|Secretary of the Territory|
The office of secretary of the Territory of Nevada was created by the Organic Act. This Act, signed by President James Buchanan, became effective March 2, 1861 (U.S. Statutes at Large, 1863, v. 12 pp. 209-214). The Territorial Secretary was appointed by the President for a term of four years unless sooner removed by the President. His duties included recording and preserving all the laws and proceedings of the legislature and all acts and proceedings of the governor; transmitting copies of the laws and executive proceedings to the appropriate governmental bodies according to this section; and, in the case of death, removal, resignation, or other necessary absence of the governor from the Territory, he was authorized and required to execute and perform all the powers and duties of the governor until the governor returned or the vacancy was otherwise filled. Orion Clemens was the only Secretary of Nevada Territory.
Orion Clemens was born in Tennessee in 1825 and trained as a journeyman printer in Missouri. He returned to Tennessee in 1857 and by 1860 was practicing law in Memphis. Clemens knew Edward C. Bates in St. Louis and when President Lincoln appointed Bates U.S. Attorney General, Clemens sought a federal appointment. With Bates’ favorable recommendation, Lincoln appointed Orion in 1861 as Secretary of Nevada Territory. Orion’s brother, Samuel Clemens, better known as author Mark Twain, accompanied his brother to Nevada and was given a minor position in Orion’s office. Twain’s experiences in Nevada became the basis for his bestseller, Roughing It. In Nevada, Orion’s duties as Territorial Secretary were stretched to frequently include those of treasurer, comptroller, and acting governor in the absence of Governor Nye, who spent much of his own term on the east coast with his family.
Although Orion tried his hand at various enterprises, mostly unsuccessfully, he was at least competent in his role as Territorial Secretary. His brother Samuel said of Orion, “He was always truthful; he was always honest and honorable.” Neighbors remembered him for his delightfully gentile and charming personality, spiced with a humorous and at times apologetic acceptance of this absent-mindedness. Clemens served as secretary until Nevada’s statehood, then practiced law in 1865 and served as an assemblyman from Ormsby County in the 1866 legislature. He returned to the mid-west in 1866 and eventually to Keokuk, Iowa, where he pursued a number of enterprises unsuccessfully. He died in December 1897.
Records of the Secretary of the Territory
The records of the Secretary include incorporation records (as both individual files and volumes), manuscript census records, a letterpress copybook, and some correspondence. Clemens was also the official keeper of records of the territorial legislature and the two constitutional conventions but those records are described under "Territorial Legislature." A master index for the territorial records which includes corporation files is available in the Archives Reading Room and through the web link at the end of this page. In addition, the incorporation records are available on microfilm in the Nevada State Library Research Room.
Item: TERR-0131 Date: 1861-1866
Item: TERR-0073 to TERR-0091 Date: 1862-1864 Quantity: 9.5 cu. ft.
Item: TERR-0061 Date: 1861-1863
Item: TERR-0062 Date: 1861-1863
Item: TERR-0063 Date: 1863-1864
Item: TERR-0064 Date: 1863-1864
Item: TERR-0128 Date: 1862-1863
Item: TERR-0067 Date: 1862-1863
Item: TERR-0065 Date: 1863-1864
Item: TERR-0066 Date: 1863-1864
Item: TERR-0048 Date: 1861
Item: TERR-0137 Date: 1861-1864
Item: TERR-0120 Date: 1861-1864
Item: TERR-0068 to TERR-0069; TERR-0072 Date: 1861-1864
Item: TERR-0070 to TERR-0071 Date: 1861-1864
Item: TERR-0104 Date: 1863
Item: TERR-0106 to TERR-0107 Date: 1862-1864