Virginia and Truckee Railroad

The Virginia and Truckee Railroad is a historic railway in Nevada, renowned for its role in transporting ore during the Comstock Lode mining boom of the late 19th century. The railroad connects Reno to Carson City and up to Virginia City and the mines of the Comstock Load, and down to the city of Minden, Nevada. The standard gauge rail consisted of about 60 miles and track. Today, much of the track is removed with a small railway offering passengers a historic experience between Carson City and Virginia City.

Built in 1872, the Virginia & Truckee No. 11, the “Reno” was the V&T’s first true passenger engine. It was the pride of the fleet, and was assigned to the pull the “Lightning Express,” the V&T’s premier train in the 1800s. The engine was damaged by a fire in 1995, and is currently undergoing restoration by the V&T.


Established in 1869, the V&T initially served as a means to transport silver ore from the mines of the Comstock Lode, located near Virginia City, to stamp mills in Carson City for processing. Its construction was driven by the need for efficient transportation of the abundant ore extracted from the rich silver mines of the region.

Under the direction of engineers like William Sharon and Theodore Judah, the V&T rapidly expanded its operations, stretching its lines to reach other mining towns such as Gold Hill and Dayton. The railroad’s success not only facilitated the transport of precious ore but also stimulated the growth of settlements along its route and provided essential passenger and freight services to the burgeoning communities of the Comstock.

The Crown Point Trestle crossed the Crown Point Ravine in Gold Hill. It was finished in November 1869, and stayed up until 1936. Here a Virginia City-bound train crosses the trestle in the 1880s.
The Crown Point Trestle crossed the Crown Point Ravine in Gold Hill. It was finished in November 1869, and stayed up until 1936. Here a Virginia City-bound train crosses the trestle in the 1880s.

The V&T gained renown for its engineering feats, including its crossing of the daunting Carson Range via the scenic and challenging Carson Pass route. The railroad’s iconic trestles, such as the 75-foot-high Crown Point Trestle, became symbols of the daring construction projects undertaken to connect Nevada’s mining districts.

Throughout its operational years, the V&T weathered various challenges, including economic downturns, labor disputes, and the decline of mining activities in the area. However, it continued to adapt and diversify its services, expanding into tourism and freight transportation beyond the mining industry.

The railroad faced a significant setback with the decline of the Comstock Lode and the subsequent closure of many mines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, it found new life through tourism, offering scenic excursions through the picturesque landscapes of the Carson River Canyon and the Virginia City foothills.

In the mid-20th century, the V&T ceased its regular operations due to changing economic conditions and the rise of automobile travel. However, its legacy was preserved through the efforts of preservationists and enthusiasts who worked tirelessly to restore and maintain its historic routes, locomotives, and rolling stock.

The Railroad Today

Today, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad stands as a beloved historic attraction, offering visitors a glimpse into Nevada’s rich mining heritage and the golden age of railroading in the American West. Its meticulously restored steam locomotives, vintage passenger cars, and scenic journeys continue to captivate passengers, preserving the spirit of adventure and enterprise that defined the railroad’s illustrious past.

Virginia and Truckee Historic Route

Railroad Summary

NameVirginia and Truckee Railroad
LocationWashoe County,
Carson City,
Douglas County
LengthApproximately 60 miles
GaugeStandard Gauge – 4 feet 8.5 inches (1,435 mm)
Years of Operation1870 – 1950
1976 – Current


Chollar Mine – Nevada State Historic Marker

The Chollar Mine is a historic gold mine and Nevada State Historic Marker Number 209, located in Virginia City, Nevada, United States. The mine was discovered in 1859 during the famous Comstock Lode, which was the first major silver deposit discovery in the United States. The Chollar Mine was primarily a gold mine, and is located on the eastern slope of Sun Mountain.

"Mining on the Comstock", depicting the headframes and mills of the various mines, and mining technology used at Comstock, most prominently the method of square-set timbering developed there to work the veins. -T.L. Dawes (drawing); Le Count Bros., San Fransisco (lithographers)
“Mining on the Comstock”, depicting the headframes and mills of the various mines, and mining technology used at Comstock, most prominently the method of square-set timbering developed there to work the veins. -T.L. Dawes (drawing); Le Count Bros., San Fransisco (lithographers)

The Chollar Mine was one of the most productive mines during the Comstock Lode era, and it operated continuously until 1942. The mine was known for producing high-grade gold ore, which was extracted using traditional mining methods such as pick and shovel, as well as dynamite. The mine reached a depth of over 1,600 feet, and had extensive underground workings.

The mine is open for guided tours, which take visitors deep into the underground workings of the mine. Visitors can see the original equipment used to extract gold ore, such as air-powered drills and ore carts. The tour also provides information on the history of the Comstock Lode, the miners who worked at the Chollar Mine, and the mining techniques used during that era.

One of the highlights of the Chollar Mine tour is the view of the impressive “Glory Hole.” This was a large vertical shaft that was used to extract ore from the deep levels of the mine. Visitors can see the shaft and the surrounding structures that supported the mine.

The Chollar Mine is a fascinating piece of American mining history, offering visitors an opportunity to learn about the challenges and triumphs of the early miners who worked there. The mine tour is a must-see for anyone interested in mining history or the American West, and Virginia City provides a charming backdrop to this important piece of history.

Nevada State Historic Marker Text

Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. Budget cuts the program became dormant in 2009.

First located in 1859, the Chollar was consolidated with the Potosi in 1865. As the Chollar-Potosi, it was one of the leading producers on the Comstock. The Nevada Mill was erected here in 1887 to process low-grade Chollar ore. It was the last to use the Washoe Pan Process, but the first on the Comstock to generate and utilize electric power.

State Historical Marker Number 209

Nevada State Historic Marker Summary

NameChollar Mine
LocationVirginia City, Storey County, Nevada
Nevada State Historic Marker209
Latitude, Longitude39.3016, -119.6502

Chollar Mine Location

The Nevada State Historic Marker number 209 is found in Virginia City, Storey County, Nevada. The Chllar Mine Marker is located at the intersection of F Street and Nevada Route 341 on F Street. Marker is at or near this postal address: 615 South F Street, Virginia City NV 89440, United States


The Great Fire of 1875 – Nevada State Historic Marker

The Great Fire of 1875, in Virginia City is Nevada State Historic Marker Number 228 and located in Virginia City, Nevada. With the Comstock Load in full swing, Virginia City is bursting with activity and one of the fastest growing towns in Nevada. On October 27th, 1875, an fire is started from a simple burning candle, and burns town the bulk of the town.

Virginia City, Nevada in 1866
Virginia City, Nevada in 1866

Virginia City, Nevada by Augustus Koch, lithographed by Britton & Rey.

The map illustrates Virginia City, just a few months prior to the fire of October 1875, which significantly reshaped the town.
Virginia City, Nevada by Augustus Koch, lithographed by Britton & Rey. The map illustrates Virginia City, just a few months prior to the fire of October 1875, which significantly reshaped the town.

Nevada State Historic Marker Text

The most spectacular calamity to befall Virginia City had its origins within fifty feet of this marker.  Early on the morning of October 26, 1875, a coal oil lamp was knocked over in a nearby boarding house and burst into flames.  Strong winds spread the blaze and thirty-three blocks of structures were leveled.  The losses included St. Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church, the Storey County Courthouse, Piper’s Opera House, the International Hotel, city offices and most of Virginia City’s business district.  The offices and hoisting works of nearby mines were also destroyed.

After the fire, Virginia City established a new hydrant system and erected a number of new hose houses including this structure.


Nevada State Historic Marker Summary

NameThe Great Fire of 1875
LocationVirginia City, Storey County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.3107, -119.6505
Nevada State Historic Marker Number228

Marker Location

Nevada State Historic Marker two hundred twenty eight is location in Virgina City, Nevada. The marker can be found on C Street (Nevada Route 341) and the east side of the street between Washington Street and Taylor Street. The marker is located to the left of the entrance door to the Nevada State Firemen’s Museum – Liberty Engine Company No.1 Building.

Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 1, Number 219, 28 October 1875



A Full and Reliable Account – The Story Told After the Smoke has Cleared Away – Origin of the Fire – A Candle Burns a City – Boundaries of the Burned District Accurately Given – Drunken Man Chooses to Die In the Flames.


A Load Call on Insurance Reserves— Details of Losses NOW Knows $6,246,000, Exclusive of Personal Effects—Ascertained insurance $859,000, Supposed to be Only Two-thlrds or Loss to Companies— 4,000 People will Come to California.


Virginia City, October 27th. A fate long feared by all has befallen Virginia. She has met the fire fiend and became its victim. Tuesday morning, as the beats of time tripped on the hall hour after 5, the bells gave out In doleful peals the news or the attack of the destroying monster. The fire began in a small lodging-house kept by Kate Shay, alias Crazy Kate, a woman of ill repute. The house was located near the center of the city, half way between Taylor and Union streets, on A street. A neighbor saw the unusual light, entered the house and found the room next to Kate’s in flames. He believes it caught from a candle left burning, such being her habit. The house in a few minutes was in a blaze. Engine No. 4 and Babccck’s wheeled extinguisher were soon on hand, but were of no avail. A furious Kind was blowing directly down Mount Davidson, from the southwest, and the flames spread under its influence with fearful rapidity. The light siding 3 warped, blew off, and scattered cinders broadcast. In fifteen minutes more than a scare of buildings in the vicinity were on fire. The wind Increased, became fitful, and the fire spread in all directions, till a space equal to one block was on fire, the flames licking the very clouds, and roaring with a ferocity indescribable. Their awful tongues seized on brick, iron, stone, and lapped them up like straw, the firmest walls melting like wax before the intense heat. Now the wind blew a gale t setting more steadily from the south and driving the flumes northerly, enabling the firemen to check further progress southerly. To this fact the safety of the south part of the town and on the Divide is due. It was now seen that the attempts to stay the flames would be useless, and people began to remove their goods. The fire kepi on and soon along B street and encircled the county buildings, from which most of the valuable records were saved, the prisoners in the jail were removed to the station-house, and when that burned, to an ‘ old tunnel and shut in. The fire pushed up to A street j and swept one side of it and a part of the other for four | blocks. It whirled northerly down the hill and encircled the Bank of California and began its march along B and C streets about the same time. It crossed J C street, on down the hill to the Opera House and new j railroad depot. Giant powder was now placed in the Interior of the Catholic Church : and It was blown hundreds of feet into the air, leafing its bat. walls standing. This was done to stop the scattering of great cinders which were flying from the roof in all directions. Now the fire fiend shrieked with vengetnl de- | light and marched conquering on. The flames rose I hundreds of feet into the air, and the heat was so in- j

tense that adamant would melt before it like tissue paper in flame. The goods were removed to the street, caught fire and were consumed. As far up as A street the goods in the street were burned. The merchants now threw open their stores and told the people to help themselves to clothing and groceries, as nothing could be saved.

It was now 8 o’clock, and the scene beggared description. The streets were filled with people; teamsters were struggling through, an 1 firemen fighting the fire at all available points. Women were shrieking; ttie cries of despair; the curses of enraged men; the roar of the flames; the dull reports of explosions as building after building took fire; the heavy thud and crash of falling walls; tie snap of bursting iron bars and door.; the howl of the gale- all went to make up a scene of indescribable horror. It was now seen that the wind was shifting easterly and northerly, and on B street, at Carson street, the flames suddenly veered away right in the midst of a long row of wooden cottages, leaving half of them unharmed. Down wen the monster toward the residences on C street, crossing Carson street and following up the grade northerly half a block, where they turned due east and swept on almost to the Cemetery, where the wind suddenly chopped square round, and, with a wild embrace of a fine dwelling standing alone, the conflagration ended on the northeast.

Meanwhile the flames were marching down Taylor street on the south, passed across D street and on to G ; street, swallowing up churches] and residences, and I aiming for the mining works just beyond. By 9:30 am. it was seen they could not be save Men were ordered from the shafts, cages were pulled up and filled with earth, and the building] abandoned. By 10 a. lithe Consolidated Virginia’, hoisting works building and mill, costing $1,500,000, were wrapped in flames, and soon fell. The new California stamp mill then fell a prey to the maddened element, and it marched to within a few rods of the C. A C, hoisting works, where the veering of the wind mentioned checked the flames. But they rolled on southerly, and in maddening glee sent ereat tongues of flame to lick up the Ophir hoisting works, which soon fell in. The shaft took fire and burned down two tiers of timbers, when a stream was got on and the shaft I saved. Water is still kept on the shaft. Meanwhile a war of explosions was heard, as building after building was blown up. Some of the explosions made the earth tremble as if by earthquake, shattered windows far ] off and knocked down shelving and crockery. By 11 A. M. it was evident the flames bad spent their fury. The wind whirled, twirled and gusted about fitfully and then, as if satisfied with the work of its ally, died j away and left a bed of shouldering ruins, here and i there burning up between brick walls, full three-quarters of a mile long and half a mile wide. The burnt district is bounded as follows: All between Taylor street in the south, Carson street on the north, Stewart street on the west, and the China quarter on the east, including it along the east boundary line. After swallowing up Chinatown, which is on K street, between Taylor and Sutton avenue, It ran along Taylor to Union, then west to F, missing the C. A C. mill, and out to F and including the Ophir mill and residences just beyond. Besides this, it burned half a block south of Taylor street.


To give an idea of the fire and its extent, imagine a fierce hurricane in San Francisco from the east, and a ; fire to break out on Second street, just above Market to burn half way along Mission and Second, and back : of Second, and four doors back of Second on Market ; thence southerly on both sides of Market, Mission. Howard and Folsom to Fourth; thence along the east side of Fourth, along Market and Stockton, across Hush in a circular manner, winding up on Powell street in the region of Pine. Or, in Sacramento, if it embraced an area bounded from the depot along street to Sixth, out of Sixth to G, alone Sixth to J, out J to Ninth, out Ninth to N, down N to Third, and diagonally thence to the depot. A good idea of the space will thus be bad. It embraces a once thickly residence section, and seventeenths of all the business houses. It deprives about 200 business men of stock and store, and, as near as can be honestly estimated, 3,700 people of roofs to shelter them. Nearly all the residences were wooden ; the best business houses were brick er stone. About sixteenths of tie residence portion of the town Is left. When night closed in no pen can adequately describe the scene. Fortunately shelter was ample in the remaining houses for women and children, but all suffered with cold. Hundreds of men walked (be streets all night. The militia was called out and large numbers of special policemen sworn in ; but general good order was kept. Two men were killed during the fire. J. Ketton, of Gold Hill, was killed by the falling walls of the Carson Brewery, two citizens being bruised at the time. An unknown drunken man who was throwing things about in Ash’s book store was warned to come out, and refused, when


His body was consumed, and only the charred remains were taken out. A score of horses were burned in the stables. Eagle Engine No. 3 and Knickerbocker No. 5 were both lost, being caught between the flames and cut off.

