Column: Only beauty remains of mill site

A nameless sage once mused that "time cuts down all, both great and small." Whether it be the fortunes amassed by the wealthy, the edifices built by the giants of industry, or the bustling mills in the Carson River Canyon, everything eventually succumbs to the ravages of time.

Following is another photographic comparison by Kel Aiken.

"During the heyday of the Comstock, five of the largest mills served by the V&T were within three miles east of what was then Empire City. One of these was the Vivian Mill. It was unique in that the mill was located at a much lower elevation than the railroad and was across the Carson River on its south bank.

The original photo (courtesy of the Fannie Spurgeon Collection as printed in "Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps" by Stanley Paher), was most likely taken during the early 1870s. It shows the Vivian Mill which, with its 16 stamps, could handle up to 40 tons of ore during its continuous 24-hour daily operation.

The Vivian received its ore from the V&T, whose tracks were located above the steep grade to the left of the photo. A chute ran down the grade and across a bridge over the river. The bridge can be seen in the center of the picture.

The operations buildings and living quarters for the crews can be seen in the foreground along the banks of the river. This arrangement was typical for each of the mill sites.

You can just imagine the noise and smoke that was generated within the narrow confines of Brunswick Canyon. If today's environmental standards had been in effect in the 1800s, it is unlikely that any of the mills would have been allowed to operate.

In the present day photo (courtesy of Kel Aiken's Rephotographic Study of the V&T Railroad) we see no remains of the bridge, the mill or its ancillary structures. What we see is the natural beauty of the Brunswick Canyon which will one day serve as a breathtaking backdrop for the reconstructed Virginia & Truckee Railroad.


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