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The New York Times goes winter kayaking on Lake Tahoe.
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One of Nevada’s most valuable historical treasures is on the verge of destruction.
Plans are being made to pit mine the Virginia City National Historic Landmark on mining claims that range in a wide swath from US 50 north through Silver City up Gold Canyon to Virginia City itself.
If the company is allowed to go ahead, it will devastate the historic area which was the birthplace of Nevada and which sustains the local economy. The peace and quiet of our three Comstock communities will be a thing of the past.
Officials of Comstock Mining Inc. announced late in 2010 that the corporation had accumulated some 6,500 acres of mining claims on the fabled Comstock Lode, and was beginning exploration drilling within the Silver City town limits in preparation for excavating an enormous pit mine 800 feet deep — for purposes of comparison, Hoover Dam is 726 feet high — on the south side of Silver City.
This relentlessly noisy, noxious presence will dominate Silver City for years until it’s mined out, and then it will remain a great void forever after. This wouldn’t be tolerated in Williamsburg or at any other national landmark, and local residents have formed a nonprofit Nevada corporation Comstock Residents Association to prevent it happening here.
Already CMI had been active in what’s called the Lucerne Pit just upcanyon past Devil’s Gate in Storey County. Now the company is preparing to expand the pit dramatically eastward, and the state has agreed to move the highway to the other side of the canyon to accommodate it.
Both the proposed Silver City pit and the one in Storey County are within the Virginia City National Historic Landmark and the state’s Comstock Historic District. The CMI claims run in a broad swath from beneath Virginia City south to US 50, about eight miles.
The corporation has a 25-year plan for excavating a series of huge pit mines, turning Gold Canyon into a mars-scape of deep craters, destroying the National Historic Landmark, the Comstock Historic District, and the tranquility of our historic communities in the process.
And after 25, or 30, or 50 years, whenever this company or its successors is finished, the noise finally stilled and the dust settled at last — in the time of my grandchildren and great grandchildren, in other words — what’s left will be the residue from decades of negative publicity, Gold Hill’s fragile remnants clinging here and there to the canyonside, and Virginia City poised on the lip of the uppermost crater.
In return for giving up the authenticity of this great attraction to visitors from around the world — about a million and a half of them a year right now — we will get a few low-level jobs over the life of the project, parsimonious tax payments to Storey County. And then it will be gone. No more lowlevel mining jobs, no more dribs and drabs of mining tax revenue, no more national landmark. Nothing but a chain of craters up Gold Canyon.
|We can save our Historic Landmark|
There are many ways to help!
Even small donations make a big difference.
Historic Landmark Comstock Residents Association
PO Box 387, Virginia City NV 89440 Thank you!
To prevent this or anything like it, an ad hoc group, the Comstock Residents Association (now a nonprofit Nevada corporation registered with the Secretary of State), was organized by the local population to resist the destruction of their historic surroundings. The group is actively opposing the corporation’s plans, and is gathering support from around the USA to protect this unique national treasure.
I joined the first day, because I live in Gold Hill; whatever happens to the Landmark happens directly to me and my neighbors. My great-grandfather was the superintendent of some of the great underground mines here on the Comstock. He helped make the history that people come here to see, so for me it’s doubly personal.
Some of the mining company’s advocates are asking why we expect peace and quiet if we move into a small town with a mining history. I’d like to know how it is they expect to dig huge holes in a National Historic Landmark.
Will You Help Us Resist This Intrusion? Hit that PayPal Button Above!
by McAvoy Layne
St. Patrick’s Day 1897 changed the course of Nevada’s history
Right behind Nevada Day, St. Patrick’s Day is the most important day in Nevada’s history, and we can thank an Irishman for what we are today, that is if you feel a need to say thanks.
E-Mail from readers
Friend Larry replied to our previous NevadaGram and the discovery of Sam Clemens Cove at Lake Tahoe: “I always thought that a lumber tycoon who burns down his trees is somewhat peculiar. No haiku, but here is a limerick” —
Nevada is so grandly intensive
Trees are lovely things
walked petition today, some signed
“Chi-ca-go,” the quails
New Year, new life? A
my goal to please toll
Don’t be so sure Jan:
Eagle speeds by windows;
A mighty traveler, that David
This note wasn’t sent as a poem, but with a little work. . . .
Nevada is not just another state,
Some would say its void and empty,
These places are brilliant we can’t disagree,
Freeways and streets ready to explode,
It’s history is richer than the Appian Way,
Cowboys and indians, there’s still some around.
Las Vegas and Reno are world famous towns,
So take a trip across its expanse,
Born in County Armagh, the last of
twelve children, Bobby Fitzsimmons was destined to become a blacksmith until he got into a fight one day and dispatched his opponent with a singular blow that sent him sprawling across the yard like a headless chicken. Those who witnessed the scene felt their jaws slacken and drop. Bobby Fitzsimmons was no longer Bobby Fitzsimmons, he was, “Fightin’ Bobby Fitzsimmons.”
