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The Comstock Lode was discovered in the summer of 1859 in Nevada. This discovery of ore resulted in about $400 million worth of gold and silver and was the reason that Virginia City boomed for the following 20 years. The lode was named after Henry Comstock who partially owned the land that is was found on. Production peaked between 1876-1878, but declined shortly after and Virginia City and the other boomtowns were practically deserted. In 1864, the Comstock Lode was the reason that Nevada became a part of the Union. It also contributed to the Gold Rush and ignited a newer, Silver Rush.


  • The Comstock Lode historical marker.
  • Photo of what the mines looked like and how the city began to form surrounding it.

The discovery of the Comstock Lode was the first major silver deposit found. It contained gold too, but silver was easier to obtain and more abundant. It was found by the Grosh brothers, Evan and Hosea, but they both died before claiming their find. Henry Comstock was a caretaker of the brother’s, and when they died he had possession of their cabin and set out to look for what they had found. There were four smaller sections claimed, but it was Peter O’Riley and Patrick McLaughlin who found the best spot for the mining. Comstock found out about their discovery and threatened them, and the agreement was to pay him interest. When it was claimed, the “Rush to Washoe” started, bringing thousands of hopeful miners as a part of the Gold Rush.  

One result of the Comstock Lode was the establishment of boomtowns, one being Virginia City, the capital of the lode. New technology was also developed in order to mine the most ore as possible. The Sutro Tunnel allowed the drainage of excess water found in the mines. Another technological advancement was the building of a railroad. Along with technological advancements, came literary developments and television adaptations. It was in Virginia City, in 1862, that Mark Twain got his start. He began working for the local newspaper and wrote weekly columns, and he wrote about the lifestyle of the miner and the process of the Comstock Lode in one of his books. The television show, Bonanza, was inspired by Virginia City and the Comstock Lode during this time period. 

The mines were a dangerous place for workers. There were cave-ins, flooding, fires, and there was mercury contamination. The levels of mercury there today are 26 times the federal standard (Digital History). By 1877, the population of Virginia City began to decline, and all of the Nevada mines began declining, except Delamar, by 1880. By the early 20th century, the population of Virginia City had dropped down to 3,500, and by 1930, 500 people remained. The mines had exhausted their ore resources and the value of silver was declining, driving people away.

The discovery of gold and silver ore in the Comstock Lode brought thousands of people to the state of Nevada. The lode produced hundreds of millions of dollars, and lead to Nevada becoming a state and entering the Union, helped fund the Civil War, and built the boomtown, Virginia City. In addition, there were technological and literary advancements, and became the inspiration for works later on, such as Bonanza. The mines eventually exhausted their resources and people began to leave the area, causing the decline of the Comstock Lode, and Virginia City became one of the Ghost Towns.

Comstock Lode. Encyclopedia Britannica. 20 July 1998. 01 Nov 2018. https://www.britannica.com/place/Comstock-Lode. 

Dustbin of History: The Fascinating Saga of the Comstock Lode. Today I Found Out. 21 April 2018. 03 Nov 2018. http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2016/04/dustbin-of-history-the-fascinating-saga-of-the-comstock-lode/. 

Raine, Lee. The Comstock Lode. Cowboy Showcase. . 03 Nov 2018. http://www.cowboyshowcase.com/comstock-lode.html#.W94poy2ZNao.

The Comstock Lode and the Mining Frontier. Digital History. 02 Nov 2018. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3149. 

Weiser, Kathy. Comstock Lode - Creating Nevada History. Legends of America. July 2015. 03 Nov 2018. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/nv-comstocklode/. 

Whittle, Syd. The Comstock Lode Historical Marker. The Historical Marker Database. 22 Sept 2009. 01 Nov 2018. https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=22630.