It is impossible now to get individual losses, the owners being scattered, and reticent when found. It is impossible also to get at the insurance. The agents are close-mouthed, and few owners are yet found who can r tell where or for how much they are insured. The best business men estimate the


i Insurance, $1,500.000 ; on. -third in foreign companies i and the rest in local companies. A large number of I women and children have been sent to . Carson, God Hill, Reno and California. To-day there are light winds and showery weather threatening. -.. Hundreds | are poking in the ruins and searching for articles of value. Safes are being hauled out and vaults being burst open. The vault of the Hank of California is all right and only a few papers lost.


and they are being dealt out at the First Ward schoolhouse to the hungry. Reno, Gold Hill and other towns are sending food and clothing. There are fully 3,000 people without food, beds, roots, or money. There are of these fully 500 without necessary clothing. Should harsh weather soon set in much suffering must ensue. Until these people can get work they must be helped. Work will come In time, but three injured mines cannot. The employees say they cannot get buildings and machinery up under 60 days, but rebuilding will go on all over the city and they will give labor to hundreds in clearing the ruins, etc. The people are in good spirits, and while terribly affected they are


I ever had to do with. Hundreds are too proud to say they need help, and ladies go out and find women and children needing food but are ashamed to beg for it. This feeling Is relaxing, however, under the kind offices of the Relief Committee, which Is already partly organized.


Some shanties are already being put up, and workmen are busy shutting off broken water and gas-pipes and getting the worst debris out of the streets. Some of the streets are utterly Impassable, being choked with the ruins. The ferocity of the fire is seen In the twisted and warped iron-work and heavy walls drawn out of shape. Dangerous walls are being blown up every few minutes and others are being pushed over. The streets and c pen lots present a scene of indredible confusion; lumbered with broken furniture, ! damaged goods and broken machinery. The machinery of the two hoisting-works burned is believed to be badly damaged, but not utterly ruined. The water in the Consolidated Virginia mine is being pumped off through the Gould & Curry and other mines, but pumping facilities thus far are inadequate. Last night ‘ the air shaft of the Andes mine was on fire and sent up a column of fl .me 150 feet high. It Is believed that it will burn out the shaft and go no further. Communication is being pretty well cut off below. This mine is on the south of the region of fire and above, and took fire from flying cinders. Its buildings ate not yet burned so far as learned.


The following is the list of -offerers: Wm. Wood’s fine residence, Eigl. Engine House, Derby’s livery stable, Schlewick’s -lodging house, Mrs. Cooper’s fine buildings, the Noves building of Wilson & Brown, undertakers; Bank of California; Gillig’s large hardware house ; Court-house and jail ; International Hotel ; Mooney’s livery stable ; Piper’s Opera House; Railroad depot and last tunnel (.the latter fallen) ; Washoe Club House; Virginia Hotel ; Pulton market; Elliott’s grocery ; Piper’s saloon; Pioneer Hall; Manye’s fine building; Capital lodging-house; Thomas Buchner’s residence ; the fine residences of Judge Whitman, E. Strother, W. E. F. Deal, Fred Boegle, Jobn Mackey, J. P. Martin, Cbarles Forman, Charles Rawson, Judge Seely, F. A. Tritle, Charles Tozer, R. M. Daggett, W. B. Crane, A. Aurich, P. F. Beardsley, A. Hanak, HarryBlock, D. E. McCarthy, Judge Rising, Joseph Beer_, Oscar Steele, P. H. Scott, Thomas Grucey, C. M. Mayer, Simon Schlewk, Williams & Bixler’s building, Mallon’s store, Barnet’s clothing bouse, Banner Bros., M. Frederick, jewelry Union market; Philadelphia shoe store; A. Vaenber, dry goods ; Roos Bros., clothiers; Block & Co., dry goods; Harris Bros., cigars; Palace saloon; the large Catholic Church ; Methodist Churcb; Episcopal Church; Bishop Whittaker’s house, D. Driscoll’s house, great lumber piles at Opbir and Virginia mines, residences of W. B. Crane, Frank Thayer, Wm. Woods, J. T. Davis, Minors’ Union Hall, Spire’s salooa, Cornwell’a furniture store, and over 250 cottages and small residences. The latest information about the mines is that all the men got out, without exception. Some of the burning timbers of the Ophir shaft fell back down it and sent gases as of burning wood up. In Gould A Curry shaft water was lifted up and then dropped back, forcing gases back. It Is believed there Is no fire in Ophir at all. Water* however, Is kept on the shaft. MORE DETAILS OF LOSSES. Later.— l have been able to ascertain part of the losses: O. C. Steele, saloon, $25,000; A. C. Little’ musician, $4,00′ Jobn Piper, theater, $75,000; Cradock k Nye, butchers, $3,000; A. Hooper, saloon, $15,—000; J. Buckner, saloon and bouse, $50,000; C. Fa. lardo, saloon, $2,500; A. Hanak, jewelry and houses. $75,000; Finney k Moriaity, painters, $4,500; J. S. Noe, photographer, $5,000; F. V. Drake, attorney, $2,000; Thomas A. Stephens, lawyer, $3,000; F. King, house, $3,500; M. M. Frederick, jeweler, $90,000; Morris k Nathan, $40,000; Horace Smith, house, $10,000; Guy Thorpe, furniture, etc., $7,590; Wm. Woodburn, attorney, $400, Joe Douglass, building, $40,000; J. Daily, hatter, $1,000; Lind.ey __ Dixon, attorneys, $5,000; Edw. McGu’re, bouses, $-•,000; Waters & Treat, butchers, $5,000; H. K. attorney, $11,000; James Wilcoxen, saloon, $3,000; Rowe & Mayne, saloon and houses, $12,00>) ; McMillan & Adams, grocery, $-20,000 ; Sianecker & StonehlH, attorneys, $2,000. All the above are uninsured.

