Tales of Trail and Town HTML version

The Ancestors Of Peter Atherly
It must be admitted that the civilizing processes of Rough and Ready were not
marked by any of the ameliorating conditions of other improved camps. After the
discovery of the famous "Eureka" lead, there was the usual influx of gamblers
and saloon-keepers; but that was accepted as a matter of course. But it was
thought hard that, after a church was built and a new school erected, it should
suddenly be found necessary to have doors that locked, instead of standing
shamelessly open to the criticism and temptation of wayfarers, or that portable
property could no longer be left out at night in the old fond reliance on universal
brotherhood. The habit of borrowing was stopped with the introduction of more
money into the camp, and the establishment of rates of interest; the poorer
people either took what they wanted, or as indiscreetly bought on credit. There
were better clothes to be seen in its one long straggling street, but those who
wore them generally lacked the grim virtue of the old pioneers, and the fairer
faces that were to be seen were generally rouged. There was a year or two of
this kind of mutation, in which the youthful barbarism of Rough and Ready might
have been said to struggle with adult civilized wickedness, and then the name
itself disappeared. By an Act of the Legislature the growing town was called
"Atherly," after the owner of the Eureka mine,—Peter Atherly,—who had given
largess to the town in its "Waterworks" and a "Gin Mill," as the new Atherly Hotel
and its gilded bar-rooms were now called. Even at the last moment, however, the
new title of "Atherly" hung in the balance. The romantic daughter of the pastor
had said that Mr. Atherly should be called "Atherly of Atherly," an aristocratic title
so strongly suggestive of an innovation upon democratic principles that it was not
until it was discreetly suggested that everybody was still free to call him "Atherly,
late of Rough and Ready," that opposition ceased.
Possibly this incident may have first awakened him to the value of his name, and
some anxiety as to its origin. Roughly speaking, Atherly's father was only a
bucolic emigrant from "Mizzouri," and his mother had done the washing for the
camp on her first arrival. The Atherlys had suffered on their overland journey
from drought and famine, with the addition of being captured by Indians, who had
held them captive for ten months. Indeed, Mr. Atherly, senior, never recovered
from the effects of his captivity, and died shortly after Mrs. Atherly had given birth
to twins, Peter and Jenny Atherly. This was scant knowledge for Peter in the
glorification of his name through his immediate progenitors; but "Atherly of
Atherly" still sounded pleasantly, and, as the young lady had said, smacked of
old feudal days and honors. It was believed beyond doubt, even in their simple
family records,—the flyleaf of a Bible,—that Peter Atherly's great-grandfather was
an Englishman who brought over to his Majesty's Virginian possessions his only
son, then a boy. It was not established, however, to what class of deportation he