Black and white image of Alfred Doten

Alfred Doten

1995 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Inductee


Alfred Doten is noted for his daily diary, considered by historians to be one of the most unique and valuable documents on the social history of the American West. A native of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Doten briefly apprenticed as a carpenter and worked as a fisherman before sailing for the gold fields of California in 1849. Over the next 14 years, he was a gold prospector, farmer, and rancher. He became an occasional correspondent for a Plymouth newspaper, and moved to Nevada's Comstock district in 1863, where he became a newspaper journalist. He was briefly a colleague of Mark Twain writing for the Virginia Daily Union and the Gold Hill Daily News, and was a close friend and drinking companion of Dan De Quille. He was the editor for the Gold Hill Daily News from 1867-1881. After buying it in 1872, he was its publisher until 1881.

Doten was active in the Republican Party in Nevada. He married Mary Stoddard in 1873, and the couple had four children. After losing the Gold Hill Daily News due to financial problems, he relocated to Austin, Nevada, and briefly edited the Reese River Reveille newspaper.

Doten began writing detailed and candid personal diaries in 1849 and continued the practice until the day he died. His journals portray the life and times of the mining frontier. They are straightforward, blunt, and often mundane, but bursting with real life. The journals fill 79 leather-bound volumes containing over a million and a half words. They were acquired by the University of Nevada, Reno in 1961. The University selected Walter Van Tilburg Clark to edit the journals, and the University Press published them in 1973. Doten was inducted into the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame by the Nevada Press Association in 2017.