An evening with the 'King of the Comstock'

Depending on who you ask, William Sharon was either the worst person ever to set foot in the West or the best neighbor you could hope for.

Problem was, both descriptions were probably close to accurate. Wednesday night, the life of Sharon, one of the most powerful men in the 19th century Comstock, comes to center stage.

Author Mike Makley will give a free presentation on Sharon at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Sharon owned more than a dozen of the largest mines in Nevada's Comstock Lode and helped to build the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.

"Sharon was a big gun here in the Comstock," said John Frink, Nevada State Railroad Museum program director. "He built the V&T, and his money from the Comstock basically built San Francisco."

Sharon's sometimes controversial dealings lead to strong opinions on him. One enemy called him "a thoroughly bad man - a man entirely void of principle," while a Comstock neighbor called him "one of the best men that ever lived in Virginia City."

Makley is the author of "The Infamous King of the Comstock", his third book on early Nevada history.

His previous works were "The Apprentice Twain," a historical novel about Mark Twain in Virginia City; and "The Hanging of Lucky Bill," an account of the vigilante action against William Thorington in the Carson Valley in 1858.

He has also done a documentary video on the Washoe Indians and Cave Rock, titled "Cave Rock: The Issue." Makley is the past-president of the Alpine County (Calif.) Historical Society and recently edited a pictorial history of that county.

Copies of Makley's book will be sold at the museum, and the lecture is open to the public.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.

If you go

What: "Infamous King of the Comstock: William Sharon" lecture

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Nevada State Railroad Museum, Highway 395 and Fairview Drive

information: Call 687-6953 or go to


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