Orion Clemens (1825-1897) was the first and only Secretary of Nevada Territory. He is best known through his relationship to his younger brother Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by the pen name Mark Twain.
Born in Missouri, Orion Clemens was the oldest of seven children. Four of his six siblings died before reaching the age of twenty, leaving only his brother Samuel (1835-1910) and their sister Pamela (1827-1904). In 1839, the Clemens family moved to Hannibal, Missouri, a port town on the Mississippi River which was to eventually inspire some of his brother Sam's stories.
As a young man, Clemens worked in his father's general store, and later as an apprentice at a local newspaper, before moving to St. Louis, Missouri. In St. Louis, Clemens began studying law under attorney Edward Bates, who later served as Attorney General for President Abraham Lincoln. After his father's death in 1847, Clemens returned to Hannibal and purchased the local newspaper, which he renamed Hannibal Western Union. Unable to make a successful living as a journalist in Hannibal, Clemens relocated to Muscatine, Iowa in 1853 and to [Keokuk, Iowa in 1854.
Following Republican Abraham Lincoln's election as President in 1860, Clemens was appointed Secretary to the new government of the Territory of Nevada at a salary of $1,800 a year. His younger brother Sam accompanied Clemens to Nevada Territory in the summer of 1861. Sam would later write about this journey in his semi-autobiographical book, Roughing It. Sam drifted into mining and newspaper work, while his brother served as Territorial Secretary and often as acting Governor. It was while acting as temporary Governor that Clemens gained political popularity by avoiding a "Sagebrush War" with California over disputed state boundary lines. Clemens built a home in Carson City and brought his wife, Mollie, and young daughter, Jennie, to Nevada a year after his arrival. Jennie would die there in February, 1864. Clemens offered strong support of the newly-formed government in Carson City, paying out of his own pocket for the printing of the House and Senate Journals and to furnish the two territorial legislative chambers.
In 1864, as Nevada gained statehood, he sought unsuccessfully to be nominated as a candidate for Nevada Secretary of State. The following year, he served a brief time as an elected state assemblyman. However, the meager salary of a legislator and his inability to develop a successful law practice led him to leave Nevada in 1866.
After leaving Nevada, Clemens lived for some time in the eastern United States, again attempting to pursue a career in journalism, before finally relocating once again to Keokuk, Iowa in the mid-1870s, where he lived for the remainder of his life. In Iowa, Clemens at times practiced law, farmed chickens, and worked at inventing various gadgets. He also worked extensively on an autobiography. Unfortunately, his writing efforts and other endeavors were largely unsuccessful, and his main source of income was provided by Sam, who visited Clemens often. Clemens died December 11, 1897.
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