Jan 162014

Virginia City, Nevada became an overnight mining boomtown as a result of the Comstock Lode silver strike in 1859.
Virginia City Steam Train Virginia City Gold Bullion Wagon Virginia City Main Street Virginia City Vintage Slot Machines Virginia City Old Cemetary Virginia City Wild MustangsA railroad was needed between the Truckee River and Virginia City as a connection to Reno for hauling the valuable ore.

For decades, Nevada’s most famous Virginia & Truckee Railroad was hailed as the wealthiest short line railroad in the world.  It was also called the nation’s “crookedest railroad.”

On the heels of every boom is a bust.  For 25 glorious years, Virginia was the leading city in Nevada.  Then came 75 bad years during which mining slowed and finally stopped. 

The city shriveled, but never became a ghost town. 

Gawking at all the Victorian-era buildings, while trying to walk on the uneven board sidewalks, were tricky for this tourist.

We decided that a few Bloody Mary drinks at the Bucket of Blood Saloon is a thirst quenching way to enjoy history on a hot day.

Mark Twain began his fame working for a local newspaper in 1862, after failing as a miner.  A century later, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead got their start in these saloons, as the hippie culture started to grow.

Museums make up a large part of this town. Among the many antiques are “one armed bandits” with none of the bells n’ whistles of today’s casinos.  Folk lore abounds about the ghost of Black Jake and the Suicide Table in the Delta Saloon.

Located on a steep, windswept edge of town is the Silver Terrace Cemetery. This was once a showplace of tree-shaded walks between elaborate monuments and headstones.

We love steam trains and this was a scenic trip to Carson City, traveling past Gold Hill where gold strikes began, then back to Virginia City.  Tour guides pointed out the many old mines and wild mustangs on the high desert plains.

This town struggled through a boom to bust era and devastating fires, but lives on to tell its colorful stories.

I would love to hear your story of a place that refuses to become a ghost town.

  54 Responses to “A City That Refuses To Die”

  1. One of my favorite things about Virginia City is the graveyard. Reading the headstones is interesting, sometimes touching – a little, personal glimpse into the lives and deaths of the people who lived there.

    • I love reading headstones, but because of the on-going vandalism the guides discouraged us from going near the cemetery. I wish there was documentation of what is on the gravestones. Park City’s graveyard has many mining stories to tell and I went there on Friday the 13th – it wasn’t planned.

  2. So much I didn’t know! How interesting to hear that Janis Joplin and Grateful Dead (two of my faves) began their careers in the saloons in Virginia – and that Mark Twain started his career here. It’s sad that mining towns go through booms and busts, it has been the same in Western Australia. Kalgoorlie (the gold capital of Australia) comes to mind, although it’s not a ghost town, but the old buildings and deserted mine shafts speak of another more illustrious boom area.

    • I was surprised too that there were these famous people starting out in this town. It’s not “on the way” to anywhere, so it could’ve become a ghost town. Interesting that there was so much gold, but was depleted in about 20 years.

  3. The difference between your description of how the cemetery used to be and the photo of how it is now really symbolizes the state of the whole town, doesn’t it? I’d love to travel back in time to see what Virginia City must have been like in its heyday. I’ve never been there, but it sounds like it could be an interesting stop.

    • I agree, it would be amazing the most amazing travel adventure of all time. We can only imagine what it must have been like for a town to become so rich so fast.

  4. I’m going to TOTALLY blog stalk you now. I LOVE Virginia City…I was just there a few weeks ago. I could just LIVE there…cowboys and all!

  5. I would love to visit there someday. I love old places like this and there are so many out there that I had no idea even existed. Thanks for posting this so people know it’s there 🙂

    • We lived in the central states area and tried to see everything there. Now living in the west gives us the opportunity to visit more great and historical places.

  6. Really great pictures! I love all the history that is still there to explore.

  7. I think I’ve mentioned this before – love reading about our history. We are such a young country and have much to share in the world of our history. Love reading your stories.

    • That’s so true, our country is so young. When traveling in Europe, I’m blown away at seeing a place where 1,000 year old history happened.

  8. What an interesting little city. Thanks for sharing

  9. This is very interesting! I know my husband would love to check this out, he loves this kind of stuff. Thank you for sharing!

  10. That is a great story on its own.. I really have never seen a town become a ghost town, or know where any are. That was a great story..

