Tonopah, NV – 8 Interesting Things about Tonopah

Tonopah Mining Park

The Tonopah Historic Mining Park is located on the site of the original mining claims that started the silver rush in Tonopah.  Jim and Belle Butler’s silver discovery in 1900 brought the town of Tonopah into existence and Nevada mining helped to develop many of the processing techniques that are still being used today.

The park encompasses portions of four of the original major mining companies and covers over 100 acres.  This rich history is brought to life through preserved and restored equipment and buildings, historic exhibits and self-guided tours.

Central Nevada Museum Photo Courtesy of

Central Nevada Museum

The Central Nevada Museum was founded in 1981 by the Central Nevada Historical Society. Building construction was financed through a grant from the Fleischmann Foundation in Reno, Nevada.

The Central Nevada Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation of the history of Central Nevada in Nye and Esmeralda Counties as well as surrounding areas.

Exhibits feature Tonopah “Queen of the Silver Camps”, Goldfield “The Greatest Gold Camp Ever” and other boomtowns. The museum also includes exhibits on Native American artifacts, fossils, wildlife, mineral displays, art, mining in Central Nevada, railroads, ranch life, military artifacts and photos. Including an old western town, mining cabins, saloon, railroad year, mining equipment and a 10-stamp mill. There is a memorial at the front of the building dedicated to all the airmen that loss their lives during training exercises at the Tonopah Army Air Field.

Jim Butler
Jim Butler Photo Courtesy of

Jim Butler

As the story goes, Jim Butler was camping around Tonopah Springs, the spring of 1900 when his burro wandered off. While chasing it, Jim picked up a rock to throw at it and discovered the rock was quite heavy. He gather up some samples and had them evaluated by a local assay office only to be disappointed to find out that the sample were of low quality. After returning to his home in Belmont, Butler told a young attorney named Tasker Oddie about his discovery. Tasker had the samples evaluated at an assay office in Austin and the analysis showed the ore was valued at more than $200 a ton.

Since venture capital was difficult to obtain at the time, Jim, Belle and their partners implemented the unusual concept of mine claim leasing by the foot. These leases gave the lessor 75% of all profits from the claim and greatly increased the development of the mining district. Many of the miners got rich under this arrangement. The practice then quickly spread to other mining districts.

The Butlers eventually sold their interests in the properties to a Philadelphia financier, who formed the Tonopah Mining Co. The assets of this new company exceeded one million dollars. Tasker Oddie subsequently formed the Tonopah-Belmont Development Company. The production between these two mine, totaling more than half of all the precious metals yield by the mining district. In total, the mines in this district produced in excess of five million tons of ore valued in excess of $1,000,000,000.

Lady in Red Photo Courtesy of

Lady in Red

This purveyor of female companionship haunts the old Victorian-style Mizpah located in Tonopah, NV. It is rumored that her ghost still roams the fifth floor of the famous hotel.

During the mining boom in Tonopah, she resided on the fifth floor and met an untimely and brutal demise outside her suite. She was strangled and stabbed by a jealous ex-lover when he found her in the bed with another companion.

Ghost aficionados claim that she makes her presence known by leaving behind a hand impression or a pearl earring on the pillow in room 502.


Jack Dempsey Photo Courtesy of

Jack Dempsey

The former world’s heavyweight boxing champion from 1919 to 1926, started his boxing career in Nevada. Jack arrived in Reno as a young man on a train by holding onto the brake beams underneath the boxcar (commonly known as “riding the rods”) because he couldn’t afford the fare. Early in his boxing career, he traveled around Nevada fighting for prize money at several mining towns. Folklore states that  Jack Dempsey once served as a bouncer at the famous Mizpah Hotel.

After one of his three fights against Johnny Sudenberg in Tonopah, both men went to a Tonopah saloon to celebrate when a man enter the establishment and robbed the two men at gunpoint of their prize money. Times eventually got better for Jack as he went on to capture the heavyweight title and the hearts of his generation. He is still widely considered one of the best fighters of the golden age of sports.

Clown Motel in Tonopah, NV

Clown Motel

The Clown Motel is famous for two reasons. The first of course is that the motel theme that centers around clowns and I mean hundreds of clowns. Most potential customers are scared off by the all the clowns staring at them while they are checking in at the front office. Second reason, is due to the motel’s close proximity to the old Tonopah Cemetery that served the town from 1901-1911 until the town decided to create a new location, since expansion was no longer possible, about a mile west. Buried in the old Tonopah Cemetery are 30 victims of the Tonopah Plague, 14 miners from the Tonopah-Belmont Mine fire, and Nye County Sheriff Thomas Logan who was gunned down in a shootout in a Manhattan Bordello. The motel was recently featured on Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel.

Tonopah Brewery in Tonopah, NV

Tonopah Brewery

The self-proclaimed “Pick of Nevada” (due to the large pick outside of the brewery) is a popular local stop on main street. The Tonopah Brewery is a redevelopment project started by Fred and Nancy Cline, owners of Cline Family Cellars and the Mizpah Hotel. Nancy Cline spent her childhood in central Nevada and is investing capital to renovate several building along Main street and the town. Stop by enjoy a pint of Tasker (Double IPA), .999 (IPA) or Mucker (Irish Red Ale).

Tonopah Army Air Field

The Army Air Force expanded rapidly after the beginning of World War II in Europe. General Headquarters Air Force at Langley Field, Virginia, was considering improving the airdrome at Tonopah and of obtaining a large tract of land for gunnery and bombing practice.

On October 29, 1940, approximately  5,000 square miles of land in the public domain were transferred from the Department of Interior to the War Department.

The Fourth Air Force planned to conduct its operations from Tonopah to train combat units. In early 1940 construction was started on a new airfield located seven miles east of Tonopah.

It soon became apparent, however, that the range could not be used successfully as a fighter aircraft training area. Either because to Tonopah’s 6,000-foot elevation and design problems with the Airacobras, the planes and pilots were being lost in crashes at an unacceptable rate. The Military decided to change the scope of the operation to a high altitude bomber training base for crews of the B-24 Liberators.

At its peak. there were 1,264 officers and 5,273 enlisted men along with a large number of civilians assigned to the base. But by March 1945, pressure from the War Department to cut manpower at Army installations resulted in reduction of the number of persons stationed at Tonopah to 437 officers, 3,707 enlisted men and 184 civilians. On August 23, 1945, a little over a week after fighting ended in the Pacific, the Fourth Air Force placed the Tonopah Army Air Field on inactive status. Personnel and aircraft began leaving almost immediately while buildings were torn down and sold to scrapyards.

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Local Pride Mural in Tonopah, NV

GPS Coordinates: 38.06921 N, -117.23058 W