Silver Tailings: The Brother Grosh

Credit for the discovery of the Comstock Lode remains disputed. It is said to have been discovered, in 1857, by Ethan Allen Grosh and Hosea Ballou Grosh, sons of a Pennsylvania minister, trained mineralogists and veterans of the California gold fields.

The Grosh brothers occupied a shack along with a Canadian named Richard Bucke, and Henry Tompkins Paige Comstock, which the ledge is named after. It should be noted that some written histories report the Canadian’s name as only that of McLoud.

They made their way to Gold Canyon and searched for the claim that would make them rich. However the brothers were a bit different in their approach to mining.

From the testimony of many miners who knew them, they were men of much scientific attainments, being chemists, assayers and metallurgists. In addition to all this, they also had assaying equipment and a large library on mining.

Unlike most miners, who looked only for gold, Ethan and Hosea were also looking for silver. They found silver, a strike they described as the “monster ledge,” in the Silver City area, but did not live to develop their discovery.

There is no authentic record of any assay made by the Grosh brothers, but they had the necessary appliances for the work and must have made the assay, for in the fall of 1857 they told Comstock that they knew of rich silver mines in the vicinity, and were going back to Philadelphia to secure capital to work them.

Unfortunately, before this could happen, Hosea injured his foot by running a pick-ax through it and died of an infection in 1857.

Ethan wrote a letter home to their father where he fills in details such as the cup of peppermint tea he made before going to find a doctor, but forgot to set near his sick brother. He concluded that when he returned later that day, Hosea had died.

A couple of months later, to raise funds, Ethan, accompanied by Bucke, set out for California with samples and maps of his claim. Comstock was left in their stead to care for the Grosh cabin and a locked chest containing silver and gold ore samples and documents of the discovery.

Grosh and Bucke never completed the journey, getting lost and suffering frostbite while in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Ethan died on December 19, 1857, three days after being found by a group of hunter.

Bucke lived, but upon his recovery, he returned to his home in Canada.

During their ordeal, Bucke claims Ethan tied up his maps and tha assay sample in a piece of canvas and hid them in the hollow of a pine tree. He further stated a wind-storm had snapped the tree off at about 20 feet and that Allen cut a mark into it and rolled a “good-sized stone in front of the hollow.”

When Comstock learned of the death of the Grosh brothers, he claimed the cabin and the lands as his own. He also examined the contents of the trunk but thought nothing of the documents as he was not an educated man.

What he did know was the gold and the silver ore samples were from the same vein. He continued to seek diggings of local miners working in the area as he knew the Grosh brothers’ find was still unclaimed.

Upon learning of a strike on Gold Hill which uncovered some bluish rock, Comstock immediately filed for an unclaimed area directly next to this area. Legal efforts were considered by the Grosh family, but noted-attorney Benjamin F. Butler persuaded them to avoid it.

Accounts would tally the yield from the Comstock Lode at 9 million ounces of gold and 220 million ounces of silver.

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