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Frugal and shrewd, Mackay invested in the corporation.

He sold his stocks when they reached an unreasonable height, realizing substantial gain even though the mine proved unprofitable.

Hard work and good luck led him from one bonanza to the next as he worked the Comstock Lode. His surname was Scottish, but he identified with his Irish heritage.

During that year, Mackay met fellow Irishman James Fair, then superintendent of the Hale and Norcross Mine.

When Fair lost that position, Mackay offered him employment as superintendent of the Rising Star Mine, a property he purchased in Idaho.

Fair accepted, but the mine failed, freeing the two to pursue other undertakings.

Maneuvering around William Sharon and his Bank of California, Mackay and Fair worked with investors James Flood and William O' Brien to seize control of the Hale and Norcross, turning it to profit. In 1873, while exploring the Consolidated Virginia and California Mine, they discovered an astoundingly rich ore body thereafter known as the Big Bonanza.

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With phenomenal profits, Mackay, who owned two-fifths of the partnership, pursued a variety of investments.