10/22/16

Chinese in Virginia City, Nevada During Comstock Silver Lode Mining 1870s-1880s

The Comstock silver lode discovered in 1859 created an overnight  booming mining town, Virginia City, Nevada with a jump from 4,000 to 25,000 residents within a few years.  

Chinese, who came to represent ten percent of Virginia City residents, referred to Nevada as Yin Shan, or "Silver Mountain," in contrast to Gum San, or "Gold Mountain," their term for California where gold was discovered in 1849 at Sutter's Mill.



Whereas Chinese immigrants in many small towns across the country during the 1880s worked almost entirely as laundrymen, and then cooks,  Chinese in Virginia City were involved in numerous occupations as early as 1870.  Two sample pages from the 1870 Census shows Chinese were merchants, miners, laborers, laundrymen, cooks, gamblers, and harlots.


A decade later Virginia City was still thriving and there was a large increase in the Virginia City population, including Chinese, and other immigrants. A sample page from the 1880 Census lists Chinese doctors, restaurant owners, along with gamblers and prostitutes who, it might be noted  had been labelled "harlots" in the 1870 census.


Eventually the silver mines closed, and during the 1880s Virginia City became a virtual ghost town as it suffered a rapid decline in its population and prosperity as the miners left.  The Chinese population also underwent a big drop.

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