Candelaria and Metallic City – A Tale of Two Cities

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Nevada Historical Marker No. 92

To quote Charles Dickens’ famous opening sentence from Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” well you know the rest. This passage could very well reflect the story of Candelaria and Metallic City.

I find myself traveling numerous times on US 95 between Las Vegas and Reno over the past several years. Always passing the Candelaria turn off road sign near the Redlich summit between the towns of Tonopah and Mina. Last week I decided that I would drive down the road near Pickhandle Gulch, named after the preferred weapon used to settling disputes, to see what remains of the once-bustling boomtowns Candelaria and Metallic City. Here are some of my findings.

Candelaria in 1893
Candelaria, NV in 1893 Photo Credited to http://www.nv-landmarks.com

 

About 100 yards from the highway, travelers will find the State Historical Marker No. 92 for Candelaria and Metallic City. Sites for Candelaria and Metallic City can be found roughly 7 miles west of the State Historical Marker and US95. Not much remains of Candelaria except the remnants of a handful of buildings, a mill foundation and a cemetery. Metallic City on the other hand is in the vicinity of the active Kinross Gold Candelaria Mine on Mt. Diablo about ¾ mile south of Candelaria. I believe the town has long since been removed. Candelaria was considered the Saint City while Metallic City was considered the Sin City of its time due to alcohol, prostitution, and murders.

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Kinross Gold Candelaria Mine on Mt. Diablo

Mexicans prospectors first discovered silver ore in 1864, near what would become the Candelaria mining district. Candelaria was named after the Catholic ceremony Candlemas or the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.  Although these prospectors settled the area, major mining operations didn’t develop until 1879 with the discovery of larger silver deposits.

One the major issues with this location was the lack of water to support any significant permanent population. Water was pumped and transported from a spring roughly nine miles away and cost a dollar a gallon. Whiskey at the time was less expensive than water. The stampmill, that crushes material by pounding rather than grinding, operated as a dry mill creating a large amount of particulates in the atmosphere, that settled in the lungs of the inhabitants, causing many to die of miner’s consumption otherwise called miner’s asthma.

Beginning in 1880 the area began to prosper and became the largest town in the immediate area. In 1882, the establishment of a water pipe from trail Canyon caused the price of water to drop from $1 to $0.05 per gallon plus a secondary track for the Carson & Colorado railroad linked the town with the rest of the state allowed the town to prosper. The largest mine was called the Northern Belle that produced between $7 and $15 million in silver during its existence.

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Mill Foundation in Candelaria, NV
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Building in Candelaria, NV

At its peak, Candelaria would boast two hotels, six stores, offices for three lawyers, three doctors and ten saloons. The Panic of 1893, triggered by the collapse of railroad overbuilding and shaky railroad financing, caused many of the mines to shut down. As a result most of the people deserted the town. The following seven years proved difficult for the remaining citizens; as the area was dry, windswept, and an isolated place. The remaining citizens endured by hoping for a recovery, that never came. By the late 1930’s, Candelaria was truly a ghost town.

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Candelaria Ghost Town

Have you ever visit this ghost town?

GPS Coordinates: 38.15888 N, -118.08916 W

Reno Rodeo – This Ain’t My First Rodeo

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There are those great moments when a family outing and cultural enrichment walk hand-in-hand to deliver a unique and completely memorable experience. This was the case a few days ago when my family and I attend the Reno Rodeo on Father’s Day. The rodeo is a great venue for family fun.

The annual Reno Rodeo returned to the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center and kicked off last Thursday for the 96th time. The Reno Rodeo (as referred to as the RR) is known as the “Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West” and one of the top five rodeos in North America. RR is a 10-day event features 680 professional athletes competing for $550,000 in prize money. This event financially impacts the Reno/Sparks area economy with $42 million going to local businesses. The RR is a PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) sanctioned event and is nationally televised.  RR features different events testing a whole range of skills, from calf roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, bareback riding, saddle bronco riding, to bull riding and mutton busting.

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Mutton Busting

Sure some of you are wondering what the heck is mutton busting. Mutton busting is a rodeo event where a child, between the ages of 5 and 7, is seated in a riding position atop of a sheep while being contained in a small chute. Once released, the sheep starts to run in an attempt to unseat the child and return to the flock a short distance away. The child that holds on the longest earns a prize, in this case a new pair of Justin cowboy boots.

 

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Bull Riding

Bull riding is the most exciting and dangerous of all the events. Due to its popularity and large amount of risk involved, event promoters tend to save it for last. The event requires the rider to remain on the bull for eight seconds and a judge can disqualify contestants for touching the animal with their free hand.

