Tuesday, September 27, 2016
The Town That Funded A Country
Silver was discovered in the hills above what is now Virginia City in 1859 and almost overnight the town grew. At it's peak in the 1870's there were an estimated 25,000 people living here which is a stark contrast to today's population of just over 850. The strike would be the first substantial silver discovery in the United States and would be forever known as the Comstock Lode.
There were plenty of mines surrounding town but the Ophir, Gould, Curry, and Consolidated Virginia mines were responsible for bringing $300 million at a minimum into the U.S. economy. These mines were part of what is known as the Big Bonanza. People like John Mackay, William Sharon and John Hearst became millionaires and the money from the Comstock Lode helped build San Francisco and even helped fund the Union Army during the Civil War.
Money wasn't the only valuable contribution Virginia City offered to the world. Some would argue that Virginia City is the birth place of the famous Mark Twain. Okay, so Samuel Clemens was born in Missouri in 1835 but it was in Virginia City where Clemens, a reporter at the Territorial Enterprise newspaper, honed his craft as a writer when his campaign to become a rich prospector fell apart. His sometimes controversial stories about people and events around town caused some irritation to the people of Virginia City to the point that he basically was run out of town. Of course after leaving Virginia City the world was introduced to good ol Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I guess every good author has a few demons that need to be exorcised.
There are old homes, churches and mines available to tour like the Mackay mansion where you can see how the big dogs lived or for the morbid one in the group, you can visit the Red Dog Saloon and see the "Suicide Table." Many of the owners of this table met an untimely end by their own hand. Coincidence? A curse maybe? That's up to you to decide.
Of course I can't delve into Virginia City history without mentioning the ghosts. I have a strange fascination with things that go bump in the night and I often will seek out a so called haunted locations while I'm on vacation just to say that I've been there. Is there anything unusual or special about these locations? Eh, that's a point of view matter that is best left to the individual. Well if haunted locations are your thing then Virginia City is the place for you. They have completely embraced there spirits here, maybe for some too much but none the less they are more than happy to share their ghost stories with you . Probably the most famous haunted building in Virginia City is the Washoe Club which we toured during our visit. I would love to get into our Washoe story but I think we'll save that for an October post since it fits in with our month long Halloween theme. Come back for that story later and we'll see you on Friday.