The Duke of the Bluestone

My dear friend, Alexia Sober ascribes to the saying, “You have one mouth but two ears.” So do I, but I call it the “Louis L’Amour method.”

In his autobiography, L’Amour said he’d often go into a saloon or cafe and simply sit and listen to the “old timers” as they told their life histories. Though I am known for talking more than I ought to, I have learned to sit quietly and absorb the tales being told.

That’s what I was doing at the Delta Saloon one late afternoon and where I heard this piece of “forgotten” history.

The east side of the Singatse Ranch became a hive of activity following the discovery of copper in 1883. The claim became the Bluestone Mine, one of the oldest mineral patents in the U.S.

The blue rock from the mine became a component of the amalgamation process in extracting silver on the Comstock. The Mason Valley-Yerington Mining District formed shortly afterward.

He appeared in Lyon County at the end of the War to End All Wars. The caretaker of the mine, he was often in the valley helping on the ranches.

No one knew his name, so they called him “The Duke of the Bluestone.”

He was an old gentleman, unkempt and dirty, except for his hands which were always spotless. His hair was filthy and matted, and he swore not to cut it until the Bluestone opened up again. And every once in a while, the townspeople of Yerington would catch him and crop his hair.

Not much for socializing, he remained a mysterious personality.

Some believed “The Duke” escaped from Russia following the assassination of Tzar Nicholas. Others thought he had been a Russian ship captain and that this is how he had come to this country. And most believed that “The Duke” had a large sum of money buried near his hovel, a wooden shack near the Bluestone Mine.

After being in the hospital, “The Duke” died.

Shortly afterward, a group of high school students went to the Bluestone to look for his treasure. According to some, they found thousands of dollars. Others went up to the shack to search, tearing the building asunder.

Soon there was nothing left to remind people that “The Duke” had ever been alive.

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