The following are insured: Mesick A Seely, attorneys, lose $16,000, Insured for 25 per cent; S. A. Tompkins, International Hotel, $35,000, insured for $17,000; Wood A Whitman, attorneys, $20,000, insured for $13,000; Spiro Vucovirh, saloon and residence, $16,000, insured for $6,500; A. Brischer, liquors, $13,000, insured for $5,0C0; J. Levy & Bro., clothier. , $30,000, insured for $15,000 ; A. Gundlacb, shoes, $15,000, insured for $10,000 ; Warren A Son, wagDn shop, $5,000, insured for $2,500 ; Isaac Berck, clothier. $30,000, insured for $12,500; Chas. Westtake, clnh house, $2,500, insured for $1,500 ; Tinker A Shephard, saloon, $15,000, insured for $7,000 ; Fazmier A Armbrust, confection” cry, $25,000, insured for $15,000 ; J. P. Smith, harness and dwelling, $15,000, insure! for $6,000; Lewis A Deal, library, $6,000, insured for $3,000; W. E. Deal, dwelling, $10,000, insured for $3,000 ; Keely A Williams, saloon, $20,000, insured for $2,000; Peter Morgan of Sacramento, blacksmith, $1,200, uninsured ; Williams A Bixler, building, $40,000, insured for $13,—000; Joe Stewart, club house, $25,000, insured for $8,000; Mr. Chiids, cigars, $2,500; insured for $1,500; W. B. Hickok, insurance agent, $6,000, in” sured for $1,500; Pioneer Hall, $10,000, insured for $4,000 ; Stewart’s mineral cabinet, $4,000, uninsured ; Dennis E. McCarthy, Evening Chronicle newspaper, $13,000, insured for $1,500; Vandenberg A Co., $40,. 000, insured for $20,000 ; Wilson A Brown, undertakers, $21,000, Insured for $4,500; J. S. Pidge, saloon, $10,—000, Insured for $4,000; George T. Marge, broker, $30,—000, insured for $10,000; E. J. Passmore, musician, $7,500, insured for $5,000; Jobn Giilig, late of Sacrament., hardware, $250 000, Insured for $S0,000 ; Roo« Brothers, clothier;, $10,000, insured for $50,000; William Ford, buildings, $61,000, Insured for $18,500; S. Packsher, cigars, $9,000, insured or $3,000; Henry Piper, saloon and dwelling, $11,000, insured for $5,500; He .men Bros., furniture, $10,000, insured for $6,000; Schoenfeld A Cook, furniture, $80,—000, insured for $26,000; Cunningham „A .Downey saloon, $1,000, insured for $3,000; Volnev Spalding,’ saloon, $30,000, insured for $10,000; Fred Boegle, stationer, $31,000, insured for $14,000; Wai. Ash, stationer, $120,000,iDSured for $10,000; E. Strother, dwelling, $40,000, insured for $5,000; Cohen A Isaacs, clothiers, $90,000, insured for about one-fourth; H. S. Beck, 16 houses. $50,000, insured for about $10,000; J. Bar–1 bert, clothier, estimated at $75,000, insurance light; i Banner Bros, .clothiers, estimated at $70,000, insurance ! light; V. Elliott, $17,000, insured for’ $5,000 in Imperial and $3,000 in Heme Mutual of Sin Francisco; Territorial Enterprise building, paper and presses, estimated a’ $75,000, insured for about 33 per cent.; city buildings, $2,500, no insurance; Court-house and , treasury, $100,000, insured for $37,000; Mall. Bros., grocers, $50,000 ; J. Root’s (of I San Francisco) building, $10,000 ; Bank of California I building, .$40,000, insured for $20,000; Union ! market, $3,000; Washington saloon, $3,000; Delta saloon, $8,000; Marco Medin, ten buildings, $150,000, ! insured for about $50,000 ; Harris, cigars, $10,000, insured for $3,000 ; Evans Linch, bouse, $2,500, uninsured Lafayette market, $3,500 ; Theo. Wolf, j tailor, $8,C00; Scboenmann, gunsmith, $2,0.0; Luther’s drug store, $15,000, some insurance; GLamuzzi A Co., tailors, $8,000; International bull Ing, $40,000′ | insured for one-third; Masonic Hall, partly built, : $2,500; Crand ill’s furniture factory,: $20,000, insured ‘< f r $6,000; Empire market and dwelling, $10,000; Joe ! Davy’s loon, $2,000; Dunn’s saloon, $2,000; J. Voj gal, two saloons and brewery, $20,000; Ophir hoisting ‘, works, $250,000, insured for $60,000; Consolidated Virginia hoisting works and wood, $1,500,000. insured for ! $45,000; Consolidated Virginia 60 -tamo mill, ! $190,000; buildings from the White Pine saloon to Mill street, valued at $60,000, light i insurance; buildings from Mill street lb Carson street, valued at $55,000 ; Virginia Bank. $30,000, insured for $15,000; Black’s building, $30,000; De Long A Belknap, attorneys, $15,000, insured for $5,000; Myers’ Baths, $10,000; Chicago Saloon, $9,000 ; J. C. Currie, auctioneer, $75,000 ; Fredericksburg Brewery, $10,000; six houses from Virginia Bank to Union street, $120,000; Sutro Saloon, $1,500, uninsured ; from Sat Saloon to Post-office, $10,000 ; Mrs. Gray, dressmaker, $1,000; J. C. Hampton A Co., grocers, $25,000, insured for $12,000; Ritter’s gun-shop, $1,000; Wregand’s assay office, $20,000; Bonanza Market, $1,500 ; j Ada Greer, bawdy-house, $10,000, partly insured; I Turner Hall, No. 1, fixtures, $1,000; Turner nail, No. 2, j fixtures, $1,000; Edith Slillts, eight buildings, $20,000 —partly insured; Ophir Lodging House, $12,000— no insurance; Loukey k Smitb, lumber and house, $50,—000—insured for $10,000; from Lonke.v & Smith’s to Carson street, $5,000; U.S. Surveyor’s office and build ing, $10,000; from Taylor street to Court-house, ten buildings, $25,000; Washoe Club-room and fittings, $75,000 -insured for $30,000; Babcock’s furniture store, $10,000; from Babcock’s to Capital Building, excluding Pioneer Hall and Miners’ Union, $s,ooo—uninsured; Miner’s Union, $10,000— insured for $4,000; Montgomery Guard, $3,000-uninsured; Mrs. Rissa, three bouses, $40,0X1— insured for $15,000; Engine Hou>e No. 1, $1,_00; No. 68 North B street, $10,000; Mr. Sentz, house, $15,000; E. . brother’s to Judge Whitman’s, three houses, $25,000; J. McGee, four dwellings, $10,—000; J. Steffen, dwell $2,500: Collins 1 House, $10,000; from Collins’ to Taylor street, $5,000; Mrs. Cooper, two large new houses, $50,000, Insured for $15,000; from Taylor to Union street, on A street, two rows of small dwellings, $40,000; from Union street to Sutton avenue, on A street, both sides, $50,000 ; from Sutton avenue to Mill street, both sides of A street, $10,000; Stewart street, both sides, $50.0 ( Howard street, both sides, $55,000 ; co D street, scores of bandy houses and fittings; from Union to Carson street, tbree blocks, $200,000; 3. Rick, livery stable, $2,500; E. Z. Dickson’s livery stable, $2,000; railroad depots, cars, tunnel and goods, $150,000; three blocks, small dwellings, from Union to Smith and E to G streets, including two school houses, $50,000; Kelly & Co., liquors, $30,000; Footlight office, $5,000; Dr. Cornwall, $5,000, insured for $2,000; R. Dey, $4,000, insure! for $1,500; F. A. Tritle, $25,000, insured for $10,00.; Free Masons, $2,000, insured for $700; Peter Milich, $30,000, insured for $10,000; Hatch Bros., $45,000, insured for $15,000; Kaph Bros., grocers, $6,000, insured for $2,000; Catholic Church, $80,000, insured for $30,000; Episcopal Church, $30,000, insured for $15,000; Methodist Church, $25,000, insured lor $10,000; A. G. McKenzie, dwelling, $12,000. Total houses, goods. Improvements, etc., as above given,


The estimated loss of personal chattels, jewelry etc., it is impossible to make close, but citizens ac. qnaintcd with the people losing insist it will reach $225,. 600, giving a grand total of


Of losses. Against this is insurance known above


Probably not more thipi three-fourths of the insurance is thus included. To-day the charred remains of a woman wire found in a bawdy house on D street. Her name is unknown. Also the remains of a man were found in the Singleton lodging house ; supposed to be Martin Slusher of Southern California.


John Piper’s theatrical troupe lost their entire valuable wardrobe. Piper will rebuild the Opera House at once, and keep all engagements this winter. Nearly all owners announce their intention to rebuild. Two heavy trains loaded with people left for California and other points to-night. It is estimated that


Until next summer. O. C. Steele is the first man to put up a new building. It is a shanty, and he has opened it with a saloon in one end and a butcher shop . in the other. The Gould k Curry mine is so filled with , gas from the damaged mines that men cannot go down. Work is stopped in the mine. Thirty feet of the Virginia shaft frame was burned. The Virginia and . Truckee Railroad has applied to connecting roads to , give reduced fares to sufferers. The Truckee road carries free all sufferei s.

It is alleged that on Tuesday a man was seen trying to fire the Consolidated and California works, but was chased away. Insurance agents are calculating losses, and refuse their figures till they are complete. The principal companies involved are : Agency of A. L. Edwards ; Commercial Union, of London ; London and Lancashire; London Assurance; North British and Mercantile; British America, Toronto; Royal Canadian. Montreal ; French Corporation, Paris ; Hartford’ of Connecticut ; Continental, ol Ne* York ; Niagara, of New York ; North America, of Philadelphia I American, of Philadelphia; Germ American, ol New York ; Fireman’s Fund, of San Francisco ; Agency of W. B. Hickok ; State Investment, San Francisco; Commercial Insurance Company; Imperial; Agency of N. J. Henley ; Hutchinson, Main k Co.; Combination; J. A. Brumsey’s Agency Home Mutual, of California.

