The Comstock Lode is one of the most important mining discoveries in American history. It was the first major silver discovery in United States history. It is estimated that out of all of the ore that was taken during this discovery about 57% was silver and the rest was gold. This was very surprising since it was a known gold camp. This one event was indeed so significant that without it, Nevada could not have attained statehood when it did. The initial discovery of silver was in 1859 and for the next two decades the Comstock was the dominating event in Nevada history, and for that matter, of considerable importance in American history. The history of silver can be fairly broken down into three significant periods:
1859-1865: These were the years of litigation between miners and corporations fighting over boundaries and such.
1865-1875: Representatives of the Bank of California, based in San Francisco, achieved dominance over the Comstock.
1875-1881: After 1878, the bonanza discoveries rather rapidly petered out, and, although the Comstock was to produce ore until the 1940s, it was at a greatly reduced rate.
No other strike had more influence than the Comstock Lode discovered on Mount Davidson in western Nevada. Though others may have known about the silver, it wasn’t until Peter O’Riley and Pat McLaughlin discovered the lode that the silver lode became public knowledge. They were working a claim along Six Mile Canyon and were just about to give up. They were digging a hole to store water when they struck a rich deposit. Just then, Comstock rode up and immediately recognized the value of the strike but did not let the two men in on the secret. He tried to claim they were digging on land that belonged to him. O’Riley and McLaughlin disagreed. Comstock relented, stating that as long as they added Comstock and his friend Emmanuel Penrod to the claim then he would be satisfied.