Friday, February 28, 2020

Mining Business Brings Luxuries To Virginia City

When writing a story, I often refer to a series of book titled Images of America (insert city name). What I particularly like is seeing how a town progressed from clapboard construction to masonry or brick buildings within a few years--often as a result of a fire sweeping through the town. The horrible event happened in a high number of cities--large and small.

From the business signs shown in the pictures, I can get a sense of the ethnic makeup. Seeing the density of businesses sharing a wall means that someone might have to walk halfway down or all the way around the block to go to a rear entrance--like for a delivery. Sometimes the streets are really wide. Often a well is seen in a downtown section. You can get a sense of the height of structures, as well as the architectural style. When I lived in Texas, I liked seeing the old buildings containing the year it was built somewhere at the top near the roof. Now, I look for those indicators everywhere.

My latest story, An Agent for Liana, is partially set in Virginia City, Nevada, which is a good example of a boomtown that became permanent. A large body of gold and silver ore (the Comstock Lode) was struck in 1859. Prospectors flocked to the area, and initially, the miners lived in tents and flimsy shacks. But as the strike was determined not to be placer (where just anyone would find flakes in a stream) but instead deep in the earth (where heavy machinery was needed to extract it), the way of mining changed. But people had already built shops or houses there at the edges of the holes miners went into to do their work.
source: Wikipedia

An 1875 bird’s-eye view map of Virginia City shows huge piles of tailings located on lots between streets. Conveyor belts ran from smelters or stamp mills to deliver the remaining rock once the precious metal had been extracted. Buildings are evident right next to the mounds. Businesses are built on both sides of the street where tracks for ore cars disappear underground.

The city itself is built into the side of Mount Davidson. Pictures in the Images book show the stepped foundation and inclined dirt streets. Walking from the bottom of the city to the top would involve a change in elevation of several hundred feet.

The Comstock Lode was so rich that the majority of the businesses in town performed tasks that supported the mining operation (stamp mills, foundries, assay, freighting, railroad, etc.) The city operated a gas plant that allowed for streetlights and gas heating for homes. Water and sewer lines provided modern utilities for shops and residents in a town with a population of approximately 7,000 people in 1877.

I recommend this series of books for when you want to see how life was back then.

An Agent for Liana released today and is part of the popular Pinkerton Matchmaker series. I hope the blurb entices you.

Loner Dale Claybourne spent the last five years as a dedicated and decorated Pinkerton agent. Confident in his abilities, he’s not afraid to face down thieves, swindlers and even murderers. But he quells at the mandate of having to train a female agent and, even worse, to marry her before receiving his next assignment.

Gregarious Liana LaFontaine served as a seamstress for the Denver Pinkerton Agency. Now she yearns for a taste of the adventurous life of being an agent. Her ability to speak several languages and her ease with getting people to talk are her strongest assets.

Impulsive by nature, Liana jumps into situations she doesn’t have the experience to handle. Dale fights his growing admiration for this French beauty while keeping close to guard her safety. At odds over almost everything, the pair has to solve the mystery of who is stealing from a Virginia City saloona task made even harder because of the wild attraction that shouldn’t be present in a marriage of convenience.

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