By Dennis Cassinelli
Among the many distinguished men who visited the Comstock in the 1870s and 1880s were ex-president and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant and President Rutherford B. Hayes. General Grant’s party consisted of General and Mrs. Grant and their son, U.S. Grant Jr., and wife, who were returning from a two-year tour of the world. They arrived on the Comstock on Oct. 27, 1879, and remained for three days. General Grant wanted to see the place where the gold and silver was mined that made it possible for the Union to win the Civil War.
Never before was such a reception given to anyone in Nevada. It was a wholehearted western welcome to a popular idol. Businesses were practically suspended; parades, banquets, speeches, bonfires and other entertainments followed in quick succession. The town was decorated as for a Fourth of July. Union and Confederate veterans marched in the parades. General Grant’s reply to the mayor’s speech was simply, “I thank you.”
The party visited some of the leading mines, and were taken down the C. & C. shaft for a trip through the Consolidated Virginia and the California Mine lower levels. The heat in places ranged as high as 130 degrees, but the general wanted to see everything. The ladies and some others of the party were satisfied to return after reaching the 1,700-foot level. At the Consolidated Virginia assay office, they saw “about 20 tons” of silver and gold bullion stacked up in bars like cordwood. Adolph Sutro was out-of town but Mrs. Sutro entertained the party at the Sutro mansion, after which they returned to Virginia City by way of the Sutro Tunnel and up the C. & C. shaft. Superintendent James G. Fair, who was in poor health, came up from San Francisco to be with the party.
President and Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes, accompanied by Major General William T. Sherman, Major General Alexander McDowell Cook and Secretary of War Alexander Ramsey, arrived on the Comstock on Sept. 7, 1880. They were welcomed at Gold Hill by Governor Kinkead and local dignitaries, and escorted to Virginia City by a great parade, with bands playing, flags flying and mine whistles blowing. The Comstock felt highly honored by a visit from the president and those distinguished generals. Enthusiastic crowds gathered in front of the International Hotel and called for the president and the generals, all of whom made brief and happy speeches.
After a sumptuous banquet, the members of the party were taken through the Consolidated Virginia and California mines. They remained but one day.
President Hayes was greeted by an impressive group of distinguished guests at a reception. Some of those in attendance were Governor J.H. Kinkead, Lieutenant Governor Jewett W. Adams, John W. Mackay, C.H. Belknap, J.C. Curry, Alf Doten, John Piper, William Sharon and William Wright, aka “Dan DeQuille.” In no other place in the world would the names of leading gamblers and saloon-keepers appear on such a committee, which included Bishop Whitaker; yet there is Joe Stewart, who for years kept the finest faro rooms on the Comstock; Bob Patterson, proprietor of the International Saloon and faro rooms; and Bill Gibson, the proprietor of a similar establishment in Gold Hill. Clearly, manhood, brains and daring innovation were tests of success on the Comstock.
This article is by Dayton Author and Historian, Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Dennis’ books sold through this publication will be at a discount plus $3.00 for each shipment for postage and packaging.