob Zucker joked about using a modern saw to cut logs. "We didn't have a beaver ... that would have been nice," he said. Installing the flagstone floor made the space so attractive that teachers brought other classes to sit inside, enjoying the sun streaming through the uncompleted structure. Recently, children were hurling mounds of forest floor debris _ needles, cones and twigs _ on top to make a thick, waterproof roof. Occasionally, they stopped to admire the structure they had labored long to build in the manner of the Sinagua. "It was nice of Mark to show us how to build this," said Nick Tajc, 11. "We learned what they used and how they built their houses. It probably took them five hours, but it took us 45 minutes a day for a long time." Bryana Barnes, 9, saw another benefit: "If we got lost in the woods, we'd have a better idea of what we could do." "Yeah, Mark's taught us to live without anything from the modern world," Robbins added. Dorsten is a student of Cody Lundin, who teaches aboriginal living skills at Prescott College and Yavapai College. "My reward is passing along what I've learned about Native Americans and just watching the kids when they say, `Wow! So that's how they did it!"' said Dorsten, an experimental education major. "It's phenomenal what the students have gained through this project," said Skyview Director Sharon S. Rice. "We're very fortunate to have Mark sharing his expertise with our students. We've had a great year."