 

 

 

 

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Reno Rodeo Parade through Midtown in Reno, NV

On Saturday, the 2016 Reno Rodeo Parade rode through Midtown on Virginia Street. The parade gives the local cultures a chance to express their diversity and heritage. Tribal communities don traditional Native American Indian regalia and headdresses. Cowboys and Vaqueros show off their finest western wear and mastery of horse riding. Marching bands from the local schools play renditions of current popular songs. While some local businesses and organizations promote their causes by showcasing classic cars and firetrucks.

For us, the Rodeo experience provides exposure to a part of America that we rarely are involved with living in an urban community and we are thankful for opportunity to learn more about the cowboy culture and legacy.

What are some of your rodeo experiences and memories?

GPS Coordinates: 39.54136 N, -119.80081 W

Mina, NV – Lobster Execution

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Desert Lobster Cafe in Mina, NV

Have you ever heard of the Desert Lobster Cafe? Do you remember passing a large white boat stranded on the side of the road in a remote desert town? You probably don’t know the full story behind Bob Eddy’s quest to monopolize the market on desert lobsters, actually Australian red claw crayfish.

Desert Lobster

Bob had a vision to grow thousands of crayfish in green houses just south of Mina utilizing the warmth of the Nevada desert and water from a nearby Pilot spring.

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Lobster Farm near Sodaville, NV

Bob grew crawfish for six years until the wildlife officials revoked his license and took him to court because he was sell live crayfish to roadside travelers instead of selling strictly to the licensed commercial operators. State Division of wildlife officials feared that crawfish could enter surround water sources and evenly threaten the eggs of threatened species including the Railroad Valley springfish and other native fish populations. Bob and wildlife officials fought for years until one day in 2003, authorities stormed his property and seized 300 pounds of crayfish while dropping chlorine bleach into the holding tanks. The authorities discarded the seized crayfish in the middle of the desert. Crushing Bob’s dreams of a lucrative desert lobster empire. As years past, Bob would try to exact his revenge by poking fun at the Nevada legislatures and court system with his signs on the side of the road.

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Lobster Farm Sign Photo Credited to chzoddlyspecific.wordpress.com

Background

Mina is a railroad town found in 1905 as a railroad station for the Nevada & California Railway, a division of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The town was named after Ferminia Sarras who was a famed prospector known as the ‘Copper Queen.’ The station was used to transport minerals extracted from nearby mines.

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Welcome to Mina Sign

Today the railroad is gone and visitors come to stay at the RV park to ride their ATVs and side by side off-road vehicles through 500 miles of trails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Socorro’s Burger Hut in Mina, NV

Socorro’s Burger Hut

Soccoro’s Burger Hut is a must stop when traveling between Las Vegas and Reno. Soccoro’s is a burger shack owned and operated by a nice lady. Who makes some of the best burger for miles around. Some times when I am passing through I will notice a small fleet of semi-tractor trailers parked in the adjacent field while drivers are lined up to place an order at Soccoro’s. Next time you are passing by, stop and have a burger.

 

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Nevada State Prison in Carson City, NV Photo Credited to Nevadaprisonwatch.wordpress.com

Creation of the Gas Chamber

Not many individuals know that a murder within the town of Mina led to the first person in the world to be executed by lethal gas.  Gee Jon was convicted of murdering an elderly man named Tom Quong Kee from Mina, both men were associated with feuding gangs at the time. As the result Gee Jon was sentence to death by lethal gas. An unsuccessful attempt to pump poisonous gas directly into his prison cell while he was sleeping led to the development of the modern day gas chamber.

Did this information change your perspective on this small Nevada town?

GPS Coordinates: 38.39058 N, -118.10872 W

Luning, NV – Ghost Town or Not

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Welcome Sign to Luning, NV

As less you pull into the public rest stop for a break in your commute or get pulled over for speeding through town by Nevada Highway patrol (speed limit drops from 70mph to 25mph), most motorist miss the historic significance of Luning, Nevada.

Luning is an unincorporated town in Mineral County nested between Excelsior Mountains and Gabbs Valley Range. The town originally was called Deep Wells and founded in 1881. Deep Wells severed as a stagecoach station between the towns of Grantsville, Belmont and Downeyville. Later the town changed its name to Luning when the railroad arrived in the early 1900s and was named after Nicholas Luning, a bondholder of the Carson and Colorado Railroad.

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Old Magnetism and Artinite Mill in Luning, NV Photo Credited to Brenton Cooper

The town benefit from the growth in mining during this period as the town boomed with saloons, stores, a post office, and railroad depot. The town served as a station on the Southern Pacific Railroad between Hawthorne and Mina, used as a supply center for the Nevada Brucite quarry and Santa Fe silver mines. The town experienced several economic changes with the silver, copper, and magnetism mining booms.

