Old West Lifestyle & Stories


On October 19, 1869, Prussian-born mining engineer, Adolph Sutro, began work on one of the most ambitious projects of the day: a four-mile-long tunnel through the solid rock at the Comstock Lode mining area.
One of the richest silver deposits in the world, the Comstock Lode was discovered in 1859. But as miners sank shafts deeper into the rock, they began to encounter large amounts of water that had to be pumped to the surface at great expense.

Adolph Sutro’s idea was to tunnel through the rock of the neighboring Mt. Davidson and straight into the heart of the Comstock mine. Mine water would thus drain through the tunnel without need for expensive pumps, and the mining companies would also be able to use the tunnel to move men and ore in and out of the mine, greatly reducing transportation costs.

Although everyone agreed that Sutro’s tunnel would be a boon to the Comstock, progress slowed down by resistance from some of the major mining interests who feared that Sutro would use his tunnel to take control of the entire lode. Only after securing European capital was Sutro able to complete the $5-million project in 1878.
It was every bit as successful as Sutro though it would be. Unfortunately, by 1878, the richer sections of the Comstock Lode had been tapped out. However, Sutro was able to sell the tunnel at a fantastic profit. He moved to San Francisco where he became one of the city’s largest landowners as well as the city’s mayor from 1894 to 1896.

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