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.

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Central Nevada Museum Photo Courtesy of  Tonopahnevada.com

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.

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Jim Butler Photo Courtesy of Nevadasilvertrails.com

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.

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Lady in Red Photo Courtesy of MizpahHotel.net

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.

 

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Jack Dempsey Photo Courtesy of       Sportthemagazine.com

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.

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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.

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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

 

Austin, NV – Five Interesting Things That You Might Not Know

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Nevada Historical Marker No. 8

Austin is a small town located in Lander County on the western slopes of the Toiyabe Range at an elevation of 6,605 feet is known for its colorful history. There was the famous sack of flour, the internationally known soprano, a castle, Nevada’s first female sheriff and a man who was hanged three times.

 

 

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Gridley Store in Austin, NV

Sanitary Flour Power

The town is famous for an ordinary sack of flour that helped raise more than $275,000 for a fund hospitals during the Civil War. It all began as an election bet between Ruel Gridley, a local grocer and Democrat, and Dr. H.S. Herrick who was a Republican.

The bet was that the man supporting the losing candidate running for mayor would carry a 50 lbs. sack of flour through town. Gridley lost the bet and true to his word fulfilled the agreement. He was accompanied by a marching band and 5-year-old singer Emma Wixom singing a popular song in Union called “John Brown’s Body.” Ruel proudly carried the sack of flour from one end of town to the other. At the auction, the owner donated it back, and on that day the bag was auctioned multiple times with all the proceeds going to help Civil War Veterans.

Gridley so liked the idea he auctioned the sack all over Nevada. Each town tried to outdo contributions of the last town. The story caught the attention of a young newspaper editor in Virginia City named Mark Twain, who wrote about the The Great Austin Flour Sack. Ruel took the sack to other charitable auctions around Northern California and back East. At the end of the tour, over a quarter of a million dollars had been raised for a single sack of flour helping the Civil War wounded.

The Soprano

Little Emma Wixom and her family moved to Austin in 1864, shortly before Gridley carried his famous sanitary flour sack. After her mother died, Emma’s father sent her to Mills College in Oakland, Calif to study foreign languages and music. Her passion for music led her to study singing for three years in Vienna. She gained critical acclaim as an operatic soprano with performances for King George V and Queen Victoria. She adopted Emma Nevada as her stage name as homage to the state she grew up in. At the age of 26, she was world-renowned for her singing abilities.

Madame Sheriff

George Crowell was Lander County Sheriff in 1919. Two years into his term, he passed away from an illness. His widow, Clare Dunham Crowell was appointed to assume the responsibilities of Sheriff after a petition was champion by many of the citizens in support of her. Clare was unanimously selected as Lander County’s first female Sheriff, a job she carried out diligently from 1919 to 1921. She was a woman ahead of her time, earning respect by breaking up saloon fights, arresting cattle rustlers and other criminals. After finishing out her term, she returned to work as a nurse at the Lander County Hospital.

Stokes Castle

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Stokes Castle in Austin, NV photo credited to AustinNevada.com

One of the most interesting building in Austin is Stokes Castle. Stokes Castle is a three-story stone tower located just outside of town on top of a ridge line. Construction started in the fall of 1896 and completed in the summer 1897. The mine developer and railroad magnate, Anson Phelps Stokes, built the castle as a summer home for his sons but the family used the castle only once.

Stokes Castle is constructed using native granite. The huge stones were raised with a hand winch and held in position by clay mortar and rock wedging. The architectural model for the castle was a medieval tower Anson Stokes had seen and admired on an earlier Italian trip near Rome. It originally had three floors, each with a fireplace, windows, the first floor housed the kitchen and dining room, balconies on the second and third floors and a sun terrace on the roof. It had indoor plumbing for the bathrooms and kitchen. The structure stands as an enduring monument to the local men who built it and develop the mines of Austin.

To the Gallows, Again and Again…

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Lander County Court House in Austin, NV

Rufus Anderson was convicted of shooting and killing an unarmed man during an argument. He was sentenced to death by hanging. On Oct. 30, 1868, a day before Nevada’s fourth birthday, Anderson was led from his prison cell to the gallows constructed in-front of the Lander County Court House. After uttering a few words, he dropped through the trap door but landed on ground with the rope following right behind him. Apparently the  rope was never secured to the gallows.

