Thursday, September 6, 2018

Virginia City, a step back in time ...

Hi, Kit Morgan here and last May was the big Romantic Times Book Lovers conference held in Reno, Nevada. Along with this conference comes the chance to do a few pre-con tours, and this year a group of us toddled up to Virginia City. Wow, am I glad I went! The history in that little spot is amazing and our tour guide, Todd, was very informative.

For those of you not familiar with this boomtown, it sprang up overnight after the discovery of the Comstock load, the first major silver strike deposit discovery in the country. At its peak, the town had a population of 25,000 people! Nowadays the population hovers around 800 or so. Quite the difference. 

One of the things I found fascinating was the Silver Terrace Cemetery, a series of terraces located on a steep, windswept hillside of Virginia City. Beginning in the 1860s, different religious and civic groups established their burial yards on the hillside. These included the Roman Catholics, the Masons, Pacific Coast Pioneers, the Virginia City Firemen to name just a few. 

Nearly every plot is fenced or bordered, a typical practice of the

Victorian period. The different characteristic features of these burial places reflect the breadth of style and design that was popular back then. Grave markers ranged from wood to metal to cut stone. The pictures you see I took during our tour. 

Both adults and children are buried here, and most of the adults are not from Nevada. The birthplaces noted throughout the grounds provide a glimpse of the scope of immigration and the makeup of the settlement that supported the Comstock Mining Industry. 

There are literally acres of graves here, and though the pictures depict the high desert of the area, back in its heydey, it was beautifully decorated with lush gardens. Life was hard in this mining town. Many things killed people besides old age. Mining accidents were common, disease, childbirth, fire (almost the whole town burned down at one time) and of course dumb accidents. Toss in gunshot killings and other forms of murder, and, well, you've got acres of graves on the hillsides. 

There was a time when a burial in this famed mining town could
draw more than 60 carriages - wealthy miners and their families -- winding through the paths arched by weeping willows. Charlotte Antonia Kruttschnitte had such a funeral in 1867. The wife of a Storey County assessor was killed when the stagecoach in which she was riding overturned. It was one of the grandest funerals in Virginia City. 

Silver Terrace Cemetery faded along with Virginia City, which rivaled San Francisco in its day. Once thriving and home to such folks as Mark Twain, Virginia City was hit with a mining depression in the 1890s which left it with only 2,700 residents by 1900. 

Today the cemetery memorializes the diverse laborers who made Virginia City a boomtown. Though at the time people were divided ethnically, religously, and professionaly, (as is the cemetery) its a strong reminder of how life was in the old west. It wasn't easy!

Until next time, this is Kit Morgan signing off. If you'd like to check out my books, you can visit my website here .


  1. I like to look at old grave stones. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Cemeteries frighten some, but the headstones are fascinating to read.

  3. We spent quite a bit of time reading them. They were very interesting.