It was showery early in the evening, but cleared up. Very few but now have shelter. Gold Hill has fitted up all public buildings, school bouses, etc., for women and children, and the boi. ting works for men. Through the agency of the Carson Relief Committee ample provisions but far is dispensed at the First Ward and Third Ward school houses. About 3,500 people were fed t:-day. John Mackey, of the well known firm of Flood k O’Brien, Mackey & Fair, says that no ore will be hoisted from the damaged mines before next spring, and that this throws 2,500 miners out of employment He further says there will be 5,000 people to leave here, and all that is needed now is moDey to transport them. F.LVIEW OF EVENTS. Opportunity now offers for us to review more in de. tail the sceres of the first day. The excitement while the fire was at its bight was fearful. The bells of the churches were senselessly clanged and served no belter purpose than to add to the wild fear which fell upon the city. People living blocks away Irom where the fire was raging began to tumble their furniture into the streets, and as the clanging bells, shrieking whistles and the roaring of the conflagration sent lortb their hideous and demoralizing din the whole city went mad. Household goods were dragged tut of dwellings and left to burn, as no means of conveyance to places of safety could be secured. Residents of Howard and the streets above in many instances succeeded In getting their furniture out of the bouses, but not one in a score were able to engage a vehicle of any kind to carry his effects. Teamsters put up prices fearfully, even to exorbitant figures. The few coods saved by them were insignificant compared with the total loss. A rumor was abroad that a frenzied man shot a teamster on B street for refusing a libera] offer to carry away furniture. As the fire gained terrible headway, running up the mountain, down to C and over to D street, a dense cloud of smoke overhung the city like the black forerunner of a thunder-storm; the sable mass made a background to the leaping flames, which left their source and shot upward in great bodies with a rush and loud roar; the people, even to the outskirts, set about saying what they might, pressing into service every conceivable style of vehicle, from a wheelbarrow to a barouche. Shouting and swearing men by the hundred were to be seen taking the place of horses and tearing out C street to the Geiger grade with wagon loads of furniture and bedding behind them. The streets resembled an army in dismay; every man for himself became the general cry; self swallowed every consideration. Careful women, surrounded by clinging children, appealed in vain for help to save their little property. Men, women and children staggered along under enoimou. loads. Drivers became reckless of the safety of those on foot, and, whipping their horses into a gallop, dashed through the scrambling masses, followed by the yells of anger and curses. The dreadful excitement grew as acre after acre of buildings were added to the burning district. People a (garter of a mile from the fire threw a few necessary articles of clothing into a bundle, dragged cut a trunk or two and left their homes standing open to the thief, and fled to the hills or Geiger grade ia despair. The temporary forgetfulness given by whisky was sought, and drunken men, laughing and howling in dismal mirth over the ruins, were seen by the dozen. The flames had now razed everything down to D street, and it became cvi. Ident tuat the hoisting works and mill of the Consolidated Virginia would go If some desperate action was not taken. The Methodist Episcopal church caught fire from Black’s building, and the hose of the Gould A Curry was brought into service, but to no purpose. Piper’s Opera House began to smoke and blaz *, and it was evident that the fire from this structure would be communicated to the railroad buildings and Consolidated Vnginia works. Taking in the situation, Chief of Police White blew up the Opera House, and immediately afterwards caused a building on tie corner of Union and E streets to be torn down, but all was useless. The freight depot and other railroad buildings were shortly blazing, and la a few moments the new California mill and the Consolidated Virginia hoisting works and mill were sharing the common fate. The o;<bir went next, and every one of the hundreds of dwellings in Mm vicinity went out of existence. All the offices, lumber piles and other property of the companies were destroyed. By herculean efforts, the new C. 4 C. shaft, with the machinery was saved, and here the progress of the fire eastward ended. A great number of loaded wood cars burned where they stood. The railroad tunuel took fire shortly before, and the timbers and a large part of it fell. The whole town was now wrapped in flames. From X to Stewart street, a distance of half a mile, was one solid body of fire, sweeping everything before it and moving northward with fearful speed. For whole blocks in advance there was a roaring flood of flame. Houses were deserted and the panic stricken population fled to the Geiger grade. It was a frightful race, and one not to be forgotten. As a general thing men bore themselves really admirably, but pictures of

I wild excitement and ungovernable fear were painfully ! numerous. Many women left their homes in the ; terror of flight, while others could be seen standing out of the press, having given up to speechless dismay. A s .range spectacle was presented on the Geiger grade. The broad roadway was, for more than half a mile, one struggling mass of human beings bearing heavy burdens and crowded among loadel teams. The hills in all directions were dotted with homeless families camped ami Ist the few goods they had managed to save. Pictures in gilded frames leaned against the telegraph poles. Large bundles of bedding on tne road impeded progress. Handsome lodges and easy chairs mingled with the bowlders. Ladies in costly but disarranged attire sat upon rocks by* the wayside, and poor women carrying screaming infants and followed by miserable youngsters pressed their way frantically in the crowd. Drunken men shouted forth maudlin songs and picked quarrels with sober ones when humor seized them. All hurry, fright, and desperate scramble.

The fire having exhausted itself and the lowering sky betokening the approach of a stormy night, the homeless people set about looking for shelter, that part of the city remaining unburnt consisting of a mere litu of houses. They soon became crowded to their utmost capacity. Hundreds of people had no roof to cover them. The hillsides, as night drew on, became dotted with cam » fires. Mount Davidson, Cedar Hill and the surrounding hills became for the nonce the home of some wrecked family Following the practice of the Piutes, many built fires* threw up walls of sage brush to the windward. The porches and verandahs of houses were appropriated by the houseless. Many walked the desolated streets through the long night, warming themselves by the smoldering rules. Towards morning the honor of the situation was doubly aggravated by a copious fall of ram. Poor wretches expose! to the elements must have suffered terribly. Before daylight they were wandering about the smoky streets searching for the wherewith to stay their hunger. To-night the condition of things is much better, most of the people having found temporary homes. So far everything betokens a bard night. After sundown the rain began to fall, with the wind from, the west, which brought the first snow of the season. The weather is biting cold. While no serious suffering can be said to exist, there is no mistake about the existence of much discomfort. Everything is of course topsy turvy. The telegraph office- are located in the school-bouses on the outskirts of the city. The Post office has started in afresh with a tea box with a hole in it for a starter, the Bank of California has an of. flee in that of Driscoll k Co., stock broker.-. The Enterprise issued a diminutive sheet this morning, and to-night the Evening Chronicle comes out in half sheet. The jail and city prison are gone. The prisoners were taken to the Philadelphia Brewery and guarded with shotguns. To-day drunkenness has been prevalent, and after dark General Winters ordered out a squad of soldiers and peremptorily closed the saloons.

The smoke from Ophir this morning was due entirely to the first few timbers which burned, and the men at Ophir believe there is no fire below. The machinery is to be covered in, as much of it is good for use again. As soon as the timbers can be procured, retimbering will commence. The Consolidated Virginia, which like the Ophir, was bulkheaded with filled cages, is believed to be safe. This evening smoke came from the seams of the bulkheads, but the foreman says that it came from Ophir, and that there cannot possibly be any fire below. This is considered to be very strange by many persons, as there is no connection between thee mines except at a point considerably below the 1,000-foot level, and as strong coal-like gas comes from Gould & Curry it creates fears. The gas cannot go into Savage, as the connecting level is bulkheaded. The works at the Consolidated Virginia are to be rebuilt as soon as timber can be had.


National Register of Historic Places – Virginia City

The following is the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Application of the history of Virginia City, Storey County, Nevada.

Virginia City, Nevada, lies almost equidistant between Reno and Carson City, on the face of Mount Davidson, 6,205 feet about sea level. Access from Reno is up the breathtaking and serpentine Geiger Grade; the road from Carson City is less terrifying but equally scenic.

