John W. MacKay is not only the youngest and the richest of that bonanza trio—Flood, Fair and MacKay but immense wealth has not spoiled him. He is of Irish birth, but came to this country before he was of age. When the gold fever broke out he was one of the first to seek his fortune in that auriferous country bordering on the Pacific, in California. Contrary to the general supposition that his great wealth came through ‘good luck,’ let me say, it was only by constant toil and slowly acquired experience that he learned how to tell a non-paying lead from a bonanza. Several times he seemed about to strike the long-looked for success only to find his brightest hopes dashed to the earth. But these failures tempered him for the greater hardships that followed.
The famous “Comstock Lode” is situated among a vast accumulation of rocks and deep canyons—the result of terrible volcanic eruptions at some remote period. This mining district was discovered by two Germans in about 1852-3. Contrary to the opinion expressed by other prospectors, these Germans saw silver in the rejected ore. Both brothers suddenly dying, the claim fell to a storekeeper named Comstock who sold out for a few thousand. Mr. MacKay’s investment in the one mine, the “Consolidated Virginia and California,” has paid him unheard of dividends. This mine produced in a period covering six years, from 1873, gold and silver to the amount of over sixty-three millions of dollars. The combined profits of the two mines were over seventy-three and one-half millions of dollars. Mr. MacKay drifted to this lode, making his first ‘hit’ in 1863, and in this section the bulk of his vast fortune was accumulated.
On the 25th of November, 1867, he concluded that he was able to support a wife, and accordingly married the widow of an old friend (Dr. Thompson) who had shared his varying fortune of former years when he little dreamed of the vast wealth that awaited him. This lady is one of the best hands to help a man spend a fabulous income, of which we are aware. She lives in Paris, where she gives the most expensive of entertainments. When General Grant was in France he was her guest. She supports a private railway carriage to use at her pleasure, and it would almost exceed belief to describe the cost of her table service; in fact, she lives in oriental splendor. On the other hand Mr. MacKay is decidedly pronounced, personally, in favor of little show. He is far more at home in Virginia City, where he may often be seen in a genuine mining costume, than at his palatial home in Paris.
The ground had been known for years wherein his great wealth was found, but it was pronounced worthless. Everything seemingly had to be contested; confidence was lacking, and what confidence remained was daily agitated by parties who were jealous rivals. The stock became almost worthless, and great discontent was manifest when, to make matters worse, a fire broke out which burned the company’s property and valuable machinery. Twelve hundred feet of ground had to be slowly gone over in search for the right vein, at a cost of $500,000. Amid great discouragement John W. MacKay led this apparently forlorn hope to at last be crowned with the success he so richly deserved. He now is estimated to be worth in the vicinity of $55,000,000, and although it may seem a somewhat extravagant reward, it cannot be denied that this vast sum could have been placed in far worse hands.
Both Mr. and Mrs. MacKay are very liberal toward charitable purposes. They were especially complimented by Pope Leo XIII for their charitable deeds. As Mr. MacKay is but about fifty years of age, it is hard to conjecture his possible future. While many features in his career seem to justify the belief in “luck,” still, to the close observer, it is manifest that had he not possessed great endurance, and known no such thing as fail, the world would never have known of John W. MacKay. Surely, great effort is the price of great success, always.