Once again, Anderson made his way up to the platform. The rope was secured to the gallows and for the second time the trap was sprung. This time the noose slipped off and again he crashed in to the ground.

Anderson was now unconscious laying on the ground.  This time Anderson was carried up to the platform and tied to a chair. The noose was adjusted for a third time and Anderson was finally hanged. He placed in a bier and taken to the family estate.

Take Me to Church

Today Austin is a living ghost town, and is perhaps the best preserved example of an early Nevada mining town. It contains three beautiful churches. The Catholic Church, the last remaining structure of the first four Catholic Churches built in Nevada, and the Methodist Church were both built in 1866.

The Methodist Church is now used as a community center. The St. Augustine’s Catholic Church has been purchased and is being restored as a cultural center for Central Nevada. The  St. George Episcopal Church, widely considered to be the prettiest frontier church still standing, was built in 1878 and is still in regular use.

These stories are just some of the stories that make Austin famous. Have you ever heard any of these stories?

GPS Coordinates: 39.49257 N, -117. 06723 W

Keystone Canyon, NV – Old Dominion Mining Company

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Adobe Ruins in Keystone, NV

Keystone

Keystone started life as a company town for the Old Dominion Mining Company in 1868 with opening of the Keystone Mine.

In 1910, a large mill had been constructed and was processing ore from many local mines. J.H. Hillyer discovered a rich silver ore deposit at the 600 foot level of the Keystone Mine which assayed at 1,298 ounces per ton. In the 1930s mining in the area had panned out and the only operation was milling ore. Leaching operations commenced into the 1970s and 1980s but have since stopped.

Keystone had many of the local necessities of the times: saloons, blacksmith shops, stores and a post office which operated from 1912 to 1927. The Treadwell-Yukon Mining Company was shipping ore from several mines in this canyon for processing in Tybo.

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Adobe Ruins in Keystone, NV

A tin covered shed, a few stone and adobe structures and numerous mines are all that’s left of Keystone. As the old mill was demolished to expand the leaching operations.

 

 

 

GPS Coordinates: 38.44484 N, -116.38724W

Mountain View Ghost Town

The ghost town of Mountain View is located in the Mountain View Canyon at the far northern end of Keystone Canyon.

There is no written history on the town of Mountain View or it’s mining operations but judging from it’s construction it would be mid 1800s. The remains are the stone foundations of a large ore mill with chimney and numerous houses, a concrete water tank and a few mines located on the surrounding hill sides.

GPS Coordinates: 38.505007, -116.408793

Dominion Ghost Town

Dominion was founded by the Old Dominion Mining Company in 1868 and later the Hot Creek Development Company. Although heavy, mining operations were sporadic and ceased by the mid 1930s as the operations offered little return on investment. The ghost town of Dominion is located in the northern part of Keystone Canon where Old Dominion Canyon intersects with Keystone Canyon. The few remaining buildings in Dominion are little more than a few cabins and sheds, two separate mill sites and numerous mines.

GPS Coordinates: 38.491795 N, -116.40791 W

If you plan to visit these sites make sure you have water, a good spare tire, and plenty of time to explore. As the road are embedded with a lot of pointy rocks that can puncture your tire.

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Tybo, NV – Leading Pb Producer of Nye County

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Nevada Historical Marker No. 172

As years go on, ghost towns are slowly disappearing from the Nevada landscape. Tybo, NV is one ghost town that manages to fight against the odds.

Lead and Silver ore discoveries were made in the area by independent miners as early as 1866, however, a small consolidated mining camp named Tybo did not appear until 1874,.

The first major ore discovery was made in 1870 by Dr. Galley and M.V. Gillett who developed their operations into the Two-G Mine. By 1875, Tybo had twice–a-week stage service to Eureka and daily service to Belmont, a Wells Fargo office, the Trowbridge & Co. Store (shown in the picture), the Rosenthal Store, Barney McCann’s Restaurant, and W.R. Mills & Co Bank.

