Early Mining Discoveries in Nevada

McLoud; however, survived to tell the tale of the first silver assay made on the Comstock. What it amounted to, the Grosh brothers kept to themselves. But McLoud told the storekeeper in Last Chance, that he saw the Groshes “pour some of the silver ore in a glass after pounding it in a pot and wetting it,” and that after that “they got very much excited.” The assay thus described by McLoud was unquestionably the first assay ever made of the silver deposits of the Comstock. McLoud later moved to Montreal, Canada, where he practiced medicine.

What a subject this scene would have made for a painter’s brush — in the interior of a miner’s camp at night, the faces of two fortune-seekers lit by the ruddy glow of the cupel-furnace, as they eagerly held up the glass where the silver-button had dissolved in the acid solution!

Hoisting Works Virginia City NV 1890

Hoisting Works Virginia City NV 1890

On the result of that assay, the fortune of thousands hung. Out of that assay sprang the millionaires of the Coast, blocks of the finest buildings which now adorn San Francisco, the great enterprises that have made Nevada and California famous, and along with it, a landslide of misery and bankruptcy that carried thousands to the foot of the hill to be covered with the debris of shame and oblivion. Out of the little glass came a giant more powerful and relentless than the awful shape that sprang from the pan in the Arabian story, and this giant continued to live to make and unmake the destinies of thousands.

A man named George Brown, who was out on the Humboldt River, was in some way a partner of the Grosh boys, but in what way has never been clearly stated. He was murdered at Gravelly Ford on the Humboldt River shortly before Hosea Grosh injured his foot. He was mentioned by the Grosh boys as “our partner,” and they said that he was coming to help them with $600. When they heard of his death they were very despondent. They learned the news of Brown’s death from a Mrs. Louisa M. Ellis, whose name at that time was Mrs. Ellis. She would later state that she first met the Grosh brothers in Nevada as early as 1854.

They told Mrs. Ellis in 1857 of their discoveries, and also pointed to Mt. Davidson, saying that the big silver ledge was at the foot of the mountain and that in locating their claims, they had put her down for 300 feet. Mrs. Ellis became quite interested in the discoveries and made a proposition to sell her property in California and put $1,500 into the scheme of developing the discovery. However, when winter came on, Mrs. Ellis went to California and never had the opportunity to make the investment.

A man named Johnson Simmons, of Oakland, California, who was stopping temporarily at Last Chance at the time, gave the following account:

Last Chance, California

Last Chance, California

“I recall the time when two miners were brought into Last Chance in the winter of 1857. Some men were out hunting deer when they found the two lying in the snow, where they were dying of cold and hunger. The one named Grosh never spoke after he was brought in. The miners carried them from the place where they were first found, as they were too weak to walk. Grosh, I think, lived about three days after being brought in. His stomach refused nourishment and his legs were frozen. The other man we found pulled through, but they were obliged to amputate his feet. The miners then took him to Michigan Bar, where they kept him until spring and then raised a subscription to send him to his relatives in Canada. Before he left for Canada he told me of his trip. He said their provisions gave out after passing Lake Bigler and their sufferings were terrible.

They had their provisions on a pack-mule, but there was nothing but small twigs for him to eat and he became so weak that they were obliged to kill him. After the mule was killed he was cut up and portions of his flesh roasted. The meat was lean, tough and unsavory, and only their terrible hunger made it endurable. They ate their last cooked mule on the banks of the Truckee River, and, slinging as much of the roast meat as they could carry on their shoulders, they pushed on. They became so faint that they could no longer carry anything except their blankets, so they ate as much as they could and threw the rest away. At that point, Allen Grosh, who had kept his maps and assays through the journey, concluded to abandon them also, and so he tied them up into a piece of canvas and deposited them in the hollow of a large pine tree. McLoud said that he never saw the assays, Grosh being very close-mouthed regarding them. All that he knew of them was that they were high in silver, and from a conversation he overheard, he believed them high in the thousands. The tree in which they were deposited had blown down in the wind, having broken about twenty feet from the ground. Grosh told them that it was safer to select a tree of that kind than a standing one, liable in a storm to be uprooted. The hollow in the tree was quite small, and after depositing the records he cut a mark on the tree with his knife and rolled a good-sized stone in front of the hollow. The next day there was a big snowstorm, and they finally threw away their blankets, as they were useless from the wet, and their matches were useless from the same cause. After the snowstorm, it turned colder, and for four days and nights, they wandered in the mountains nearly dead and demented from exposure and hunger.

At night they could hear the howling of the wolves, but none were ever near enough to attack them, and once they crossed the track of a bear. They finally sank down with exhaustion near some rocks, and Grosh said he had rather die there than make any further effort. After giving themselves up for lost they heard shots, and McLoud roused himself and went in the direction of the shots when he came on a party of miners hunting deer. He took the party to Grosh, only a few hundred yards away, and then sank down alongside him. The miners carried the two to Last Chance, a camp nearby, and there, Grosh died after a few days, never having been able to speak. Had he been able to speak, McLoud felt confident he would have made some statement relative to his discoveries.”

In the spring of 1858, Henry Comstock learned that Allen Grosh was dead, and concluded to take advantage of the knowledge he had acquired. The partner of Grosh claimed afterward that Comstock ransacked the cabin for papers and data, and was thus enabled to relocate the ledge. It is not probable; however, that such was the case, as the Grosh brothers did not trust him with anything, nor was it likely that they left anything in the cabin that would benefit him. After they left he probably went over the ground where he had seen them prospecting and located the likeliest places.

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