Virginia City in Storey County, Nevada — The American Mountains (Southwest)
The Big Bonanza
Virginia City, Nevada
—Comstock Historical Marker No. 16 —
The “Big Bonanza” was the greatest mining strike in the history of the American West. In 1872, John Mackay, James Fair, James Flood & William O’Brien formed an alliance and took control of the “Consolidate Virginia” and “California” mines for an investment of about $100,000. The two mining properties were thought by others to be barren ground, but Mackay & Fair who were well seasoned miners thought otherwise. In 1873 an incredibly rich body of ore was struck at the 1,167 foot level that descended down more than 400 feet, it was the “Big Bonanza.” Territorial Enterprise mining editor, Dan DeQuille wrote that it was: “The Heart of the Comstock.” By 1879, the “Consolidated Virginia” had generated $61 million and the “California” $44 million making them the two largest producing mines in the history of the “Comstock Lode.” The quartet, now known as the “Bonanza Kings” were millionaires many times over and proceeded to invest heavily with their winnings. The four organized the “Pacific Pan & Mining Company” to mill ore from their mining operations. The Consolidated Virginia Mill began operations in 1875 and could handle up to 250 tons of ore a day. Later a second and larger mill was built called the “California Pan
By Barry Swackhamer, October 25, 2011
1. The Big Bonanza Marker
Mill”, it was the largest mill ever constructed on the “Comstock” and could process up to four hundred tons of ore daily. The four also formed the “Pacific Wood, Lumber and Flume Company” to handle the enormous amount of timber needed for the Comstock mines. A good part of the forest at Lake Tahoe was denuded as lumber was flumed down to the Carson Valley below where teamsters, and later the Virginia and Truckee Railroad would then transport it to Virginia City. In 1875, the “Bonanza Kings” organized the Nevada Bank of San Francisco with offices in San Francisco and Virginia City. By 1875 Virginia City was the most important city between Denver and San Francisco, where 20,000 people resided in Virginia City and Gold Hill. Over 3,000 men were working the Comstock mines and were the highest paid miners in the world at $4.00 per day. Virginia City also played host to some of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th century. Mine superintendent, Philipp Deidesheimer’s invention of square set timbering revolutionized mine timbering and is still used to this day. Water had always been a problem in the mines of the Comstock. Too much in the mines and not enough to drink. Both problems were solved by two Prussian born engineers. In 1869 Adolph Sutro began a nine near [sic] project to drain the mines through a 3.88 mile adit that became known as the Sutro Tunnel. In 1873 Hermann Schussler brought water to the Comstock from Marlette Lake some 30 miles to the west by way of an inverted siphon. Today Virginia City’s water supply still comes from the same source and water from the mines still drains at the mouth of Sutro Tunnel. The Bonanza years ended in 1879 but the mines were still very active and produced another $50 million from 1880 to 1920. By now, the millionaires were long gone from Virginia City, relocating to San Francisco where their Comstock wealth literally built San Francisco. Virginia City’s worst years came during the depression of the 1930’s when only several hundred people lived here. Virginia City today is a lot of the old and some new. It truly was the “Queen of the Comstock” and is a living historical reminder of the greatest mining camp of the American West.
By Barry Swackhamer, October 25, 2011
2. The Big Bonanza Marker
Erected 2009 by Marshall Earth Resources, Hugh Roy Marshall, Virginia City, Nevada. (Marker Number 16.)
Location. 39° 18.701′ N, 119° 38.851′ W. Marker is in Virginia City, Nevada, in Storey County. Marker is on E Street. Touch for map. This marker is in or near the Silverland Inn and Suites parking lot on E Street, between Union and Sutton Streets. Marker is in this post office area: Virginia City NV 89440, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. C & C Mining Works (within shouting distance of this marker); Consolidated Virginia & California Pan Mill (within shouting distance of this marker); V & T, 1869 - 1950 (within shouting distance of this marker); Virginia and Truckee Railroad (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Ships of the Nevada Desert (about 300 feet away); Chinatown (about 300 feet away); St. Mary Louise Hospital (about 400 feet away); The Union Brewery (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Virginia City.
Categories. • Natural Resources • Notable Places •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on December 2, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 466 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on December 2, 2011, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.