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Trowbridge & Co. Store in Tybo, NV

By the summer of 1876 the population had grown to almost 1,000 divided into three separate ethnic sections, an Irish section, a Central European section and a Cornish section. The town had grown and now had five stores, a number of saloons, two blacksmith shops, a post office and a newspaper which printed the Tybo Sun. In 1879, The owners of the Two-G mine became so indebted to Trowbridge that he became the mine’s principle owner.

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Two-G Mine in Tybo, NV

Tybo continued to prosper and by 1877 Tybo had built a brick school (which still stands today), and new businesses included the William Tell Saloon, The Court Saloon, The Exchange Saloon, the Tybo Baker, the Tybo Brewery and Saloon, the N.J. Devine Blacksmith Shop, the Erie Lodging House, the Delmonico Restaurant.
In the spring of 1877, Henry Allen used more than 500,000 bricks to build fifteen kilns up the canyon to replace the original stone kilns built in 1874 which still stand today. These kilns would produce charcoal to fuel the smelting operations.

From 1877 to 1880, Tybo was Nye County’s top producer and second only to Eureka in total lead production for the entire state. In early 1881 a drastic drop in ore quality caused the mill to close. By the end of 1881 the population of the town was only 100 and the future looked bleak. A major fire struck the town in 1884 and destroyed thirty-two buildings for a loss of $33,500.

By 1886, mining activity in Tybo gradually decreased to a near stand still. In 1887, the Nye Mining Company gained control of the mines and hired a work force of 35 people but their success was limited and the company folded in the spring of 1889.The next few years saw Tybo nearly deserted and by 1894 there were only sixteen people left in the town. In May of 1906, the Nevada Smelting and Mines Company, with $5 million in capital, commenced operations in the canyon, however, their luck was short lived and by 1908 they had abandoned the town.

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The Louisiana Consolidated Mill Remains in Tybo, NV

By 1911, the population of Tybo was only 4 residents. Tybo received another lease on life when in 1916 the Louisiana Consolidated Mining Company began to work a few local mines. Soon a fleet of ten trucks were hauling ore to mills in Tonopah. A 100 town concentration mill was built in Tybo in 1917 and it operated until 1918 when it was replaced by a flotation plant and lead smelter which operated until 1921.
By March of 1920 the company had brought electricity, telegraph and telephone service to the town. The company faltered in 1921 and had completely ceased operation by 1922. In December of 1924 the Manhattan-Tybo power company discontinued service to Tybo. Tybo’s last revival started in 1926, when the Keystone-Hot Creek Ming Company purchased property in Tybo. The company leased this property to the Treadwell-Yukon Company which built a 350-ton concentration mill and new smelter in 1929.
Treadwell-Yukon became the core of the Tybo revival employing 75 people by the start of 1929 and the post office reopened that same year. A number of two story boarding houses were built for the workers and prefabricated housing was built for some of the executives. There were 180 men on the payroll by the end of 1929. Tybo’s population had grown to 228 by 1930. Over the next eight years the mill processed 500,000 tons of lead ore. The company sunk a 1500 foot shaft during that period and discovered some small silver deposits while digging. In the boom-and bust tradition of ghost towns, Tybo’s last revival ended in 1937 when the mines played out and the company closed the mill. From 1942 to 1945 eighteen men worked hauling old tailings to Tonopah for processing producing the last ore to be mined in Tybo. From 1929 to 1937, Tybo’s mines produced $6.8 million worth of lead and silver ore with a total production value of an amazing $9.8 million for the town starting in 1866. An amazing feat especially since during Tybo’s peak production years lead and silver prices were at their lowest. If the ore were mined today it would be worth almost triple what it was at the time. In 1996, Tybo was auctioned off from that Alta Gold & Silver King Mining Company to private residents.

GPS Coordinates: 38.36993 N, -116.40116 W

Warning: Abandoned Mines

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Abandoned Mine near Columbus, NV

As I continue my journey about the Great State of Nevada, I am quickly reminded of the hidden dangers that surround these ghost towns and old mining camps.

