Joe and Nancy

Joe and Nancy
Our Home on Wheels (Click on image above for our web albums.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Virginia City, NV Day Trip

Now, I had forgotten my history from the fifth grade.  I don't remember actually what grade I learned about the Comstock Load, and couldn't tell you for sure what state it was in.  I would have guessed California.  I do remember that Virginia City was where the Cartwrights always wagoned in for supplies.  And the famous Ponderosa Ranch where they lived was a fictional Bonanza.
The Ponderosa!  A very large ranch.  As you might have guessed, there were Bonanza exhibits in many of the saloons and pubs along the main drag.  Here are a few of the the establishments from town.  Pardon the cars and other vehicles though, as it was a busy little place.
Not sure how long this called the Bonanza, whether before or after the Cartwrights came to town, but it still attracts the goofy tourists looking for Hoss.
It was also neat to walk along real and creaky boardwalks.  I just had to find out about the Suicide Table, as it was advertised coming into town.  Here is not-so-good pic of the table inside and a description as to why it was called that.
And here is the Silver Queen.  That's right, her dress is made up of over 3,200 silver dollars minted in Carson City down the road, the capital of Nevada, the silver state.
From Wiki:  During the last 20 years of the 19th century, Piper's Opera House served as one of the centers of cultural activity in the Comstock and the West. It was an important stopping point for theatrical tours of North America throughout the last half of the 19th and early 20th century. In 1863, John Piper purchased the brick office block that already stood at this location, now the entrance portion of the opera house, and established a saloon. Piper became one of the most influential theater owners in the West and ran numerous theaters in Reno, Truckee, Carson City and San Francisco, and maintained his own traveling troop.  Oh, by the way, it's haunted too, according to some folks.
Apparantly Mark Twain spent some time here before moving on to the west coast.
Knick-knacks everywhere in this town.  We have only so much room in a motor home though, so we just looked.  This little alley-way had about 10 vendors crammed in here.
I just read last night that a startup company called Comstock Mining began buying up claims in 2003 from just south of Virginia City all the way down to the Dayton & Lucerne areas, including Gold Hill and Silver City.  While we were there, this company was doing some exploratory drilling into the sides of these hills.  Here is pic of one up on the hill side, but we saw two other locations with the same rigs working.  Some geologists and scientist estimate that there is probably up to four times the gold & silver mined so far, still left in the ground along the two rich veins of the Comstock Load.  This company and their backers seem to agree as they have bought up 6500 acres of claims and spent $43 million so far, and haven't mined the fist piece of ore yet.  But they begin the execution of the elaborate and calculated Mining Plan this year and will use all the gadgets and machinery and electronics of the 21st century in extracting these minerals.  Wanna buy some stock in their company?
But, that is now.  Here are some pics from the past, and it's past was a storied one portrayed in many chronicles and mediums over the decades since.
I walked around some of these old relics of a boom time long past, but I also got a sense that because the price of these two precious metals have skyrocketed since 2008, that someone might get to thinking that it now might be worth digging in once more.  And after reading last night about Comstock Mining, darned if I wasn't on to something.  :-)
The hillsides from V City all the way to the Dayton locations are scarred with these open pit & strip mines.
Old Cyanide leach vats that soaked the finely crushed products from the many stampers that were employed throughout the mining companies.  The crushed ore/gravel were placed in the cyanide vats for aperiod of time and the sediment mud and soup would sink and the resultant precious metals would rise to the top (cream rises to the top?) and would be gathered up and trained off to points south and west.  The Comstock Load put San Francisco and Southern California on the maps, as well as Carson City.
As I walked around these places, there signs that said Keep Out and I got the feeling that I was being watched.  In fact whe I stopped by the old Gold Hill train depot, I was being watched.  Nancy stayed in the Jeep and I walked all around this large shaft works and open pit and this guy was just moseying pretending to not care, but I knew otherwise.  What did he think I was going to take or do?  Beats me.  I did start up a conversation with him later and he turns out to be an old transplant form CA back in 1964.  He runs the depot restoration project.  Here is a pic of the depot.
The Fourth Ward School is the last one of
its kind still standing in the United States.
The 1876 Second Empire, four-storied
state-of-the-art wooden school preserves
the real story of life in a booming Old West
mining town.  Built to accommodate more
than 1,000 students, the sixteen classrooms
retain original patina, desks, maps and books.
This square building with the unusual central chimney was built as the company offices for the Gould and Curry Mining Company. The first resident was George Hearst, father of William Randolph Hearst. After he made his fortune and left town, the building became home to another one of Viginia City's rich and powerul elite, John Mackay. The house was renamed Mackay Mansion, and has kept the name to this day. There were other mansions in town as well as other old buildings/museums, but we didn't have time to see them all.
Shafts and access dirt roads from long ago just north of V City.  Most of the hills around V City are scarred like this.  Here is another pic looking northeast from town.
Well, that about wraps up our day trip to Virginia City and a brush-up on the history of the Comstock load and current events.  So, as we depart here and Reno in the morning towards northern California, the RVing Beach Bums say so long till the next blog.