Muscatine County, Iowa


Source: The Weekly Star and Kansan, Independence, Kansas Friday November 6, 1885, pg 1
Submitted by Barbara MacLeish, assisted by Jackie Terry, June 10, 2016

Dan De Quille

The countenance in the accompanying illustration does not look like that of a funny writer. It rather reminds one of Thackeray’s lines:

“He shows you when his mask if off
A face that’s anything but gay.”

Yet it is the portrait of a man whom some good judges consider to be quite the equal of Mark Twain in humor. His real name is W. W. Wright. He and Mark Twain were reporters on The Virginia Enterprise together. Mark was never a thin skinned man, as far as other people were concerned, or a very kindly one. Moreover, he never failed to look out for No. 1. He used to play alleged jokes on his brother reporter which were little short of brutal. De Quille had the finer nature of the two, as may be seen from the thin, sensitive face. He can write anything from a ghost story to a funny column in a newspaper. There is a subtle pathos in his more imaginative writing that is quite wanting in the efforts of his brother humorist. But Mark Twain has been successful. Dan de Quille was not. This is a strange world.

        De Quille is, beyond doubt, the best informed mining journalist in the United States. On this subject he is absolute authority. A private letter of his has come into my hands. It is so simple, so modest, that I give it here. A faint gleam of melancholy plays about it, hinting at what no words of the writer mention, of disappointments, of rebuffs that downed a sensitive man, of failure: that may be after all only success wrong side out. Mr. Wright says:

        Virginia City, Nev., Oct. 21, 1885.
        I have just received your letter of Sept. 23, asking for my photograph and a slight sketch of my mundane pilgrimage. I enclose a photograph of myself—old and gray. All men desire to live long, yet no one wishes to be old; though if we live long we must become old. As regards a sketch of my life, I may make the answer made by Jacob of old to Pharaoh: “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers’ in the days of their pilgrimage.” Other than this there is little to say. I was born in Knox county, O., May 9 1829. On my father’s side my people were Quakers. They “came over” with William Penn, and settled in Philadelphia. From Philadelphia they went into the state of Virginia, and settled in London county. From Virginia they moved into Ohio, when that state was a wilderness and still infested by bands of hostile Indians. In 1848 I went from Ohio to Muscatine county, Ia., and left Iowa in 1857 for California. I mined in Nevada county, Cal., till 1860, meantime prospecting through all the southern camps of that state, and crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains to Mono lake by way of the Yosemite falls. In the spring of 1860 I came to the Comstock silver mines, Virginia City, Nev., and have since resided here. In 1861 I became connected with The Territorial Enterprise as local and Mining editor. I have been engaged on The Enterprise ever since until about eight months ago, since which time I have writing for various papers on both sides of the continent—Bohemianizing, in fact. I began writing letters and sketches in Iowa for local papers, and for two or three years while in California wrote many sketches and letters for The Golden Era, Nevada City Journal and other papers. Of perils by “flood and field,” and ups and downs of fortune, I shall say nothing. That I am still in the harness should be pretty good evidence that I have carried off nobody’s silver mine.

        Yours respectfully. DAN DEQUILLE

        With this letter I close the sketch of two famous far western newspaperman. A. J. BOTHWELL

Note: William Wright became quite a famous writer in Nevada...however he came back to West Liberty, Iowa, and is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery. For more information on his life see

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