The State of Nevada Department of Mine Safety estimates there are approximately 50,000 abandoned mining locations in the state of Nevada alone. Only 18,000 abandoned sites have been discovered, inventoried, and fenced with the help of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) summer internships and Boy Scout Eagle Projects.

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Abandoned Mine near Keystone, NV

In 2003, 22 fatalities were attributed to people entering abandoned mines… the majority of those fatalities were persons under 18 years of age. According to the 2015 Nevada Abandoned Mine Lands Report there were NO reported abandoned mine accidents or fatalities during the year.

Please be attentive of both yourself and people you are with while  exploring the local areas. Mines are not always marked or fenced and ALL should be considered dangerous.

Below is a list of some of the dangers and “pitfalls” of abandoned mines as cited by the University of Nevada Geohazards  and Minerals County Dangers in and Around webpage:

Bad Air
“Bad air” contains poisonous gases or insufficient oxygen. Poisonous gases can accumulate in low areas or along the floor. A person may enter such areas breathing the good air above the gases but the motion caused by walking will mix the gases with the good air, producing a possibly lethal mixture for him to breathe on the return trip. Because little effort is required to go down a ladder, the effects of “bad air” may not be noticed, but when climbing out of a shaft, a person requires more oxygen and breathes more deeply. The result is dizziness, followed by unconsciousness. If the gas doesn’t kill, the fall will.

Cave-ins
Cave-ins are an obvious danger. Areas that are likely to cave often are hard to detect. Minor disturbances, such as vibrations caused by walking or speaking, may cause a cave-in. If a person is caught, he can be crushed to death. A less cheerful possibility is to be trapped behind a cave-in without anyone knowing you are there. Death may come through starvation, thirst, or gradual suffocation.

Explosives
Many abandoned mines contain old explosives left by previous workers. This is extremely dangerous. Explosives should never be handled by anyone not thoroughly familiar with them. Even experienced miners hesitate to handle old explosives. Old dynamite sticks and caps can explode if stopped on or just touched.

Ladders
Ladders in most abandoned mines are unsafe. Ladder rungs are missing or broken. Some will fail under the weight of a child because of dry rot. Vertical ladders are particularly dangerous.

Rattlesnakes
Old mine tunnels and shafts are among their favorite haunts-to cool off in summer, or to search for rodents and other small animals. Any hole or ledge, especially near the mouth of the tunnel or shaft, can conceal a snake.

Shafts
The collar or top of a mineshaft is especially dangerous. The fall down a deep shaft is just as lethal as the fall from a tall building-with the added disadvantage of bouncing from wall to wall in a shaft and the likelihood of having failing rocks and timbers for company. Even if a person survived such a fall, it may be impossible to climb back out. The rock at the surface is often decomposed. Timbers may be rotten or missing. It is dangerous to walk anywhere near a shaft opening-the whole area is often ready and waiting to slide into the shaft, along with the curious. A shaft sunk inside a tunnel is called a winze. In many old mines, winzes have been boarded over. If these boards have decayed, a perfect trap is waiting.

Timber
The timber in abandoned mines can be weak from decay. Other timber, although apparently in good condition, may become loose and fall at the slightest touch. A well-timbered mine opening can look very solid when in fact the timber can barely support its own weight. There is the constant danger of inadvertently touching a timber and causing the tunnel to collapse.

Water
Many tunnels have standing pools of water, which could conceal holes in the floor. Pools of water also are common at the bottom of shafts. It is usually impossible to estimate the depth of the water, and a false step could lead to drowning.

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Photo Credit: US Department of the Interior BLM

Remember that no one should attempt to explore an abandoned mine as there are many possible dangers. The county sheriff should be notified immediately if an accident should occur. It is ill advised to attempt to rescue a person from a mine accident without the proper training or equipment plus its usually difficult and dangerous for both the victim and rescuer. Remember if you ever come across a sign shown to the left: Stay Out – Stay Alive.

Verdi, NV – The Great Train Robbery

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Nevada Historical Marker No. 191

In 1864, the Crystal Peak Company established a logging and sawmill operation along the Truckee River and laid out plans for the town of Crystal Peak. The town was located a short distance from present-day Verdi, NV. The Crystal Peak Lumber Mill furnished timber for the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad line as it moved eastward. The railroad would eventually connect with the Union Pacific and the eastern part of the country in Utah.