National Register of Historic Places – Virginia City, Nevada in 1866
Virginia City, Nevada in 1866

The town is plastered in an unlikely grid some 1,500 feet below the summit of Mount Davidson, the lettered streets running roughly north and south, the named streets east and west. C Street is the main business thoroughfare with the site of the former red-light district below on D Street, and the Catholic and Episcopalian churches farther down the hill. The farthest down of the lot was the Chinese quarter, The county courthouse, Piper’s Opera House, the Miners* Union Hall, and middle ‘Class
residences occupy B Street. The mansions—the Mackay House, the Castle, the Savage Mining Office—are scattered about without regard to their neighbors, giving a cachet to their locale rather than huddling together on some Nob Hill from which they would have taken strength from exclusivity.

There never was a mining town that did not burn; their flimsy construction and a taste for 24 hour hell-raising combined with awful regularity to wipe the towns out. If the diggings were good, the towns were rebuilt before the ashes cooled—in the same jerry-built way. Virginia City burned four times before the Great Fire of 1875—in 1863, 1865, 1866, and 1873–causing over a million
and a half dollars worth of damage. The Great Fire of 1875 (October 26) caused $12,000,000 in property loss. The great center section of town, from high above A Street through the Chinese quarter below and from Taylor Street on the south to Carson Street on the north, burned. Most of the buildings in that section date from after the fire. Today’s town with its wooden sidewalks and garish signs reflects tile hey-day of Virginia City*s bonanza with an-admixture of modern honky-tonk, thanks to Nevada f s gambling laws, and all around linger the reminders of Comstock glory—now crumbling head-frames and tailings piles. Many of the faded residences are taking on a new life as they are rehabilitated and returned to their former brilliance.

Important Buildings

1.The Storey County Courthouse (1876)

This rectangular brick building dates from after the Great Fire. Plain brick on three sides, the building has a front facade which is a lively Italianate wedding cake, the background brick, the confectionery stone. It is a five bay, two-story structure with a slightly proj ecting central pavilion composed of a round-arched entry framed with double
flat pilasters and terminated by stone quoins. A projecting balcony supported by decorative double brackets is topped on the front corners by double urns. The porch serves to frame the triple, flat-arched window in the second story of the central pavilion. This window complex is topped by a carved segmental pediment with a central cartouche, the whole supported by ornamental brackets. The center window embrasure is blind and shelters a unique statue of Justice without a blindfold. The right and left wings are composed of two bays each, the first floor windows being double and round-arched with pediments matching the
one over the statue of Justice. The second story windows are also double, with flat arches surmounted by triangular carved pediments with central cartouches. The cornice is supported by decorative brackets and topped by a pediment broken by a heavily ornamented chimney bearing the date of the building on its front face. The brick is painted white and the applied decorations are picked out in yellows and white, giving the building a lively and sophisticated look. The courthouse is still in use including the old jail and the second floor courtroom.

2. The Fourth Ward School (1876)

This large rectangular wooden building of the Second Empire Style stands on a raised stone foundation and rises through two stories to a shingle Mansard roof pierced by dormers carrying double round arched windows and semi-circular “eyebrow” roofs. Each facade of the building has a projecting central pavilion. The central pavilion of the front facade rises three stories in a tower-like projection with its own Mansard roof pierced by louvered ventilator dormers with semi-circular roofs. A ten step staircase
with one baluster to each step leads to the first floor entrance which is flanked at the top by curious carved rosettes giving the impression of volutes. The right and left wings of the front facade are three bays each, having round arched windows and semi-circular pediments supported by decorative brackets. The side facades have a projecting central pavilion and wings, three bays total, with double round-arched windows and semi-circular pediments with decorative brackets. The building is painted white with maroon trim including the water table, double belt course, cornice and cornice brackets. It was used as a school, first grade through high school, until 1936. It has recently been renovated and is now a community center.

3. St. Mary’s in the Mountain Catholic Church (1876)

This Victorian Gothic church of brick with stone trim is, with the possible exception of the courthouse, the most architectonic structure in Virginia City. Basilican in form with the steeple at the entrance end, the church has steep pointed arches over
the three portals, double lancet windows above the right and left portals, and buttresses on the corner of the facade and framing the portals and rose window (eight in all). Machicolations line the eaves. The bell in the tower is of silver as befitted the premier silver town in America. The interior walls are plain plaster, a fine hammer-beam roof, carved pews, and the vari-colored light
filtering through the stained glass of the double-lancet windows being the only decoration save for the Stations of the Cross and a painting over the altar. St. Mary*s is an active parish church.

4. St. Paulas Episcopal Church (1876)

A charming Gothic Revival building somewhat dwarfed by its more elaborate neighbor St. Mary’s, St. Paul’s is constructed
of wood with wooden quoins, a steep-pitched gable roof and corner tower with its own quoins and topped by a steep, shingled spire. The portal is flanked by double lancet windows surmounted by a drip mould. Over the portal is a triple lancet window with a drip mould. The tower fenestration consists of a wide lancet on the first level, a double lancet on the second level, and a triple lancet louver in the bell-chamber, all with drip moulds. St. Paul’s is anactive church.

5. The First Presbyterian Church (1867)

This stick style structure is one of the few buildings in Virginia City to have survived the Great Fire. The central pavilion projects slightly and the portal and double-lancet window above it are framed in Tudor arches. A wooden bull’s-eye is centered above the window, and the gable roofed campanile holds a small bell. Single gothic-arched windows with drip moulds flank the portal. The building is painted white and the stick trim, the drip moulds and the eaves of the steep-pitched gable roof are painted a rich chocolate 0 The church is an active one.

6. Piper’s Opera House (1883)

Built after the Great Fire, this three story frame theater with arcaded brick facade was one of the finest houses in the West, with a rake stage, spring dance floor, and suspended balcony. The house is dark today, but it once rang to applause for the likes of Maude Adams, Edwin Booth, and Lily Langtry.

7. Knights of Pythias and Miners’ Union Halls (1876)

These brick buildings are good examples of the commercial styles of a century ago, with their tall ground floor doors. The Knights of Pythias Hall has, in the second story, three tall windows encased in round arches with elaborate imposts and keystones. The cornice is now missing; the facade terminates in a false front with classical detailing. The Miners’ Union Hall still has its steel fire doors on the first floor, four windows topped by segmental arches with keystones in the second floor, and the false front continuing through a dentil and a pleasantly curved parapet. The first floor is shaded by a porch supported by four Doric columns and surmounted by a balustrade e Both buildings are under restoration.

8. The Territorial Enterprise (1862)

Mark Twain made this the most famous newspaper in the west. The plain brick facade of this building is enlivened
by an eclectic arcaded porch with superimposed Corinthian capitals 3/4 of the way up the posts, the whole crowned by a balustrade. The four windows of the second story are cleanly set in, and the cornice is supported by decorative brackets. The building houses a newspaper museum.

9. The Castle (1868)

This charming wooden Victorian cottage was built by mine superintendent Robert Graves behind a massive retaining wall topped by a balustrade. The front facade is composed of three sections, the center being a three-story tower with mansard roof pierced by a dormer in each face. The left section is a two story rectangular block with a bay-window on the ground floor and a double window topped by a bull’s-eye on the second floor. To the right a stepped-back two-story section includes the entrace set in a semicircular arch and sheltered by a porch supported by a pillar and two engaged columns, decorated by an ox-yoke curved opening and dentilled cornice, and topped by a balustrate. Scrollwork decorates the corners of the eaves of all sections, and the edges of each section are emphasized by wooden quoins enclosed in moulding. Each of the sections has a dentilled cornice. The house is currently a museum.

10. The Savage House (1876)

This wooden Second Empire structure was once the Savage Mining Company office and later the mine superintendents residence. Two stories and the mansard roof high, the building is notable for the elaborate treatment of the window and door surrounds, the cornice and decorative brackets, the porch columns with intricate scrollwork, and the balustrates which surround
the house at the ground floor and second story on three sides of the house. Built into the side of the hill, the house shows only its second story and mansard to C Street, while the full two and a half stories are visible on D Street. The house is a museum and private residence.

