Virginia City, Nevada Wishes You Were Here

Some places, like some people, get rich quickly, usually as a result of one or the other. Virginia City is one such place, a destination that probably wouldn’t be what it is today without the discovery of silver in 1859.

Known as the Comstock Lode, you can still see traces of that discovery all over Virginia City. It is no wonder why as that silver found here produced $400 million by 1898. The 19th century mining boom gave Virginia City its importance, along the same lines as Denver and San Francisco. In fact, San Franciscans can thank Virginia City for its very existence. The riches of the mining town funded much of the building of a city many would leave their hearts in for years to come. Today, you can still tour some of those mines, seemingly untouched by any sort of time.

In an unsuspecting location near Nevada’s capital of Carson City, Virginia City has clung to its mining days. Yes, you will see prospectors walking around with their donkeys, permitting you to take a photo, for a small charge of course. Beyond the kitsch is a town riddled with authentic board sidewalks, historic churches and grand old mansions. The Mackay Mansion stands as through it did in 1860. John Mackay, the King of the Comstock Lode used the mansion as his residence and office. He was the richest man in the Comstock, acquiring at least $100,000. A chill comes over me here, perhaps Mackay telling me to keep my distance for the riches are all his.

The fame of Virginia City even extends to Mark Twain. It was in Virginia City Samuel Clemens famously took on the penname Mark Twain, one that would stick indefinitely. Twain worked on the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City. His name, like the Comstock Lode, scatters about town for Virginia City never seems to forget its past.

My last stop in town is to the Comstock Cemeteries. There is something so eerie about a mining town all dried up, yet still clutching to its rich past. The Cemeteries here are proof of that fact as memorials to laboring classes still stand on slopping and receding hills. Many of the names printed on these tombstones labored behind the machinery of the mines. Their lives revolved around the Comstock Lode and remain as survivors to the roar and quiet of that time.

Leaving Virginia City does feel like leaving another time and perhaps even some sort of dream. I spot the most intense rainbow over the town, an indicator that the rain has subsided and the sun is revealing itself again. The rainbow ends at the opening of a mine. Even the skies over Virginia City know where the wealth of this town resides. It is a place many came to just get rich and get rich quickly. Sadly, I couldn’t channel my inner-prospector and snatch up a pot of gold at the other end.



  1. says

    I went to Virginia City for a writer’s conference last fall and loved it! It really is like stepping back in time. Your pic of that rainbow is phenomenal, by the way!

    • Suzy Guese says

      That sounds like a great location for a writer’s conference. Your imagination can really run wild in Virginia City.

  2. Peter Burris says

    When I was eleven, I spent the summer at a camp between Reno and Carson City. One day, we drove up to Virginia City and I distinctly remember making grave rubbings in that cemetery, and I recall both the kitschiness and the haunting backstory vibe. There was a susurrus in the air, warning us that you can see towns like this in the movies, but nothing compares to the Real Thing. Which Virginia City really is.

    • Suzy Guese says

      Exactly! It’s funny because I don’t usually like kitschy destinations, but Virginia City was different. Sounds like a fun camp.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *