Early Mining Discoveries in Nevada


By Sam P. Davis in 1913


Eldorado County, CA Miners

Eldorado County, CA Miners

The story of the first discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, California, was the beginning of a marked event in the history of the United States which led to the mad rush of fortune hunters to the Pacific Coast, and gave the world a romance of sudden wealth which has never been duplicated in the history of mining. For the next ten years, the record was one of tragedy and greed, of gilded adventure and extraordinary happenings, in which the soldiers of fortune from the uttermost parts of the earth plunged into the seething melting-pot of fate and fought for spoils so vast and so easily acquired that it made the tale of Aladdin’s Lamp a jest and mockery.

The romance of California gold mining needed a sequel, and the opening chapter was written when the Grosh brothers, of Philadelphia, first discovered silver in Nevada, on the eastern slope of Mt. Davidson.

Now and then, a hand reaches down and brings up some fragment which calls to mind the incidents which cluster about that tremendous discovery which helps make a new State and contributes a page to the history of the world.

After the bloom had worn off the gold excitement in California, some of the men who had rushed to the Coast doubled back along the trail and began to hunt for the precious metal in Nevada.

Gold is not a modest metal. It makes its presence known whenever it can and is always seeking recognition. When, in its original location, it is always subject to dislodgment from the attrition of the elements, the convulsions of nature, and the thousand and one disturbances arising from the industry of man. The moment it is loosened from its original home it becomes subject to the law of gravitation, and every movement is downward. Every storm which beats upon it helps to disintegrate its prison walls, and at every turn, the stones of the stream fall upon it and hammer it flatter, while the wear of the water takes away its sharp edges, so that when a practiced prospector picks it up from the bottom of his pan scores of miles from the original ledge, the appearance of the little grain of gold gives him a tolerably good idea of the distance it has traveled.

Early in the 1850s, prospectors found gold in the Carson River, near present-day Dayton, and they followed the indications up the ravine which carried away the wash of Mt. Davidson.  They found the precious metal in paying quantities all along this gulch, which were washing out gold on the eastern slope of the mountain.  Gold hunters from Placerville, California had come to the river as early as 1854 and earned good wages with pick and pan in what is now known as Six-Mile Canyon.

The Grosh Brothers

In 1857 E. Allen Grosh and Hosea B. Grosh, sons of Reverend A. B. Grosh, a Unitarian clergyman of Philadelphia, was working on the Comstock. From the testimony of many miners who knew them, they were men of considerable scientific attainments, being chemists, assayers, and metallurgists. In addition to all this, having quite an outfit of assaying implements, they also brought with them to a spot afterward occupied by the Trenck Mill, quite a formidable library of scientific works. Captain Gilpin and George Brown were also regarded as partners of the Grosh brothers.

They went to the Comstock region from Mud Springs, California in 1857, and prospected for nearly a year. When they came across a young man named McLoud, they took him along with them. He was a Canadian, about twenty years of age, and had crossed the plains with some Mormon emigrants.

fortunes with the miners. The Grosh brothers occupied the cabin along with young McLoud, and Henry Tompkins Paige Comstock, after whom the ledge was named, was a frequent visitor to their little home.

Gold panning in the American West

Gold panning

By this time, there was considerable mining done about Mt. Davidson, but it was all for gold. The black sulphurets, so rich in silver, were regarded as of no value and thrown away. In fact, the presence of these sulphurets was regarded everywhere with disfavor by the miners.

There is no authentic record of any assay made by the Grosh brothers, but they had the necessary appliances for the work and must have made the assay, for, in the fall of 1857, they told Comstock that they knew of rich silver mines in the vicinity and were going back to Philadelphia to secure capital to work them.

They at once staked off several claims, but there being no mining district there at the time, naturally, they could not have recorded them. They asked Comstock to remain at their cabin during the winter with McLoud, who had been engaged to cut wood, and take care of the cabin until they returned.

While preparations were being made for the departure of the Grosh brothers to Philadelphia, Hosea, while prospecting, ran a pick in his foot, which eventually resulted in lockjaw, from which he died from on September 2, 1957. He was buried near their camp and his grave marked by a few large rocks. Years later, his father would send a slab from Philadelphia to mark the grave.

With his brother, Hosea, dead, Allen didn’t go to Philadelphia, but would soon travel along with McLoud to Last Chance, California. About November 1st the pair started across the mountains for Mud Springs by way of Georgetown. They crossed into California by way of Lake Tahoe, then known as Lake Bigler. While they were crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains, they were caught in a succession of snowstorms, suffering terribly and nearly freezing to death. However, they finally reached Last Chance, in Placer County. By this time, both men’s feet were frozen. McLoud had his feet amputated but Grosh refused. He died in December 1857 and was buried in the area. Neither one of the Grosh brothers, nor their families, ever realized a dollar from their discovery which added to the world’s wealth over seven hundred million dollars and saved the American Union in the Civil War.

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