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Ray Smith’s new book is on Virginia City

Joyce Hollister

Unknown and thus untold tales – maybe even a few that people might never have wanted to be told – are the topic of a new book by Raymond Smith of Minden.

“Untold Tales of Virginia City, Nevada” was recently published and is available at bookstores now.

Don’t expect to find so-called important dates or acts of the Legislature in this book. The tales are those of ordinary folk and what filled their lives in the 1880s on the Comstock.

Chapters such as “A Comstock Hoax,” “The Flim-Flam Man,” “A Drinking Town,” Bank Robbers,” “Crooked Cards” and “Stage Robberies” give an idea of the flavor of the book.

Incidentally, the chapter on bank robbers points out that Virginia City’s only bank robbery took place in 1927, 50 years after the boom period and heyday of the Comstock.

Two robbers were caught almost immediately, but with far less money on them than the bank reported lost. It was assumed the men stashed the loot somewhere along the route from Virginia City to where they were arrested.

In 1928, one of the robbers confessed as to the location of a buried 5-gallon can. The cache was found – empty.

Smith has been picking up stories about people in old-time Nevada for many years, though “more assiduously” the past four or five years. He has published several books, among them “Untold Tales of Carson, Eagle and Smith Valleys” volumes one through three, “Ten Overnight Trips on the Back Roads of Nevada and California” and “Saloons of Nevada.”

The newest book came after a series of lectures Smith gave on history at the Gold Hill Hotel located at the Crown Point Mine on the Comstock. His topic in June of this year was “Early Day Happenings in Virginia City: How it Was 100 Years Ago.”

“This book is a direct result of that presentation and contains more detailed accounts of a number of topics presented then,” Smith said.

Smith is working on the fourth volume of “Untold Tales of Carson, Eagle and Smith Valleys” and, because of a wealth of material from other areas of the state, “Untold Tales of Nevada, Volume One.”

“I haven’t really touched the depth of the possibilities,” Smith added. “I’ve read about one-half of the early years, and I know there’s a lot more.”

Smith does a lot of his research at the Nevada State Library and Archives in Carson City, where many of the newspapers in Nevada are on microfilm. He also talks to people.

“You pick up a little bit here and a little bit there,” he said, “and maybe you have to go back and interview again. It’s amazing how the picture starts to come out.”

Smith can be found most afternoons at his computer.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “I sit up there and pound the computer.”

“Untold Tales of Virginia City, Nevada” can be found at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center Gift Ship, Calico Books and Carson Valley Pharmacy in Gardnerville; Lock Stock and Barrel Books in Genoa; and Kennedy’s Books, the Book Cellar and the Nevada State Museum in Carson City.