During the early 1940’s the mines were one of two places that produced Artinite. The other area was in New Jersey. Just like Hawthorne, Luning is linked to New Jersey. Aritnite is the material form of basic magnesium carbonate. Magnesium carbonate is used to make flooring, fireproofing material, extinguishing compositions, cosmetics, toothpaste, and laxatives. Also, Magnesium carbonate is used in the production of magnesium oxide by calcining and is used in manufacturing explosive ordnance and mined extensively during the 1940s supporting the WWII military efforts.

Luning’s main street is named Plymire Street and named after a long-time resident, Dr. Fred Plymire who was a resident dentist and copper mine owner. Plymire Street is actually incorporated into US 95 highway that runs through the middle of town. The Luning post office opened January 16, 1882 and still operates today (although not in the original building).

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Long Branch Saloon in Luning, NV

Across the highway from the rest stop, is the remnants of the Long Branch Saloon. An earlier picture of the Long Branch Saloon shows a sign saying “Settled 1864.” The year that Nevada was granted statehood into the Union. The saloon has since closed, sometime during the mid-1980s and left in disrepair.

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School House in Luning, NV

The town’s one-room school is still well maintained, but is also no longer used for its original intended purpose. The town is often listed as a ghost town by some websites, but it is not as the population of Luning, Nevada, is 39 (as of 2016).

Have any of your journeys pass through this little town in Mineral County? or seen the head board fence?

 

 

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Head Board Fence in Luning, NV

 

GPS Coordinates: 38.50541 N, -118.17850 N

Hawthorne, NV Part II

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Hawthorne Army Depot’s Main Gate near Hawthorne, NV

World’s Largest Ammo Depot

The ammunition depot located near Hawthorne, NV was established in 1930. This did not happen by accident, but an accident caused it to happen. After a major disaster occurred at the Lake Denmark Naval Ammunition Depot in New Jersey in 1926. During the same week that a fire destroyed the Hawthorne business district. An accident essentially destroyed the ammunition depot while causing substantial damage to adjacent Picatinny Arsenal and the neighboring communities.

Congress wanted to find some less valuable and more isolated real estate for the new ammunition depot. After a nationwide search, Hawthorne was selected as the choice for the new depot.

U.S. Army Depot located near Hawthorne, NV is considered “The World Largest Depot” for ammunition storage and consisting of 2,247 bunkers. The depot stores conventional munitions while demilitarize and disposes of obsolete surplus munitions. During major conflicts, reserve ammunition is stored at this location for the first 30 day of the skirmish. The depot is divided into three ammunition production and storage areas.  In 1984, after nearly 50 years without a major mishap, one of the storage bunkers exploded. The blast was contained as intended through the design of the bunker, as the force of the blast went straight up instead of out preventing the deeply feared chain-reaction that occurred at Lake Denmark Navel Ammunition Depot 58 years earlier. The exact reason for the Hawthorne explosion is still a topic for debate.

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Bunkers near Hawthorne, NV

Hawthorne is also the location of the United States Government national stockpile of mercury. In 2006, The Defense National Stockpile Center selected the depot for long-term storage of approximately 4,890 tons of commodity-grade, elemental mercury. Dedicated facilities were specifically designed for the long-term storage of elemental mercury containers.  The principle facility in Hawthorne is heavy regulated by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

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Hawthorne Ordnance Museum

Hawthorne Ordnance Museum

The museum is located at 925 E Street. The museum commemorates the history of the ammunition depot and the contribution of the people that work at the facility and served in the military.

The museum has on display ordnance from WWI to present day conflicts that were stored, loaded, tested and designed at the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot. The museum even has a M47 Patton tank next to the building. Named after General George S. Patton who is one of the earliest advocates for tanks and tanks tactics in the battlefield.

The Mineral County Museum is located on the corner of D Street and Tenth Street. The museum has a collection of Mission Bells that were discovered buried in ground about 15 miles southeast of the town and houses one of the finest collections of artifacts and pictures preserving the history of Mineral County. The legend of the Mission Bells tells a story about a missionary, who was seeking a site to establish a mission. During his expedition, the missionary was attacked and the bells were lost during the skirmish. Although no one is sure if these bells are the same mission bells.

Both the Mineral County and Hawthorne Ordnance Museum are free admission during hours of operation.

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GPS Coordinates: 38.52464 N, -118.62457 W

 

Hawthorne, NV Part I

 

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Hawthorne, NV

Hawthorne is a small Mineral County town located in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1880 H.M. Yerington, President of the Carson and Colorado Railroad Co., selected the town site to protect the inhabitants against harsh winters and freezing wind off Walker Lake. Hawthorne was founded in 1881 as a division point on the Carson & Colorado Railroad. The town has persisted through economic changes and droughts to continue to grow over the years. In 1905, the Southern Pacific bypassed Hawthorne completely by going around the east side of Walker Lake. In addition, the railroad built a new terminal at Mina and in 1907 the booming mining town of Goldfield took the Esmeralda County seat away from the town of Hawthorne. During this time small mining discoveries in the locale helped preserve Hawthorne’s prosperity through these tough times.