11. The Mackay Mansion (1865)

This rectangular red brick house rises through two stories to a hipped roof with central chimney decorated with recessed arches and a corbelled cap e The entrances are tall wood and glass doors with transoms set, like the double hung four over four windows, into embrasures capped with stone lintels. The windows have green louvered shutters. The building is surrounded by a colonaded porch supported by square columns nearly Tuscan in style. The springs of the arches are inset with elaborate milIwork, and the whole porch is topped by a balustrate. The house is a museum. The central business district of Virginia City is made up of two and three story brick buildings. The first floors contain shops and saloons. They have tall windows and doors with transoms over them. The second story windows are usually tall and set in arched openings of one kind or another. Occasionally they are set in cleanly. Most of the buildings have ornamental cornices supported by brackets, and nearly all of them have porches over the wooden sidewalks supported by pillars occasionally ornate. Often the porches are topped by balustrades, Depsite the decay of an occasional building, the business district is a good example of the 1870 f s and 1880s style of commercial architecture.

The tiny villages of Silver City, Gold Hill, and Dayton are also included in the boundary. They have a few buildings left like those in Virginia City. When the Comstock was in bonanza, buildings stretched from Virginia City to Silver City with hardly a break. Almost all are gone now, and the restless surge of men and mining equipment is stilled. All up and down the sides of the hills
amidst the sparse brush cover are yellow piles of tailings as if some giant insect had passed that way chewing up the earth and spitting it out. The mines are closed and the sound of the tourist is heard in the land.


Virginia City, on the Comstock Lode, was the first silver rush town; it was also the first area in the West where the methods of large-scale industrial and corporate enterprise were intensely applied and developed. As the experimental laboratory for these techniques, which were introduced with such success between 1860 and 1864, Virginia City thus became the prototype of the subsequent important mining towns that appeared on the mining frontier in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and eastern Nevada,

As Rodman W, Paul has aptly expressed it; “Technologically, economically, and sociologically the Comstock Lode represented a big and abrupt stride beyond the farthest limits reached in California during the 1850s. No California mining venture of the 1850s had demanded such a huge investment, none had been conducted on such a flamboyantly large scale, none had required such a rapid advance in engineering and technology. Nor had California mining, even in the field of quartz, led to the factorylike industrial relations that so soon characterized Virginia City and Gold Hill.

Finally, the great bonanzas of the Comstock Lode and Virginia City mines, totaling $292,726,310 and paying $125,335,925 in dividends, from 1859 to 1882, dominated western mining history from 1870 to 1879.


In the western Nevada desert country the Washoe Mountains extended eastward in the Great Basin from the Sierra Nevada. About 2,000 feet below the summit of Mount Davidson lay a great vein of decomposed gold and silver quartz, which extended for two- and- a- half miles through the eastern face of Mount Davidson and underneath the future sites of the cities of Gold Hill and Virginia City. Ever since 1850 a small group of people had been searching with indifferent success for placer gold in this regeon. On January 28, 1859, however, Peter Q’Riley and Patrick McLaughlin Passing by shortly afterward, Henry Comstock talked himself into a share in the claim, and so loud was his boasting, that the whole lode finally bore his name: the Comstock Lode. Believing they had placer claim, the prospectors were disappointed when the “blue stuff” clogged the cleats of their cradle and yielded only a small amount of gold. About June 12, 1859, however, they hit a quartz vein, which they named the Ophir Mine. Later that month samples of the blue quartz were sent to Nevada City, California, where assays revealed the ore to be three-fourths silver, a metal with which the miners were then unfamiliar. The news spread instantly and triggered the first silver
rush in American history. By April 1860, some 10,000 hopefuls from California had arrived and Virginia City and Gold Hill were laid out as cities.

Unlike the gold placer deposts in California, which had been easily mined by the unexperienced with few tools, the Comstock Silver was locked in quartz veins which required expensive machinery to extract. Unable to mine, the men then turned instead to speculation; nearly 17,000 claims were located, 37 mining companies were organized in 1860 with paper stock values exceeding
$30,000,000 and 49 more were incorporated in 1861, these were the popular activities. Every miner was a potential millionaire, although few had sufficient cash to pay their grocery bills. Of the vast number of claims filed, only a dozen were to be worked profitably, and one-half of the total production of the Comstock and four-fifths of the dividends were to come from four mines
located in adjacent pairs: namely, the Crown Point and Belcher, and the Consolidated Virginia and California mines.

By August, 1860 many disappointed miners had returned to California, but Virginia City still had 42 stores, 42 saloons, 2 stamp mills, 5 lumber yards, 3 hotels, 5 boarding houses, many other business establishments, 6 restaurants, and 868 dwellings, as well as a population of 2,345. The adjacent town of Gold Hill had 638 people and 179 houses. Total population in Nevada was then 6,857.

In 1860-62 period Virginia City mine owners struggled with the new problems that confronted them in mining silver. These included the necessity of driving deep shafts to follow the veins and also of devising machinery that could profitably work the ore.
George Hearst, a quartz mine operator of Nevada City and Grass Valley, California, acquired a one-sixth interest in the Ophir Mine at Gold Hill. At the depth of 175 feet Hearst found that his men were unable to proceed deeper, because even the strongest timbers broke under the weight of the earth. In November, 1860, Hearst brought in Philip Deidesheimer, an engineer and manager of a quartz mine in El Dorado County, California, to work on the problem. By December Deidesheimer had invented the famous “square set” plan to timbering, which enabled mine* eventually to be pushed down even to the 4,000 foot level on the
Comstock Lode. In 1862 Almarin B. Paul, of Nevada City, California, who had been working in Nevada since 1860, devised highly improved versions of the basic California stamp mill and also a chemical method that became known throughout the mining world as the “Washoe pan process,” or “Washoe pan amalgamation,” to extract silver from the ore. Blowers for ventilation and
powerful pumps also had to be improved as the shafts went even deeper, to provide air and to prevent underground streams from flooding the mines.

In 1861 the Comstock Mines began yielding their bullion in quantity and San Francisco capital poured into Virginia City to build roads and provide machinery. The San Francisco Stock and Exchange Board was organized on September 11, 1842, and stock shares in the Comstock Mines were sold to some 30,000 people, thus making Virginia City a true industrial suburb of San Francisco. By 1863 Virginia had a population of 15,000. Home and office buildings were erected in great number; gas and sewer pipes were installed, and eighty stamp mills were in operation. Next to San Francisco, Virginia City was the most important metropolitan center in the Pacific Coast.

In 1863 the Comstock mines were also unionized. The “Miners Protective Association,” formed at Virginia City in 1863, became the larger “Miners’ League of Storey County” in 1864; which had as their purpose the establishment of a standard wage of $4.00 a day for miners. The hard times of 1864-75, however, resulted in the dissolution of the unions. With the return of prosperity, however, a new and much more powerful “Miners Union” was established on July 4,

Most of the Comstock f s 3,000 miners joined this union, which successfully established the $4.00 rate in 1867 and the eight hour day in 1872. From Virginia City similar unions were subsequently organized in other Nevada and California mining towns.
When decreased bullion production caused hard times at Virginia City in 1864, William C. Ralston, president and founder of the San Francisco Bank of California, and William Sharon, his agent at Virginia City, made a series of large loans to desperate Comstock mill operators and mine owners. When these notes came due, Ralston foreclosed and the stamp mills, together with many of the mines and much other property, came into the hands of the Bank of California,

Ralston organized the Union Milling and Mining Company in 1867 thereby consolidated a number of mills and relocating them on the Carson River, where water power could operate the mills at less cost. Efficiency was increased and competition was eliminated by his monopoly of milling facilities. Ralston also acquired ownership of the water companies and lumber firms that served the Comstock mines. In 1869 he constructed the Virginia and Truckee Railroad to carry the ore from mines the twenty-one miles to the mills on the Carson River. In 1872 he next extended the railroad north to Reno, where it connected with the new transcontinental line of the Central Pacific-Union Pacific railroad. Under Ralston’s direction, the “bank crowd” were the “Kings of the Comstock” from 1864 to 1875. They had rationalized the Comstock operations, and in doing so, had provided increased efficiency at the cost of monopolizing milling and transportation and forcing their way into most of the profitable mining operations.

