George Hearst was born and raised in Franklin County, Missouri in 1820. Growing up he received very little in the way of formal education but he did learn a lot about the so-called “lay of the land,” particularly in regards to mining. In fact, legend has it that local Indians referred to him as the “boy that the earth talk to.”
George quickly established himself in adulthood as a powerful miner and rancher in the Western United States. A self-made millionaire, he owned interest in some of the most important claims in the U.S., including the Comstock Lode in Nevada, the Ontario silver mine in Utah, the Homestake gold mine in South Dakota and the Anaconda copper mine in Montana. The Comstock, Homestake and Anaconda claims would become three of the largest mining discoveries in American history.
As a rancher and prospector, George Hearst continually acquired large portions of land throughout the United States, especially in California and the West. One of the land acquisitions was the purchase of the 48,000 acre Piedra Blanca Ranch at San Simeon in 1865. He later purchased the adjoining Santa Rosa and San Simeon Ranches. George Hearst would use this land throughout his life as a place to retreat with his family for lavish camping trips.
Later in life George Hearst served as a United States Senator from California from 1887 until his death in 1891. During this time he acquired the small San Francisco Examiner as a repayment for a gambling debt. Although he had little interest in the publishing business this would prove to be an important event in the Hearst legacy. While he had hoped William would manage the family’s mining and ranching holdings, his only son wanted to become the proprietor of the Examiner and an elderly George Hearst relented and relinquished control of the paper to him.