The Comstock Lode

It appears that after the death of the Grosh brothers no other miners, including Henry Comstock who had taken over their cabin, recognized the presence of the silver ore that the brothers had discovered. But it did seem that Comstock knew that they had made a big find that involved gold ore mixed with a bluish rock and when James Finney, John Bishop, Aleck Henderson and Jack Yount discovered gold mixed with the same blue rock on Gold Hill Comstock immediately filed a claim right next to them. This discovery was actually a part of what would become known as the Comstock Lode but it wasn’t the main vein.

The Comstock Lead from Peep at Washoe

There were two ravines that came down from Mt. Davidson southeast toward the Carson River, Gold Canyon to the south and Six Mile Canyon to the north and this latter canyon was where the Grosh brothers had discovered silver. In the spring of 1859 Peter O’Riley and Patrick McLaughlin, prospected toward the top of the canyon near a small stream. At first they had poor results but in a small, deep pit they dug to collect water they found a layer of gold. A former resident of Nevada City, John F. Stone, carried a bag full of samples from this discovery across the mountains back to Nevada City where he had them assayed both by J. J. Ott and by Melville Attwood in nearby Grass Valley. Both men agreed that the ore would yield almost 1600 dollars of gold and 3200 dollars of silver for each ton of ore.

Assay office from Peep at Washoe

Without delay the banking interest in Nevada City and Grass Valley sent agents to Virginia City to secure mining claims. On July 1st, 1859 the first notice of the discovery appeared in the Nevada Journal and a great number of those remorseful miners, returned only a short time ago from the long and fruitless trip to the Faser River and resolved to stay put in California, packed up and headed to the Washoe. In the next two years two thirds of the adult males in California’s Nevada County made the trip across the Sierra to the newly found silver mines.

Virginia City 1875

When Henry Comstock learned of the discovery of O’Riley and McLaughlin he, along with his partner Manny Penrod, managed to work their way into a share of their discovery by saying Comstock had already claimed the land for grazing purposes. Ironically the huge silver deposit that lay still mostly unexplored came to be known as the Comstock Lode. Manny Penrod soon sold his small share in what would become the Ophir Mine for $8,500. Comstock traded a part of his holdings for an old horse and a bottle of whiskey then sold the rest for $11,000. He opened stores in Virginia City and Silver City with the money but soon went broke. In 1870, while prospecting in Montana, he killed himself.

 

 

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