William Chapman Ralston

William Ralston was a California investor who assembled the means to monopolize the Comstock Lode during the 1860s. Born in Ohio in 1826, Ralston moved to San Francisco in 1854 and became a rising star as part owner in a steamship company. Beginning in 1860, he turned his attention and his investments to Comstock mines.

William Sharon

William Sharon played an important role in early Nevada. Born in Ohio on January 9, 1821, he practiced law in St. Louis then pursued business in Illinois. With the 1849 Gold Rush, Sharon traveled to California where he engaged in business and real estate, but he lost his earnings in stock speculation.

Andrew S. Hallidie

Andrew S. Hallidie was the inventor of the flat wire cable, a device that made it possible to send elevators into deep, hard rock mines. Born Andrew Smith in London in 1836, he was the son of an engineer who held patents for making metal wire ropes. Smith eventually adopted the name Hallidie after his godfather, Sir Andrew Hallidie.


The site of modern-day Winnemucca has been important to Nevada since the first explorers traversed the region in the late 1820s. It later became a critical place for early settlers, and marked the point at which the immigrant trail headed south toward the Sierra Nevada passes. Winnemucca became a major distribution point for the Central Pacific Railroad, established itself as the center of commerce in north-central Nevada, and was the site of a major bank robbery that remains controversial to this day.

Alpine, Churchill County

On the eastern slopes of the Clan Alpine Mountains in Churchill County, mining began in earnest as early as 1864. The Clan Alpine Mountain Range runs north to south. Its east facing slopes descend into Edwards Creek Valley and run parallel to U.S. Highway 50. Mining records indicate that several silver claims were filed in Florence Canyon and a "ten stamp" mill was built at the mouth of Cherry Creek.

Yellow Jacket Disaster

Gold Hill's Yellow Jacket Disaster was probably the worst mining accident in Nevada history. On the morning of April 7, 1869, fire spread at the 800-foot level. As the day crew descended, smoldering timbers collapsed, flooding poisonous air into the Yellow Jacket and neighboring Kentuck and Crown Point Mines. Fortunately, shifts were changing or casualties would have been higher. Nevertheless, survivors described horrible scenes of miners desperately struggling for life.

African Americans on the Comstock

African Americans came to the western Great Basin in the 1850s. Some were former slaves seeking freedom, while others were freeborn. All sought opportunity. Although the western environment did not have the same level of oppression as the East, African Americans encountered racism both from individuals and eventually from government. Nevertheless, most established prosperous lives and enjoyed the occasional open-minded freedom of the frontier.

Adolph Sutro

Adolph Sutro was a remarkable character whose tunnel remains a legend in the history of mining. Born to Prussian Jewish parents, he immigrated to North America at age twenty in 1850. Sutro tinkered with mechanics while young, but throughout his life he applied himself to a wide range of occupations and diversions. Once in the United States, he set off for San Francisco and became a store owner. By 1856, he was married to Leah Harris, who soon gave birth to a daughter.


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