Wild Mustangs of Nevada
Virginia City & The Comstock Lode
Piper's Opera House is located in Virginia City, Nevada, a big boom and medium bust town outside of Reno, Nevada. During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Virginia City was the Silicon Valley of the West - the center of technology based money, where every person had a shot at making a million. The industry was mining instead of computers but the excitement was the same. Mark Twain commented in his book "Roughing It" that he didn't bother to collect his weekly salary at the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City because he made a lot more money from the stock certificates mine owners would give him to entice him to write about their mines.Where there is big money there is big entertainment, and in the 1870s the big entertainment was happening at Piper's Opera House.
The Comstock Lode: Virginia City became the first industrial city in the West when, in 1857, Ethan Allen Grosh and Hosea Ballou Grosh discovered gold in Six-Mile Canyon. They died before recording their claims, and in 1859, according to legend, fellow miner Henry T. P. Comstock stumbled upon their find and claimed it was on his property.
After the discovery was made public in 1859, prospectors rushed to the area, and mining camps in the vicinity, including Virginia City. Miner James Finney is said to have christened the newly-found tent-and-dugout town on the slopes of Mt. Davidson "Old Virginny Town," in honor of himself and his birthplace.
The rich deposits of gold and high-quality silver ore turned Virginny Town to Virginia City, the most important settlement between Denver and San Francisco. They also prompted President Abe Lincoln to make Nevada a state in 1864. Although it did not contain enough people to constitutionally authorize statehood he needed the Comstock to finance the Civil War.
With the gold and silver boom came the building of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, which ran from Reno to Carson City to Virginia City, and later to Minden.
At the peak of its glory, Virginia City was a raucous town with something going on 24 hours a day both above and below ground for its nearly 30,000 residents. There were visiting celebrities, Shakespearean theater, opium dens, 2 newspapers, competing fire companies, fraternal organizations, at least five police precincts, a thriving red light district, and the first Miner's Union in the U.S. The International Hotel was six stories high and boasted the West's first elevator, called the "rising room."
Among the notable residents were Mark Twain and Brete Harte, who both wrote for the Territorial Enterprise, Nevada's first newspaper. A devastating fire nearly obliterated Virginia City in 1875, destroying over 2,000 structures, but the town rebuilt itself in just a year. Many of the buildings standing today date back to that time.
The Comstock Lode yielded more than $400 million in gold and silver and remains the richest known U.S. silver deposit. The excavations along the fissures the vein descended more than 3200 feet until the inflow of hot water, plus the halt in silver dollar coinage, brought operations to an end in 1898.
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