by Sharlene Irete
Michael Makley's research on local history led to enough information for two books on two kings of the Comstock. The Woodfords resident discusses William Sharon and John Mackay in the "Fight for the Comstock Riches," 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center.
Makley spoke about Lucky Bill Thorington, a character from Genoa's past, at a lecture at the museum last year. He wrote "The Infamous King of the Comstock. William Sharon and the Gilded Age in the West," published in 2006, and his new book about John Mackay, "John Mackay, Silver King in the Guilded Age," published by University of Nevada Press, will be out after the first of the year.
The history of the Comstock has to do with a small number of men controlling the mines, stamp and timber mills, water and railroads.- "Sharon was the villain representing the Bank of California, an organization of mines and mills, and formed a bank ring of wealthy people from California who monopolized the Comstock Lode," said Makley. "He built the V&T Railroad.
Mackay is known for mining, as in the Mackay School of Mines at the University of Nevada, Reno, and was one of the richest men of the Comstock era. Makley's book involves the bonanza king's second career challenging Jay Gould's Western Union Telegraph cable cartel and taking on Sharon's Bank Ring.
"John Mackay was the honest miner, a regular working stiff, who worked his way up until he became one of the wealthiest of the bonanza kings," he said. "He took the money and fought Jay Gould, who controlled Western Union and all eight cables across the Atlantic Ocean."
Makley said the stories about Sharon, Mackay and the Comstock are more than local folklore.
"These are not just Nevada stories," he said. "Sharon's wealth built San Francisco and the state of California so these are international stories. Mackay fights the Comstock monopoly and wins and he wins with Transatlantic cable, which is also an international story."
The free lecture series is sponsored by the Douglas County Historical Society the second Thursday of the month. The museum and the Main Street Book Store will be open before and following the one-hour lecture at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center, 1477 Highway 395, Gardnerville. Information, 782-2555.