During the late 1800’s, the Crystal Peak Company prospered with the mining booms and lumbering. Before the railroad was completed, passage across the Truckee River was managed by a wooden toll bridge popularly called O’Neil’s Crossing. The historic Crystal Peak Toll Bridge, built in 1928, on Bridge Street is in the location of the old wooden O’Neil’s Crossing Bridge. When the Central Pacific Railroad arrived in 1968, it was decided that the railroad would bypass the town and cross the river at another point. This decision drastically altered the future of Crystal Peak, causing a mast relocation effort for most of the businesses to the new railroad town called O’Neil’s Crossing.

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Crystal Peak Toll Bridge in Crystal Peak, NV

The town was established in 1868. Following a short stint as O’Neil’s Crossing, Charles Crocker (founder of the Central Pacific Railroad) renamed the railroad town after pulling a slip of paper from a hat with the name of the great Italian Composer Giuseppe Verdi, although it is pronounced “Ver-dye.” The town became a major mill town and terminal for the shipment of construction timbers needed for the mining operations in the area.

From the late 1880s until the 1920s, the lumber mill was located in the same vicinity of the modern day Crystal Peak Park. The stocked fishing ponds located north of I-80 were once the mill pond for the facility. Water for the pond came from the Truckee River and the pond served as a storage area for logs waiting to be processed at the lumber mill. Unfortunately, the lumber mill was prone to devastating fires and during its operation suffered from 8 major fires.

Verdi Glen

After the Crystal Peak Lumber Mill closed down operations, outside investors had ambitious plans to turn the area into a resort. Verdi Glen hoped to become a popular travel destination. Plans for the area would eventually include a fishing pond, dance hall, swimming pool, golf course, and campground. The resort opened in 1924 with great fanfare and became a common recreation destination. Fourteen years later, in 1938, a destructive fire engulfed the resort’s roadhouse (the main building) and resort was later abandoned. Guy Marsh later bought the property and built a home on the foundation of the roadhouse. After his death, Florence Marsh (his widow) deeded the property to Washoe County. All that remains today are parts of the resort’s swimming pool and the main building’s stone fireplace.

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Nevada Historical Marker No. 128

The Great Train Robbery

This area is also known for what was called “Verdi Train Robbery” (the site of the heist is actually closer to present-day Reno near the closed River Inn), but more commonly known as the Great Train Robbery of 1870. Most historians consider this train robbery the first in the west and it happen before Jesse James started his train robbing career. The ringleader Jack Davis and four others held up the Central Pacific No. 1 after receiving a coded message from John Chapman about the money train’s schedule. This train was carrying the payroll for the Yellow Jacket Mine near Gold Hill, NV.

The train robbery took place on the early morning of November 5, 1870 when 5 bandits board the Central Pacific Overland Express as it showed down to pass through Verdi and decoupled the passenger cars allowing the locomotive pulling only the mail car and the express car to a spot near present-day Mogul, NV. Where two other bandits placed rocks across the train tracks. The bandits used the engineer to trick the expressman to opening the locked express car door. After gaining access to the express car, the robbers broke open all the strong boxes and made off with $41,600 in gold coins. The men divided the loot near Lawton Hot Springs and rode off in different directions. The bandits got a good head start on the posse by cutting telegraph wires to/from the town.  Amazing, all eight the members of the gang were eventually caught and all but $3,000 was recovered.

Lincoln Highway

What was once the main highway, now Old Highway 40, makes up Verdi’s main street. Gold Ranch Casino, a popular place to stop for those making the drive west into California, and at the other end of town is the Verdi Grill, a locals’ hangout and a personal favorite. In between you have the Truckee River and a fascinating history revolving around the lumber industry and railroad.

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Verdi Grill in Verdi, NV

For all of Verdi’s success as a lumber town in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the town couldn’t fully prosper after so many ravaging fires that burned down parts of the town. According to a historical timeline provided by the Verdi History Preservation Society, the municipality was destroyed by more than 20 major fires in the town’s nearly 150-year history. The worse being the fire of 1926, that devastated the community and changed its development from an active stop on the railroad to the quiet town it is today.

