We are now settled into our working routine. With Sunday through Tuesday off, we have a chance to do a little exploring of this area. This day saw us in Virginia City located about 46 miles away and 2,000 feet higher than Fernley at about 6,200 feet.
Situated on the Comstock Lode
, Virginia City sprang into being in 1859 withthe discovery of gold. It was also the first major silver discovery in the United States. The town appeared virtually overnight and grew to a high of 15,000 residents. As with many boomtowns of that era, Virginia City experienced some serious fires between 1859 and 1875, The Great Fire of 1875
being the most devastating. The city quickly rebuilt and the majority of the National Historic Landmark historic district was built in 1875, 1876. The city’s population dropped sharply when the Comstock Lode ran out in 1898.
Today, the countryside surround the city is riddled with mine shafts, mostly abandoned. Since many mines were not registered, their locations are unknown, but many are known and registered with new ones being found each year mostly when someone accidently finds an opening in the hillside.
Many of the mines were very successful, removing gold and silver worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But, like with most big mineral strikes, very few miners actually struck it rich. Most of the miners were Cornish or Irish and, although paid $4.00 per day when most miners of the time were lucky to make only about $2.00, they encountered many enticements that severely hindered much savings. The actual owners of the mines apparently didn’t fare much better – at least according to the financial ledgers which reflect that mine profits often amounted only to hundreds of dollars if any at all. Many of the owners and developers are reported to have died nearly penniless.
In 1862, a reporter named Samuel Clemens began work for the Territorial Enterprise
newspaper in Virginia City and first used his famous pen name, Mark Twain, in an 1863 humorous travel account Letter from Carson – re: Joe Goodman; party at Gov. Johnson’s; music
. He left for San Francisco in 1864.
Today, the city is unabashedly a tourist town. Old buildings have been restored and house museums and modern businesses designed to capture the tourist’s dollars; tours of old mines are conducted; a trolley tours the town accompanied by a narrative of history and tales of past times (some of them true); the Virginia & Truckee Railroad runs a train from Virginia City to nearby Gold Hill passing by historic mine sites and through hand-drilled tunnels.
A word about some of the pictures:
There are several pictures labeled Spite Houses
The story as related to us involved two men who were not friends. One purchased a lot and built himself a home. The other built himself a house, purchased the adjacent lot, and moved his house next to the first so close that it would block as much view, air movement, and sunshine as possible. The result was two houses within a few inches of each other. According to our story teller, “There might have been a woman involved.”
The Fourth Ward School and Museum
building was built in 1876, in honor of the nation’s centennial, to accommodate the growing number of children of the miners, managers, and business people. It could accommodate over 1000 students and boasted state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, curriculum, and education practices such as team-teaching. It even had the latest in indoor sanitation including running water and the only flush toilets in town. By the mid-1930s, all the other schools in town had closed and less than 200 students attended the school. The building needed repairs, and it seemed to be an obsolete relic from another era. A new brick school was built with New Deal funding and the Fourth Ward was closed in 1936. Abandoned for fifty years, state, federal, and private grants rescued the structure, and it was reopened as a museum in 1986.
We had a fun day and returned home refreshed and ready to go back to work making it possible for Amazon to provide you with all those things that you simply cannot get along without – keep buying; we can use the money. Thank you.