The Curse of Orson Hyde

When the Mormon faithful returned to Zion in 1858 at the call of Brigham Young, many were required to abandon the fruits of their labors in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada. One such was Orson Hyde, the magistrate sent west to arrange the affairs of Carson County. He had constructed a sawmill in Washoe Valley between the present sites of Reno and Carson City and had sold the mill before returning to Utah. But he had managed to get only "one span of small oxen, and an old wagon," as part payment on the $10,000 sale price. The rest was never forthcoming, despite Hyde's best efforts to collect.

After five years Hyde had despaired of ever collecting, and planted his suit "in the Chancery of Heaven" by reading, in the Utah legislature of which he was a member, an open letter to the people of Carson and Washoe valleys. The letter read in part:


"The Lord has signified to me, his unworthy servant, that as we have been under circumstances that compelled us to submit to your terms, that He will place you under circumstances that will compel you to submit to ours, or do worse.

"That mill and those land claims were worth $10,000 when we left them; the use of that property, or its increased value since, is $10,000 more, making our present demand $20,000.

"Now if the above sum be sent to me in Great Salt Lake City, in cash, you shall have a clean receipt therefor, in the shape of honorable quitclaim deeds to all the property that Orson Hyde, William Price, and Richard Bentley owned in Washoe Valley. The mill, I understand, is now in the hands of R. D. Sides, and has been for a long time. But if you shall think best to repudiate our demand or any part of it, all right. We shall not take it up again in this world in any shape of any of you; but the said R.D. Sides and Jacob Rose shall be living and dying advertisements of God's displeasure, in their persons, in their families, and in their substances; and this demand or ours, remaining uncancelled, shall be to the people of Carson and Washoe valleys as was the ark of God among the Philistines. (See 1st Sam. fifth chapter) You shall be visited of the Lord of Hosts with thunder and with earthquake and with floods, with pestilence and with famine until your names are not known amongst men, for you have rejected the authority of God, trampled upon his laws and his ordinances, and given yourselves up to serve the god of this world; to rioting in debauchery, in abominations drunkenness and corruption . . . .

"I have no sordid desire for gold, and have manifested by my long silence and manifest indifference; and should not say anything now had not the visions of the Almighty stirred up my mind . . . .

"I care not what our mill and land claims are, or were considered worth - whether five hundred thousand dollars or five cents - twenty thousand dollars is our demand; and you can pay it to us, as I have said, and find mercy, if you will thenceforth do right, or despise the demand and perish. . . .'

Orson Hyde


From The Complete Nevada Traveler by David W. Toll