    • Yes, I had no idea that this town had gone from the richest in Nevada to becoming almost a ghost town. I love finding and sharing these neat stories.

  11. It is incredible how this happens to a town and quite sad too. I can imagine the beauty of these old buildings – love history so this would be incredible to walk along those paths! I actually don’t know any ghosts towns around where I live in Ontario but it would be interesting to research into this!

    • Yes, I had no idea that this town was the richest in Nevada and in such a short time it deteriorated to almost a ghost town. I love historical places and especially steam trains.

  12. I love all the history that you can find in a small town! (and kudos on the title) It made me want to read more!

    • Thanks for your kind words. Small towns are the most fun and you still miss some of the things to see, so you have to return again. We have visited often and love going back.

  13. Great Photos! If we’re ever out that way, def a place I would want to check out. I love visiting places with a lot of history into them. This looks like a place I could learn a lot from.

  14. What a very cool destination!! I love how famous people created beautiful music in the saloon there!! History is one of my favourite things!

    • I was also blown away that this is where the hippy movement started. Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead started there – who knew!

  15. Oh wow I would LOVE going to a place like this! I’m always a sucker for victorian-era anything, and that tavern looks like it would be really old-timey to sit in. My husband and I never got to go on a honeymoon, so we are planning a trip to Vegas to substitute for it… maybe we’ll work in some out of the way spots like this to complete the vacation!

    • We’ve returned a couple of times. It’s so different from Vegas, that it would be worth adding this to your Honeymoon.

  16. I love hearing these stories! Great post and awesome pictures!

  17. I love this. Where I live we have a few ghost towns. The town where I currently live was a mining town and I love the old cemeteries and even all the pictures of the old days. There is this one picture of a horse with a buggy that I just love. I’m just glad our town is not haunted! Since Nevada is just up the road from me I may have to visit soon!

  18. What a great story and history this town has! I’m glad they refuse to die. So many towns like this have died and we have lost their stories.

  19. Love the history, your post and the pictures, nice job. Look me up if you get close to Rocky Mountain National Park. Lots of good pictures and stories.

    • Thanks for your kind comments. We thought we’d try to get to all the National Parks until we found out how many there are.
      It would be fun getting together with another blogger. Maybe we should try guest blogging some time.

  20. What a great town to visit! I love the rich history! It would be sooooo cool to visit a place where great music was written!

    • It was a surprise to find that Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead got their start here. So much history and so fun walking in this town.

  21. I have to comment to tell you how much I love the photo with the horses. I just LOVE it! It sounds like you had an enjoyable time, and I know that my kids would really be shocked to see how small the bullion car was and to learn about the density of gold.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the historical story about Virginia City. Kids have a great time watching the mustangs on the steam train.

  22. I loved reading the history of the town. It’s so neat that it survived everything!

    • It takes a strong desire and history loving people to make this town survive all that it’s endured. The town as a niche in being the place to visit.

  23. This was a wonderful post. I love to travel and visit historic cities. I never been in Virginia City, but now it is on my list of places to visit.

    • Thanks for your kind comments. We are enjoying the history of towns and especially being able to ride on their steam trains like people did so many years ago.

  24. I love hearing the history of the town. I hadn’t heard it before.

    • I’m a history buff and love the idea of walking through an area that still enjoys their history. There were people in period costumes that added to the uniqueness of the town.

  25. My husband has always wanted to go check it out! I love old western towns!

    • You won’t be disappointed. We’ve gone back to Virginia City a couple of times and always see something new to enjoy.

  26. Beautifully shared and your pictures give the story depth and a sense of awe. I don’t think I’ve been to a place like this so I’d love to visit sometime. I find stories about the old wild west so fascinating.It must have been quite the era with no nonsense cowboys settling scores immediately. As I read this, I wondered about that Suicide Table in the Casino… What was that about? TY for this post
    Happy week ahead!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words. The suicide table was where a gambler lost everything and then lost his life by gunshot. After the gambling table was witness to at least three suicides, the table was put away so others wouldn’t befall this end too.

  27. That sounds like a place we should visit some day. I love the pictures and the way you brought it to life. I love the history of a place like this and the fact that it is still surviving.

    • We’ve returned to Virginia City a couple of times and always find something new to enjoy. We love finding these nuggets of history to learn from.

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