The Comstock Foundation for History and Culture is actively preserving much of the Comstock History. The Donovan Mill in Silver City has been a labor of love for quite some time now by the Comstock Foundation and recently I had the pleasure of visiting the site for a tour and update with Executive Director Steven Saylor. A bit of history on the location from their website notes that the Donovan Miil is an internationally significant site, representing the location where cyanide/zinc processing was perfected in a way that set the stage for the subsequent 115+ years of precious metal mining throughout the world. The use of cyanide and zinc for the retrieval of precious metals was conceived in Scotland in 1887. Limited testing in New Zealand and elsewhere proved the value of the process. In 1896, Professor Robert Jackson from the University of Nevada School of Mines adapted the idea and perfected the process, especially fo Comstock ore. The success of his experiment opened the door for the industry to cease using mercury for processing gold and silver ore, arriving at an approach to milling that was more efficient and better for the environment.
The mill complex was purchased by William Donovan Sr. in 1912, and in 1938, his son William Donovan, Jr purchased twenty stamps from the Rock Point Mill (Nevada Mining, Reduction, and Power Company) in Dayton. Rock Point Mill is part of a the Dayton State Park, he added these four 5-stamp batteries on the Donovan Family’s third expansion of the mill. The mill processed ore until 1959. The Comstock Foundation for History and Culture purchased the complete for $195,000 in 2014.
The Foundation has spent funds, thus far, stabilizing the roof supports, which threatened to collapse. The entire complex will require approximately $4 million to bring it back into service entirely, much of the work has been completed however there is still plenty of
restoration to complete. The addition of security cameras, donated by the Northern Nevada Ghost Hunters, has curtailed vandalism that
was causing further repair work required.
The most recent project included the reframing and glazing of all windows in the complex, plus dormers placed on the building housing the stamps and cyanide tanks. The frame were individually manufactured by Bob Hopkins these historic buildings are not squared up, and the
process was painstakingly completed with Red Wood with hopes they will last at least a hundred years. Glass was cut and glazed at Ace
Hardware in Dayton, while the installation of dormers and windows was completed Ralph Arista and Lee Burnell. The project was funded through a donation from the Daughters of American Revolution which was matched by the Comstock Foundation The Donovan Mill will ultimately serve as an interpretive center, Blacksmithing classes are being offered starting this Saturday March 25 with more to follow, it is an introductory, hands-on, class to learn the basics of forging.
Detailed history, events and opportunities to help can be found by visiting: https://comstockfoundation.org/
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