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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/762

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

some of them out, Comstock, "Old Virginia," and several others found "surface diggings" near "Slippery Gulch." They named the place "Gold Hill," and, staking out claims, proceeded to work the decomposed outcroppings over Crown Point, Yellow Jacket, Belcher, Kentuck, and other great mines as yet undiscovered. From the time they started the rockers, using water from a spring close by, Gold Hill averaged twenty dollars a day to the man. June 1st, O'Riley and McLaughlin, whose claim in Six Mile CaƱon paid only two or three dollars a day, suddenly cut into the rock on the surface of Ophir, at the north end of the Comstock, and began to take out gold at the rate of a thousand dollars a day. They had only been working a few hours when Comstock happened along, saw the value of the discovery, laid a general floating claim to a mythical stock ranch in the region, and fairly bluffed the good-natured discoverers into taking himself and Manny Penrod as equal partners. "Kentuck" Osborne afterward came in, and the five took up the original Ophir claim.

The miners in the region soon staked out claims around Gold Hill and Ophir. "Dutch Nick" started a saloon and restaurant in a tent. "Old Virginia" went on a spree one night and christened the north-end camp "Virginia City." Comstock bubbled with happiness, and flung his money broadcast. But a rancher from Truckee Meadows, visiting the camp, picked up some of the despised "blue stuff" from the waste heap of Ophir, and afterward gave it to Judge Walsh, of Grass Valley, California, with the remark that "over in Washoe the miners were throwing it away." An assayer reported it to be nearly pure silver. This happened about midnight, and before dawn Judge Walsh was miles on the road to Virginia City, while hundreds of other men were making ready to follow. The Truckee Meadows rancher paid no attention to the excitement he had caused, but went quietly back to his farm. When Judge Walsh reached the camp Comstock sold for $11,000, only $10 of which was paid down. McLaughlin soon sold for $3,500, Osborne for $7,000, Penrod for $3,000. Careless, ignorant, the first Comstockers were blown aside like leaves in a whirlwind. They spent their money and drifted off here and there, pursued by ill-fortune. McLaughlin was soon cooking for a gang of men at $40 a month; "Old Virginia," while on a spree in 1861, was thrown from a horse and killed; Comstock, who had parted with his interests exactly two months after the ledge was struck, branched out into financial and matrimonial ventures, spent every dollar, wandered over Idaho and Montana vainly looking for another fortune, and in 1870 committed suicide. Sandy Bowers, who was considered a millionaire, went to Europe with his wife "to see the queen," and "had money to throw at the birds." He built a costly stone man-