The Comstock Lode: Who really found it?

Judy DePuy / Special to the Sun

Little is written about the Grosh Brothers. They were two brothers who left from the East to find gold in the West in 1849. And they did find riches but they lost it while trying to claim it.

This is a story of greed and understanding how the west evolved.

The Comstock Lode is credited to a single person, Henry Comstock, however it was a manipulation of big business and lawyers. But the most probable true discoverers of the lode, in the shadow of Mount Davidson near Virginia City, Nevada, were two ambitious brothers from Pennsylvania, Ethan Allen and Hosea Ballou Grosh.

To prove this, five athletes and amateur historians will retrace the path that the original Grosh Brothers took in 1857. It will include the trail where the original brothers may have stashed their mineral findings and other documentation. The ‘stash’ was left to lighten their load as they fought snow and tried to cross the Sierra mountains near present day Palisades Tahoe.

Grosh Brothers Expedition team photo. From left to right Elke Reimer, Hal Hall, Tim Twietmeyer, Bob Crowley and Jennifer Hemmen.
Photo by Keith Sutter

What began as a mission to discover the path of Ethan Allen and Richard Bucke, and then reprise the journey after academic research, trail discovery and topography, became an obsession to find evidence that proved the Grosh Brothers were the first to discover the large Nevada silver lode and the family was deliberately denied their rightful claim to a portion of the proceeds.

Bob Crowley, Tim Twietmeyer, Jennifer Hemmen, Elke Reimer and Hal Hall are actively working on creating the sport of History Expeditions, a new way to discover history. They have formed a nonprofit whose mission is to:

  • Discover American West tales and trails which have been lost to time;
  • Solve the mysteries through investigative research;
  • Honor the inspiring pioneers by reprising their treks;
  • And correcting any mistaken historical narratives.

In the upcoming expedition, the five extreme athletes (four of whom did the Forlorn Hope and Donner Relief Party Expeditions) are reprising the route that the ill-fated Grosh Brothers took. The brothers believed that they had found the Comstock Lode but died before they could claim it at the assayer’s office in San Francisco. The expedition starts in Silver City, NV (near Virginia City) and ends at Last Chance, CA (50 miles up the American River Canyon from Auburn).

Join Us

Dates for the expedition are Feb. 27 to March 5.

The story of the brothers and what they endured is fabulous reading in the book “The Gold Rush Letters of E. Allen Grosh and Hosea B. Grosh.”

The team will leave the Silver City cemetery, Nevada at 6:30 a.m. on Feb. 27. On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the team will be at the Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City. Susan Winter, of the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society, will host a fireside chat starting at 5:30 p.m. Please bring a chair to enjoy the evening events. Then at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 1, the athletes will be at the foot of Snowshoe Thompson’s statue in Palisades Tahoe Village for additional coverage of the expedition.

The remaining two days will be in remote areas of the Sierra in California until they get to the gravesite of E. Allen Grosh in Last Chance, California.

Additionally, the team will be presenting a summary of the expedition on Sunday, March 5, at the Auburn State Theater (985 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA). There will be a meet and greet with the participants (1-2 p.m.) and a short video followed by a presentation by the athletes “Sierra Tragedy’s Silver Lining: The Grosh Brothers Story” (2-3 p.m). Note that there will be some U.S. Forest Service retirees and historians there to share their stories and knowledge of the Grosh Brothers. Tickets are $15.

Then on Saturday, March 11, the athletes will be at Donner Memorial State Park as part of the Sierra Speaker Series (12593 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA). The five ultra-distance runners will share their experiences in researching, re-tracing and sharing the history of the true discoverers of the Comstock Lode. This presentation will run from 5:30 – 7 p.m. with a $5 recommended donation.

More information on the Grosh Brothers can be found at

Grosh Brothers expedition logo.
Provided / Bob Crowley

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