Comstock tourists can’t see chief attraction |

Comstock tourists can’t see chief attraction

by Ruby McFarland

Life was not all that good for settlers on the Comstock during its heyday in the late 1800s.

Mine disasters took their toll on men’s lives. Down at the 3,000-foot level where miners worked inside shafts, the heat was so terrific the men could only work briefly.

So entrepreneur Adolph Sutro was sure that a tunnel from the land he owned north of the Carson River below Virginia City would drain off hot water and bring fresh air to the mines.

He had an immense struggle to get funds for the Sutro Tunnel because people in the government thought it was a pie-in-the-sky scheme, which it was somewhat.

But he finally got backing from wealthy investors in New York and set out to dig one of the most enormous engineering feats imaginable.

However, when the tunnel was finished, mining on the Comstock had slowed to a trickle.

Sutro built a town at the tunnel’s entrance called “Sutro.” There are plans on the wall of the Dayton Museum of his visions.

Eventually, when the tunnel was finished, the hot water that drained out of it was piped across the river to a farming area where it yielded good crops early in the growing season.

Sutro left his mark in Dayton, and there is rarely a weekend goes by that someone doesn’t ask me how to get to the Sutro Tunnel.

I have to tell them, “You can’t get there from here – it’s private property.” I hope in the future Sutro will be opened up for gazing because there is so much interest.

Actually, it should be made a Nevada state park as one of the most historic sites in the world.

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The museum is on Shady Lane in Dayton’s 1865 schoolhouse. It is open weekends during the warmer months on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. or at random times during the week. Call 246-7909. The Dayton Historic Museum Society meets at 11:30 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at 34 Lakes Blvd.

Group tours of the museum are available. Call 775-246-3256 or 246-3256 for information or an appointment.

Ruby McFarland is a 17-year resident of Dayton, a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and a docent at the museum.