Henry Comstock

Courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society.

As the miner who gave his name to one of the most famous mining districts in the world, Henry Comstock assumed legendary status. Failing to realize the millions drawn from his namesake's mines, Comstock went insane and eventually killed himself.

Courtesy of Storey County Recorder.

Henry Comstock’s name appears together with Penrod, Winters, Osborne, O’Riley, and McLaughlin, founders of the Comstock Lode in 1859.

Courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society.

As the miner who gave his name to one of the most famous mining districts in the world, Henry Comstock assumed legendary status. Failing to realize the millions drawn from his namesake’s mines, Comstock went insane and eventually killed himself.

By 1859, Henry T. "Pancake" Comstock accomplished little except that he was able to insinuate himself into one of the richest gold and silver strikes in history, giving his name to the ore deposit. Born in Ontario, Canada, in 1820, Comstock drifted as a trapper until he settled in the western Great Basin's Gold Canyon. There, he mined placer sands. People said Comstock was too lazy to bake bread, preferring the easy flapjack, hence the nickname "Pancake."

In January 1859, James Finney and others staked a rich claim at Gold Hill, inspiring Comstock, Sandy Bowers, and others to work nearby. On June 8, 1859, Comstock encountered Patrick McLaughlin and Peter O'Riley working a rich outcropping to the north, which he asserted he owned. Everyone quickly agreed to share the good fortune, with Comstock including his partner Immanuel "Manny" Penrod. Later residents believed the mining district took Comstock's name because he was an assertive braggart.

Comstock sold his interest in the district for thousands of dollars, a remarkable sum for the mining West. He then purchased stores in Silver City and Carson City and a Mormon wife, but she ran away. Failing at business, he wandered off with little but a place in folklore.

Because Comstock's claims were worth millions of dollars, later people blamed his actions on mental instability. Whether he was insane before 1859 is unclear, but his turn of fortune seriously unhinged his mind. While living in Montana, he shot and killed himself in 1870.

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