James Finney

James "Old Virginny" Finney, born in Virginia in approximately 1817, is credited with discovering the Comstock Lode. Traveling west, he became one of the first of several hundred placer miners in Gold Canyon during the 1850s. In January 1859, Finney, Alec Henderson, Jack Yount, and John Bishop climbed up the canyon, having depleted the surface deposits along the creek. They discovered a rich outcropping they named Gold Hill, which was the southern end of the great Comstock Lode. Within a few months, Old Virginny gave away his subdivided claim as gifts or for little money.

Among the many stories about Finney, the most famous tells of him drunk and tripping during the night. According to this tale, he broke his bottle of whiskey and not wanting to be wasteful, used the remnant to baptize the ground, naming Virginia City after his home state.

Unlike Henry Comstock who became known as an insane charlatan in local folklore, Finney remained a beloved character. Alcoholism was his most noteworthy weakness. Records indicate that Finney was illiterate, not even able to sign his own name. On June 20, 1861, he was thrown from his horse in Dayton and died. At his funeral, he was noted for being "a generous, charitable, and honest man."

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