Jim-Jams on the Stage Lines

By William Daugherty, for the Reno Evening Gazette in 1891

Mountain stage driving, Frederic Remington, 1904

“Talking about the Jim-jams,” said an old-timer, “the horrors and hallucinations are different with different people. Some of the cases I’ve seen were laughable and instead of awakening pity and compassion for the sufferer, caused the observer to rather envy the victim for the visions of extraordinary joy that his actions and mutterings indicated were present in his disordered fancies.

Now there was a celebrated stage driver on the old Pioneer line running from Hangtown, California to Carson and Virginia City, Nevada. His drive ended at Carson, and when he had ’em real bad, the company would let him lay off at Carson until he got over ’em and was all right again. Well, do you know he never suffered any from the attacks, because the spasms didn’t act on him like with some. When the spells came on him, he’d just begin to laugh and point out the window of his room, and nobody but the doctor could get him to say a word or tell what he was laughing at. So the boys would hustle around and bring the doctor, who’d give him something to quiet his nerves, and sit and talk with him, and then he’d tell.

Sometimes he saw all outdoors filled with the forms and faces of most beautiful women that he’d describe as being just like angles; but when he laughed the hardest then the vision was that of a big field covered all over with pumpkin pies. Singular fancy wasn’t it? It seemed he liked pumpkin pies better than any other kind, and his thoughts would run on pie when rum got the best of him. At this point, a charitable friend asked the old-timer to take something, and moving up to the bar, he removed a quid, took three fingers straight, and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, said: “Still I always felt kind o’ sorry for poor old Hank.”

By William Daugherty article in the Reno Evening Gazette, May 28, 1891. Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June 2021.

About the Author: Written by William Daugherty, for the Reno Evening Gazette in 1891. The Reno Evening Gazette was first published on October 12, 1876, and continued for the next 107 years. In 1977, it was merged with the Nevada State Journal and continues to exist today as the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Also See:

Pioneers on the Nevada Frontier (Reno Evening Gazette)

Nevada Mining Tales (Reno Evening Gazette)

Pioche Land Jumpers and the Death of Jack Harris (Reno Evening Gazette)

Violence on the Nevada Frontier (Reno Evening Gazette)