George Hearst, born on a Missouri farm in 1820, was a shrewd investor who turned a small investment in the Comstock Lode into the foundation of an American empire. He was seeking his fortune in California when news of the 1859 Comstock Lode discoveries rippled through the western mining camps. Hearst was one of the first to cross the Sierra, hoping to purchase claims before prices inflated. He agreed to pay $3,000 to Patrick McLaughlin for his one-sixth share of a Comstock mine. He then returned to Nevada City, California to raise the money.
The investment paid off as Hearst quickly accumulated wealth. In 1860, Hearst constructed the Gould and Curry Mine superintendent's house on Virginia City's D Street. Silver Baron John Mackay eventually purchased the mansion that still bears his name. With nearly one hundred thousand dollars, Hearst left the Comstock for mines in Park City, Utah, where he increased his fortune. In 1862, he married Phoebe Apperson, who gave birth in 1863 to future newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
George Hearst eventually owned interests in important mines in Utah, South Dakota, and Montana. He used his profits to acquire massive amounts of western real estate and helped launch his son's publishing career. Hearst was elected U.S. Senator from California in 1886. His term ended with his death in 1891.