The “Granddaddy” of Silver Strikes

Comstock Miners

The Comstock Lode of Nevada was the richest silver strike, the “Granddaddy” of them all. In the Washoe Mountains, east of the Sierra Nevada, three Irish prospectors named Peter O’Riley, James Finney, and Patrick McLaughlin hit pay dirt one day at a spring in Six-Mile Canyon. About that time, Henry P. T. Comstock, the laziest bum in the area happened by and insisted he’d been there first. Rather than argue, the three Irishmen decided it could be divided up four ways as well as three so they cut him in. Comstock immediately left the site and went to town and told everybody in sight about his new silver strike and people began calling it the “Comstock.”

Comstock later sold out his share to George Hearst for eleven thousand dollars. With his new-found wealth he decided to take a wife so he bought a Mormon’s extra wife for sixty dollars, a worn out mule and a six shooter. His young bride ran off the first chance she got and Comstock, suffering from dementia, committed suicide a few years later at Bozeman, Montana.

The three Irishmen, O’Riley, McLaughlin, and Finney all sold out for a few thousand dollars. All died broke but their discovery produced over 400 million dollars over the next thirty years, and produced more millionaires, sixty, than all the other mines in the West. Many of those newly-minted millionaires were Irish. Overall, the Comstock produced one billion, two and a half million dollars. In today’s dollars that would be some five billion dollars.

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