Herman Schussler and the Comstock Water System

Hermann Schussler is famous for designing the Comstock water system, one of the most extraordinary engineering feats of the West, but his influence on the state exceeded even that astounding achievement. He was born in what is today Germany, in Rastede in 1842. Schussler attended the nearby Prussian Military Academy at Oldenburg between 1859 and 1862. In the fall of 1862, he left to study civil engineering at universities in Karlsruhe and Zurich and worked for some time as an engineer in Switzerland.

Hardrock Mining

Early hardrock miners in Nevada used a traditional technology derived from medieval Europe, Spanish Colonial America, and China. They dug open "glory holes" or shallow shafts down to a depth of 100-200 feet to reach the ore body. Once underground, the miners dug "ratholes" to follow the ore body. Miners used gear trains, cams, pistons, and cylinders to construct simple pumping, hoisting, transporting, and grinding machines.

Hank Monk

In 1859, noted eastern journalist Horace Greeley visited the region he promoted with the oft-quoted recommendation "Go West young man." During his travels, he came to Genoa, the period's chief settlement on the eastern slope of the Sierra. Pressed to arrive in time to give a speech in Placerville, California, across the mountains, Greeley boarded a stage and made his needs known to Hank Monk, the driver. The ensuing incident was eventually recounted throughout the nation.

Hamilton and Treasure Hill

A mineral strike in January 1867 resulted in the "White Pine Excitement" and the founding of Treasure City (originally Tesora) perched on Treasure Hill. Silver ore assayed at as much as $15,000 per ton. The astounding figure was over three times greater than some of the best ore from the Comstock Lode, which was slumping into a depression in the late 1860s. A rush to the region depleted the population in other mining towns including Virginia City and Austin.


The last gold rush in the West began with a discovery around 1900 by the great Shoshone prospector Tom Fisherman. Two young Tonopah roustabouts, Harry Stimler and William Marsh, followed him to the site and staked claims in late 1902. They continued to work these claims sporadically over the ensuing months, occasionally joined by other prospectors.


Although some mining existed in the Golconda area as early as 1866, its most important years came between 1898 and 1910 when it served as a copper processing center for the Adelaide mine. In 1907, a gold discovery just two miles away contributed to its status as a mining town, although the total amount produced from this discovery was small. Golconda's heyday lasted only twelve years, but it gave birth to a ranching community and supported a number of mining operations later in the twentieth century.

Gender in Nevada: A Comstock Case Study

Indisputably, women were in the minority in nineteenth-century Nevada. Mining boomtowns attracted single men more quickly than women; nevertheless, both genders were present during the earliest period of settlement, and women played a significant role in the building of the territory and state.

Welsh: Nineteenth-Century Immigrants from Wales

For centuries, the Welsh gained international fame as miners. Nevertheless, they were slow to come to Nevada's mines. This was largely due to the fact that coal dominates Wales's industry, giving its workers experience more useful in the coal fields of the eastern United States than in western hard rock mines.


The Eureka Mining District began with a few claims staked in 1864. Initially, miners sent limited silver ore to Austin mills. By 1866, new discoveries attracted more attention, but the presence of lead made milling the silver ore difficult.

Early Lumber Industry

Wood was essential to development in the nineteenth-century Great Basin. Unfortunately, forests were scarce, particularly when construction needed straight grained pines. Mines required wood for building, to fuel furnaces, and to assemble support systems underground.


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