What Was the Nevada Silver Rush, and Why Was It Special?
When we talk about mining, people ultimately think of gold rushes. For example, during America’s uncertain and violent frontier era, the California Gold Rush brightened the future of these prospectors. As it turns out, even Silver Rushes have a significant impact on the country’s economy.
Origin of the Nevada Silver Rush
The Nevada Silver Rush is amongst the truest rushes in history. It began in 1859 when prospectors Ethan and Hosea Grosh were searching for gold but found the biggest silver strike recorded in history. The strike was so large that it attracted many ambitious prospectors into the Washoe Valley. One of these miners was Henry Tompkins Comstock, a friend of the Grosh brothers. Comstock claimed the lucrative silver mine after the Grosh brothers fell ill and died.
Sourcing silver was not an easy task despite the lode promising great riches. The journey to the mines was challenging itself as it required trekking up the rough mountain trails from California to Nevada.
Having limited resources and uncertain of the size of strikes, all the founders of the Nevada Rush soon sold out, including Comstock.
Why Was The Nevada Rush Unique?
The Nevada Rush was unique because of its accessibility. During the California Rush, miners rushed to the land and began panning out gold from the mountain streams. They were replaced by mining companies who excavated the deep gold veins that miners couldn’t reach. Unlike the California Rush, Nevada silver could be extracted directly from the surface. Nevada’s harsh climate concentrated silver into dense gray crusts. “You could shovel the mineral right off the ground, and you didn’t need a Ph.D. to find it,” wrote Andrew Alden, Geologist.
Several mining camps and trading posts were established in Western Nevada, including Gold Hill, Silver City, and Virginia City.
Effect on the American Land
Before the silver rush, everyone considered Nevada a land of the untamable and wild. The Nevada Territory was granted statehood in 1864 once the city became the center of mining activity.
Many of Nevada’s ghost towns consist of remnants of silver. Besides Carson City, most of the mining towns in Nevada have been abandoned.
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