Orion's appointment as Secretary of the Territory (he was not "Nye's
Secretary," as is often said), came through the patronage of Lincoln's Attorney
General Edward Bates. Bates was Orion's mentor and he (Orion) was given the
Nevada post for his pro-Lincoln campaigning. Orion was a struggling printer
in Keokuk, the Mississippi River "gateway" to the farm country of Iowa.
His younger brother Sam had some savings from his river piloting, and footed
the bill for the Stagecoach to Carson City. Sam originally planned to visit
for only a few months.
In those pre-Civil War days "border man" did not refer to people in states
along the slave/free line, but men who had experience living on the edge of
organized government--frontier regions. When James W. Nye landed the post
of Governor of the brand-new Territory of Nevada, he said [New York Times]
he would not accept the post if he could not have an administration of
"border men." Nye had a brother and nephew in the Gold Country of California,
and asked Lincoln personally if he could have that post instead of Gov. of
Nebraska, Lincoln's initial thought. [Handwritten note by Lincoln, Sacrmento
Nevada Historian Effie Mona Mack of the University of Nevada [Reno] (in
pre-Internet days) seems to have been the first to put in print the idea that
Nye's administration was made up of men from the East--New York,
Pennsylvania, Maine, etc. And indeed, that was where they were born. However, with
few exceptions the men Gov. Nye named to administrative posts had lived in
California, or Utah Territory, for several years before he tapped them for
office. Several of the men who accompanied him to Nevada were returning, not
venturing, West. This is largely the reason Nye was never seriously
considered a "carpetbagger."
Thanks to Arianne for pointing out an interesting essay. I think that in
addition to travel on the river, Sam's interaction with these border men,
many of them his boarding-house roommates, also helped spur Sam's vivid
imagination while writing both Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I am of the 1940s,
early 50s childhood that checked in at home after school, then made damn sure I
was home in time for dinner. My granddaughter, now in college, grew up in
organized, structured "play". I wonder if she, or anyone raised in today's
setting, could create a tale like Twain's of Tom or Huck.