Fitzsimmons became a professional boxer, and by way of titles in England and Australia earned a chance to fight America’s “Gentleman Jim” Corbett for the World Heavyweight Crown. The year was 1897, the place San Francisco, and the date St. Patrick’s Day. Nevada’s luck was about to change. . . .
Nevada had fallen on hard times toward the end of the 19th century. Her mines had all played out, she was broke. The population dropped to 40,000 people and there was talk in congress of revoking Nevada’s statehood, until California came to the rescue, unwittingly, and in one short weekend, Nevada would go from a broken state of mining to an exciting new state of attractions. Here’s how it happened. . . .
Only a few short days before the much touted Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight, California decided prize fighting was not a gentleman’s sport, and canceled the draw. Overnight, Nevada legislators seized the opportunity and legalized prize fighting. They welcomed the bout to Carson City, and kept the date, St. Patrick’s Day, 1897.
Well, four thousand people crossed the High Sierra to see that fight. Batt Masterson and Wyatt Earp were hired as bouncers. As the bell rang for the fourteenth round, Fitzsimmon’s wife could be heard shouting from the front row: “Hit ‘im in the slats, Bob! Hit ‘im in the slats!”
Fitzsimmons won the bout with his famous “solar plexus” blow, which some said was too low, but then Corbett always wore his trunks hiked up so high, who was to know? When the folks in Carson City added up all the money that was left behind they had to ask themselves, “If 4,000 people will cross the High Sierra to see one fight, how many more will come to spin the French Wheel, or get married, get divorced, visit a brothel?”
So Nevada’s romance with disrespectability began with the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight, and everything we see around us today, from the arch above The Biggest Little City in the World, to an Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas, are a direct result of that fight. Nevada was on the road to becoming America’s foremost state of attractions.
I propose a toast today to Fightin’ Bobby Fitzsimmons, and too, a toast to poet Brendan Behan, who reminds us all that there has never been a shred of evidence presented to support the fact that life is serious. . . .
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
by Mike Makley
And, he had a claim to Nevada backing. He was friends with John Mackay the richest and most well-regarded of the Comstock’s Bonanza Kings. After graduating from Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco, Jimmie, as Mackay referred to him, worked as an assistant receiving teller for Mackay’s Bank of Nevada.
As a child Corbett first engaged in fisticuffs against a school bully, the much older and bigger, Fatty Carney. Many years later, after becoming a “prize fighter,”
Corbett earned the Heavyweight Championship by licking another older and bigger opponent, John L. Sullivan (knocking John L. out in the 21st round). While training for the Nevada bout in Carson City Corbett tutored one of his sparring partners, the future champion, James Jefferies.
As for the fight itself: Corbett manhandled Fitzsimmons for thirteen rounds before receiving the blow to the “pit of the stomach” that dropped him to his knees for the ten count. Afterwards, Corbett reported that when he insisted on a rematch, Fitzsimmons said, “I’ll never fight you again; you gave me a bloody good lickin’.” When Corbett responded that if that was the case he’d fight Fitsimmons when they met on the street, the new champion demurred, saying, “if you ever hit me I’ll shoot you.”
Thus ends the saga and prompts the raising of the glass to Nevada’s Irish legacy.
Quick notes from beyond the mountains: In Ely the Northern Nevada Railway is offering anyone 18 or older with a valid driver’s license, experienced or not, the rare opportunity to operate a locomotive, and it’s available at a discounted price during March. To drive a steam locomotive on a 14-mile trip is $690 (Regularly $795); add a train of freight cars and the cost is $1,990 (Regularly $2,395). Other options are available, details here. With 60 acres of original track, grounds and buildings to explore, the Nevada Northern Railway Museum is the premier preserved railroad in the USA; “the best . . . bar none,” according to the Smithsonian . . . Waddie Mitchell, Don Edward and Paul Zarzyski among them. In addition to the performances, there are over 80 different workshops, demonstrations and presentations schedules, unique and collectible Cowboy art will be sold, and a Cowboy Gift Shop will offer CDs, books, art and souvenirs. For ticket information, call 775-782-8207 or 775-782-8696 or visit the website . . . Las Vegas has the infrastructure in place to perform 500 weddings a day. Last year alone, 92,000 couples (down from 128,500 couples in 2004) were married in and around Las Vegas. In an average year, weddings in Las Vegas pump $643 Million into the local economy here, but weddings have slowed since 2004 . . . On May 15 Great Lakes Airline begins daily service between Ely and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, replacing the current Ely to Denver service. Flight 5032 departs Las Vegas at 2:50 pm, arrives Ely at 4:05 pm; Flight 5190 departs Ely at 4:15 pm and arrives Las Vegas at 5:30 pm . . . Bob Ballou of Minden writes: “Thanks for the tip about the Windmill Ridge Resort in Alamo. We stopped there last Sunday night, and I was impressed by the construction of their cabins and the food at the restaurant, as well as the hospitality of their staff. The price of lodging and food was in line with the accommodations and meals. I give them high marks.”
Overheard at Comma Coffee in Carson City: “Look here, Timmy, there’s no need to be afraid to die. Just remember that life has a beginning as well as an end. You’re not frightened of the time before you were born, so don’t worry about that time returning. You’ll simply be as you were before.”