 

 

GPS Coordinates: 39.51593 N, -119.99366 W

Belmont, NV – Hang’em High

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Nevada Historical Marker No. 138

The rich discovery of silver marked the birth of the Belmont mining camp in 1865. As the town prospered, a more permanent town was built using materials such as brick, mortar and stone from local quarries. Red bricks use to construct the store front of many of the buildings on main street plus the famous Belmont Court House was manufactured from clay discovered four miles west of town.

Main Street was the commercial hub while East Belmont, located over the east ridge of town, was where most of the mining activity occurred.

At its peak, Belmont boasted a population of more than 2000 inhabitants (although there is a rumor of 15,000). During this time, the town contained businesses and amenities similar to a big city. A post office officially opened in 1867 and Nye County seat was moved from Ione, NV to Belmont.

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Bank Building in Belmont, NV

The Bank Building, built in 1968, was originally design to hold valuables and precious ore recovered from the mines. It was a one story brick building with a basement. Before the completion of the courthouse, this building was converted into a courtroom, sheriff’s office, and jail. It was in the basement of this building that Jack Walker and Charles McIntyre were hung by a group of vigilantes. Shortly after which, the Belmont newspaper noted that  most of the rougher elements of town left for friendlier parts of the state.

 

 

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The Cosmopolitan Ruins in Belmont, NV

The Cosmopolitan was a two story wooden structure that housed a saloon, dance hall, restaurant and rooms for rent on the second floor. The building opened in 1967 and was used continuously until 1930.

 

 

 

 

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House of Tasker Oddie in Belmont, NV

Tasker Oddie lived in this house when he moved to Belmont from Austin, NV in 1899. Oddie arrived in Belmont to look after the business interests of Ansom Stokes. He would later become the Nye County District Attorney from 1900 to 1902. He made his fortune in mining interest in Tonopah. Later, Tasker would serve as governor of Nevada during 1911 and 1915 and US senator for two terms until he was defeated by Pat McCarran in 1932. Mount Oddie near Tonopah and Oddie boulevard in the Reno-Spark area were named after him.

 

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The Belmont Church

The Belmont Church is a replica of the Catholic Church (built in 1872) that moved to Manhattan in 1906. Car dealer and historic preservationist Jim Marsh of Las Vegas donated the funds to recreate the historical building. The original church was called St. Stephen’s Church.

 

 

 

 

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Combination Mill in Belmont, NV

Combination Mill was a 40-stamp mill built in 1867 and closed by the end of 1968. Sulfide silver was crushed, roasted and mixed with mercury to extract silver. Initial there were two tall smoke stacks intended to carry the smoke down wind and away from the town of Belmont.  After a short revival, the mill machinery was moved in 1880 to the camp of Gold Mountain.

 

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Belmont Courthouse in Belmont, NV

At the time, county offices were scattered around town in several buildings. Due to this inconvenience and a recent jailbreak from the old jail, the county decided to build a new building to house all of the offices and jail.  The Nye County Courthouse was completed in 1876 and reflected Belmont’s prosperity. The courthouse functioned as the county seat until 1905 and abandoned during the 1920’s. In 1976, the courthouse was acquired by the Nevada State Park System and with help from The Friends of the Belmont Courthouse the building is undergoing restoration.

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Main Street in Belmont, NV

Like so many mining town of Nevada, Belmont experience an eventual decline. A series of unfortunate events and larger booms in the part of the state caused many citizens to leave. Some left town with not only their personal belongings, but the scarce wooden building materials from their homes and businesses. Fortunately, many of the buildings were left intact, especially those made of stone and brick.

Belmont today is viewed as a ghost town, but there are still many residents who proudly make Belmont their home (11 permanent residents).

Buildings are now owned by either private individuals, Nye County or the State of Nevada. The town along with the Belmont Court House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Tours of the Historical Belmont Court House are offered to the general public daily at 1 pm.

If you ever manage to visit this hidden gem in Nye County, stop by  Dirty Dick’s Saloon and tried a Picon Punch.

GPS Coordinates: 38.59534 N, -116.87951 W