Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/183

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179
GOLD MINING IN THE UNITED STATES

of the Territory of Utah. It is just south of the emigrant trail over which many early explorers of California had passed, but the region was a dry, inhospitable desert, destitute of vegetation and inhabited only by a few half-starved Indians, so that the pioneers had given it but little attention. Shortly before the discovery of the Comstock, however, some placer gold was found in that vicinity and a small settlement started, which later became Carson City. In 1857 two brothers named Grosh discovered the Comstock lode itself, but they died shortly afterwards, and the next year it was worked in a small way by others. Large bodies of ore, however, were first found in 1859, and then the news of the discovery spread rapidly and a great rush of people commenced, among them Henry Comstock, for whom the lode was named. The town of Virginia City sprang up from the desert and became a flourishing community.

The Comstock lode is an immense vein about four miles in length and several hundred feet in width, enclosed in igneous rock. Its great size admitted the locating of numerous mines along its course, many of which later became famous, such as the Consolidated California and Virginia, the Yellow Jacket, Crown Point, Hale and Norcross, Ophir, Belcher, Chollar and many others. Virginia City was at that time more accessible from San Francisco than from any other city, and hence the latter place became the supply point for the wants of the Comstock mines. San Francisco capital and energy poured into the district; the Comstock mining stocks were listed and dealt in on the San Francisco exchange, and San Francisco grew rich with the Comstock's millions. The gold discoveries in California had given San Francisco its first boom and had raised it from an obscure village to an active, bustling seaport; the discovery of the Comstock advanced it still further to a great city and one of the most important seaports in the world.

Mining progressed at a rapid rate at Virginia City, the mines reached great depths, and the water and heat increased at an abnormally rapid rate. It was then that Adolph Sutro commenced the great tunnel which bears his name, with the object of draining the mines and making an easier outlet for the ore, but before the project was completed the great "bonanzas" were largely exhausted, and by 1880 the production of the district had greatly declined. For a long time after that, mining consisted mostly in going over the old workings and waste dumps where the haste of the early days had left many rich pickings, but in recent years some entirely new development work has been started, and some of the old mines have taken a new lease of life.

The ore of the Comstock lode carried both gold and silver, with silver in the preponderance. In the haste and excitement of early days, accurate records of production were often neglected, but the total output of the Comstock mines to date has probabaly been between $400,-