Ralston’s monopoly was not impregnable. In 1870 John P. Jones and Alvinza Hayward brought in a bonanza of $60,000,000 at the Crown Point and Belcher mines before Ralston was aware of their find. A second group successfully challenged Ralston’s control in 1874-75. Testing a theory that deep in the earth the Comstock Lode grew wide and deep, James G. Fair, James C. Flood, John W. Mackay, and William S, O’Brien of San Francisco quietly acquired the Consolidated Virginia and California mines in 1871 by buying stocks at reduced prices. In 1872 they began driving shafts deep in the rock of Mount Davidson. In March,
1873, they struck highly favorable signs, and in October, at the 1,167 foot level, they struck the “Big Bonanza,” a lode of gold and silver 54 feet wide. Yielding a total of $105,168,859 from 1873 to 1882, and paying $74,250,000 in dividends, this was the greatest single bonanza in mining history. The mad speculative wave that followed the discovery of this bonanza ruined William Ralston and broke the Bank of California’s control of the Comstock Lode. Fair, Flood, Mackay and O’Brien became the new “Silver Kings” and built their palaces on Nob Hill in San Francisco. But even the fabulous wealth of the Comstock Lode could not last forever. Production reached an annual high of more than $38,000,000 in 1876, but by 1878 it had fallen to $20,500,000, then decreasing to $7,500,000 in 1879, $3,600,000. In 1880, and dropping to only $1,400,000 in 1881. Comstock stocks which had been valued at $3,000,000,000 in 1875, were only worth $7,000,000 in 1880. The population of Virginia City which had increased from 11,359 in 1870 to 20,000 in 1875, then fell to 15,448 by 1880, and to 9,000 by 1889.

The influence of the Comstock Lode, 1860-1880, was enormous. Wealth was poured into San Francisco, establishing that city as the Queen City of the Pacific Coast. Unlike the California gold rush, which distributed the money widely, a small number of individuals accumulated immense fortunes from the Comstock Mines. These wealthy men were to be prominent in subsequent chapters of Califomia’s, Nevada’s, and the nation f s history. Both mining and speculation were organized as large scale business operations for the first time in the West on the Comstock. The great influx of silver, which prompted the government to establish
a branch mint at Carson City and the large new mint at San Francisco, altered the ratio between gold and silver. Because of the Comstock rush, Nevada became a territory in 1861 and a state on October 31, 1864. Freighting, farming, and ranching were greatly stimulated4 and the construction and location of the first transcontinental railroad was also affected. Finally, some of the most important technological achievements in the mining industry were worked out at the Comstock. These included Deidesheimer’s squire set system of timbering, Paul’s Washoe process of reducing ores, and in 1878 Adolph Sutro also completed his great engineering project, the 20,480 foot Sutro tunnel which was constructed to drain the Comstock Mines, at a cost of $6,500,000.

Of all the people who took part in the rush to Washoe, only a handful ever grasped, much less held on to, the Big Bonanza. Neither McLaughlin, who sold out for $3,500 and later lost his life wandering, or O’Riley, who died in an insane asylum, ever benefited. Comstock, who in promoting the strike promoted himself, died in 1870 outside Bozeman, Montana, still prospecting. He was probably murdered. Ralston, as his Bank of California closed its doors in 1875, was found floating in San Francisco Bay, probably a suicide. The bank reopened six weeks later and paid off its depositors. William O’Brien, one the Big Four of the Consolidated Virginia, died of Bright’s disease in San Rafael, California, in 1878 without having much time to enjoy this new wealth. And then there were the winners. From the small beginnings in Virginia City and the Ophir Mine, George Hearst went on to found one of the great American fortunes based on mines in Mexico and the Homestake and Anaconda mines in South Dakota and Montana. The Hearst name is perhaps best known today for its newspaper chain, but the San Francisco Examiner was merely a toy Hearst bought to forward his political ambitions. The money was from mining. Adolph Sutro was a loser who won* His famous tunnel, completed after the boom was over, never paid its costs, but he sold out at the peak and retired to
San Francisco where he made a fortune in real estate (he owned one-twelfth of the city at one time) and was elected Mayor of the City in 1894 on the Populist ticket-

James G. Fair was another Silver King who held on to his money, investing in land, buildings, and railroads. In 1881 he was elected to a term in the Senate, but he was chiefly known for the gaudy ambition of his family. Of all the Silver Kings, James Mackay was the most popular. After his spectacular success in Virginia City, he acquired much western real estate and became a
director of the Southern Pacific Railroad, Moving first to San Francisco, then to New York City, and finally to Europe, Mackay fought a spectacular battle to break the telegraph and cable monopoly of Jay Could. He laid two submarine cables to Europe in 1884 and, in 1886, he began a battle on land to break the Gould-Western Union monopoly, Mackay was planning a Pacific cable when he died in London in 1902.

Part of the town of Dayton forms a non-contiguous segment of the Virginia City Historic District because of its close connection with the Comstock Lode.

Dayton is the oldest town in Nevada. In 1849 Spofford Hall set up a trading post there to provision Forty-niners. Most travelers stopped along the Carson River to recruit their animals after the terrible Forty Mile Desert, and many improved their time by prospecting, but although some gold was discovered, most of the men moved on to the California fields. Some men stayed to work placer deposits up Gold Canyon to the northwest, however, and a settlement grew up around the trading post. Because of the availability of a more or less constant water supply in the Carson River, a stamp mill was located there. It was miners working up the gulch from Dayton that found the fabulous Comstock Lode. When the rush to Washoe began, many of Dayton’s residents took themselves and their houses up the hill to Virginia City, but the town did not die, because the water remained. Eventually Dayton came to be the milling center for the whole Comstock Lode, as well as a lumber, timber, and supply center for the region. At its height, in 1865, it had a population of 2,500. By 1900 the population was down to 500.

National Register Historic Virginia City References

Piper’s Opera House – Nevada State Historic Marker

Piper’s Opera House is Nevada State Historic Marker #235 and is located in Virginia City, Storey County Nevada. This building, the most significant vintage theatre in the West, was erected by John Piper in 1885.  Through business acumen and a political career, Piper would become one of the richest men in 1870s Virginia City. 

Piper sat on the City Council in 1865 and mayor of Virginia City in 1867. In 1874, Piper represented Storey County in the Nevada Senate. In an effort to raise money for Storey County to pay for railroad bonds, Piper managed to get the state senate to unanimously pass a bill that became law, removing the taxation limits on bullion in the county

The opera house is the third in a succession of theatres which he operated on the Comstock. The theater boasted original scenery, raked stage, and elegant proscenium boxes, is a remarkable survivor of a colorful era in American theatrical history.  Many popular nineteenth-century touring stars and concert artists appeared here.

Piper’s Opera House - NSHM #236, one of the largest venues for theater and performance on the Comstock. -  - University of California, Davis. Dept. of Special Collections.
Piper’s Opera House, one of the largest venues for theater and performance on the Comstock. – – University of California, Davis. Dept. of Special Collections.

House Nevada State Historic Marker Text

This building, the most significant vintage theatre in the West, was erected by John Piper in 1885.  Third in a succession of theatres which he operated on the Comstock, Piper’s Opera House, with its original scenery, raked stage, and elegant proscenium boxes, is a remarkable survivor of a colorful era in American theatrical history.  Many popular nineteenth-century touring stars and concert artists appeared here.


Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost of damaged.

Nevada State Historic Marker Summary

Nevada State Historic Marker236
NamePiper’s Opera House
LocationVirginia City, Storey County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.3109, -119.6502