John (Johnnie) William Skae
John Skae was born about 1840; the 1862 Nevada Census lists John Skae as age 22, living in Virginia City. He died penniless in San Francisco on July 16, 1885. He was a member of the Knights Templar (an offshoot of the Fraternal Order of Masons) in Virginia City.
Skae, along with James G Fair, managed the Utah Mine in Virginia City for most of the period between its location in 1859 and re-incorporation in 1871. He was a member of the original 1862 Board of Trustees of the Virginia and Gold Hill Water Company and a trustee of the the reorganized 1872 corporation. During the early years of the Company he purchased many of the land parcels and water rights on behalf of the Company.
Skae was a well-known public figure and was featured by Mark Twain in two of Twain's stories in the Territorial Enterprise (Oct. 22-24, 1865) and the Californian (Aug. 26, 1865) which related to California mining enterprises. Skae was also mentioned in Alfred Doten's Journals of Alfred Doten, when he gave picnic for 150 friends at the water company's reservoir near Ophir Grade (Five-Mile Reservoir) on Aug. 25, 1878; and when he refused a serenade by miners when stock of Sierra Nevada Mining Company fell $100/share (Nov. 18, 1878).
The troubles of the November 1878 period when numerous mining company stocks declined was attributed by many to a feud between James G. Flood & Skae; in that fight Skae aligned with the interests of John Mackay. A Nevada State Journal article on May 2, 1883 noted: "'Little Napoleon' Johnny Skae has not been very prominent before the public. When the ‘Big Deal' over the Sierra Nevada was over he was supposedly wrecked mentally, physically, and financially. But now his Virginia & Gold Hill Water Com. has worked itself out of ‘soak' and been restored to him. At the time of the bust up Mrs. Skae had some Market Street [San Francisco] real estate near the new city hall that is very desirable. A few years of smooth sailing and he'll have a healthy bank account again."
An article in the Reno Evening Gazette, Sat. July 11, 1885 stated that "28 years ago Johnny Skae and George Seal [Seof?] opened the 1st telegraph office in Aurora and in 1860 Seal opened the 1st telegraph office in Virginia City."
By the late 1870s Skae's fortunes seriously declined. According to the Reno Evening Gazette, Aug. 15, 1881, "Famous stock operator Skae was arrested in San Francisco and sent to prison on default of $5.00 fine. The father of the New Bonanza, princely poker player, lavish exemplar of Nevada hospitality is virtually a pauper."
Even in death Skae was the subject of controversy: Reno Evening Gazette, Oct. 2, 1886: San Francisco October article: "Mrs. Skae was given permission by the Judge to sue as administrix of the Skae estate, against W.E. Dean [another Virginia and Gold Hill Water Company trustee) who had in his possession 11,500 shares of the Virginia and Gold Hill Mining Co. (held as security for a debt due by decendant). The suit claims that the greater part of the debt had been paid."
John Skae Correspondence. 1861-1862; 1870. 1 folder. Water-0001; folder #035
These papers were identified as Skae's in a separate envelope in the original collection. There are also many deeds that he purchased filed in the Deeds Series. Some of folder #35 also includes material with Trustee Funk's name.
SERIES: JOHN SKAE JOHN SKAE PAPERS (INCLUDING FUNK) 1861-1862; 1870 WATER-0001 035