In 1911, State Senator Fred Balzar from Hawthorne was able to persuade his fellow Nevada legislators that Esmeralda County was too large and the county needed to be divided. From this discussion, Mineral County was created from Esmeralda County’s northern part with Hawthorne designated as the county seat. During the first Great War, mining operations declined along with the town population. In 1920, Mina with its mining and busy railroad had grown to 680 and had a larger population than Hawthorne (population of 260).  During 1926, a fire in the Hawthorne’s business district burned half the town down but still the people of Hawthorne managed to rebuild the town.

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El Capitan Lodge and Casino in Hawthorne, NV

Hawthorne’s crown jewel is the long-established and recently remodeled El Capitan Lodge and Casino located in the middle of town. The casino is named after the famous granite monolith located in Yosemite National Park. The lodge and casino is reminiscent of an old style Las Vegas gambling hall. The casino is a favorite for tourists and locals to unwind after a long day of traveling or work.

 

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Joe’s Tavern in Hawthorne, NV

Across the street is an another major Hawthorne landmark, a classic Nevada saloon called Joe’s Tavern decorated with rusty mining equipment, farm and kitchen paraphernalia, helmets, guns, and other memorabilia from the past including components from the old Southern Pacific Railroad line.

 

Hidden within the confines of the US Army Depot main operating location is the Walker Lake Country Club. Home of a beautiful executive 9-hole golf course that is open to the public. Initial, the golf course consisted of four-holes created by base employees, who eventually added five more holes over the years. Golf enthusiasts consider the golf course the “Best Kept Military Secret” over the last 50 years with it green fairways, tall trees and picturesque backdrop.

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Old Nevada Pizza in Hawthorne, NV

Located on 497 E Street is Old Nevada Pizza. Definitely, a great place to stop and eat when traveling between Northern and Southern Nevada. Although, the original owner Harvey has since pasted away, the new management is keeping the tradition of creative pizza ideas such as Tostada, Cheese Burger, and B&D Womack.

 

I will continue writing about the history of the town during the next blog, Hawthorne, NV Part II.

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GPS Coordinates: 38.52464 N, -118.62457 W

Everday’s Nevada Day to Me…

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Have you ever driven through rural Nevada on either US 95, Highway 50 (The Loneliest Road) or any other US or state highway and stumble upon a town that you were unsure of what was its purpose or extent of its existence? Many of these small Nevada towns were constructed at the turn of the century due to mining booms for rare elements and minerals. Although Nevada is definitely not the greenest state in the Union, it is without a doubt one of the most diverse in the sense of climate, weather and elevations.

The sagebrush state is broken up by more than 150 mountain ranges extending north to south throughout the state. Most of the state’s rivers flow only during the wet season (typically December through June) and most of those rivers flow into lakes with no outlets or shallow alkali sinks. When the water evaporates in the summer heat and the sinks become mud flats or dry lakes. Nevada is one of the driest states in the United States. Much of the Nevada landscape consists of arid expanses of land covered with sagebrush and creosote bush.

Nevada landscape is represented by sandy desert, rugged snow covered mountains, grassy valley, and forested mountainous slopes. Nevada can be divided into three main land regions consisting of the Sierra Nevada, Columbia Plateau, and Basin and Range Region. The Sierra Nevada is the rugged mountain range carved out by glaciers that cuts through the western part of state near Carson City and Reno. The Columbia Plateau is located in the northeastern corner of Nevada supported by lava bedrock. Streams and rivers have transform the landscape over time to create deep canyons with steep ridges to transition into open prairie fields. The Basin and Range Region is west of the Sierra Nevada region, scattered between all of the ranges are buttes and mesas surround by lakes and alkali flats. The elevation of the basin region varies from 479 feet above sea level to over 13,000 feet on the border of California-Nevada where Boundary Peak (Nevada’s highest peak) is located.

I intend to share some of the fascinating stories that I learned over the years about the history of Nevada’s most notable towns.  Some of these stories will reveal information about the mysterious Woman in Red that haunts the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah, the World’s Largest Army Depot in Hawthorne, the Lobster farm in Mina (Yes, Mina) and vintage buildings of Goldfield (once the largest city in the state with 30,000 residents). I will also mention some stores about some of the men and women such Tex Rickard, Jack Dempsey, Jim Butler, Sarah Winnemucca, and others that help shape Nevada from the Wild West into the Silver State. There are 271 Historical Markers in the State of Nevada as shown in the embedded map.