Big Bonanza takes control

Born in 1869 amidst revelry and fanfare, the Virginia & Truckee Railroad ushered in a new era of prosperity and excitement on the Comstock. Despite its immediate success as a lucrative business venture, William Sharon continued to dream and scheme as his appetite for power and control continued to grow.

Following is the next segment in the Sacramento Bee's 1950 series of articles on the V&T.

"Restless, driving William Sharon ... was not satisfied. He kept thinking of the added revenue to be taken from a line running from Carson City to Reno.

"He finished this projection Aug. 24, 1872. It was a link with the Central Pacific which poured people and supplies into Reno for the V&T to take into the Comstock.

"The Bank Ring, Sharon, D.O. Mills and William Ralston, reigned supreme.

"They added the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company to their ever expanding enterprises and controlled every phase of Nevada mining operations.

"Timber, which long since had disappeared from the once thickly wooded hills near Carson City, was cut from the Lake Tahoe forest, floated to Glenbrook, then shot down the eastern crest of the Sierra in 10 mile long flumes to Carson City and the V&T.

"It was the Bank Ring's little railroad which took the lumber to hungry mines and which returned with ore to the Union Mills - the string picked up by Sharon early in his operations. With the Bank Ring's help, the Comstock thrived. Without it, it seemed near death. Then 1873 arrived and with it the Big Bonanza.

"Silver veins of unprecedented wealth were found on the California and the Consolidated Virginia mining properties, projects which John W. Mackay and James G. Fair had been developing for years.

Backed by the wealth of James L. Flood and William S. O'Brien, San Francisco saloon keepers, the Irish miners swept the Bank Ring from power in one wild rush. Silver poured from the California and Consolidated Virginia mines but not into the Union Mills.

"Mackay and Fair organized the Pacific Milling and Mining Company, thus bypassing the Union Mills. To compete with the Bank Ring's timber operations, the quartet organized the Pacific Wood, Lumber and Flume Company.

Where Sharon, Ralston and Mills had reigned as lords of the Comstock, Mackay, Fair, Flood and O'Brien ruled unchallenged as the Bonanza Kings, a title which has lived with them through history."


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