Goldfield was once the center of it all. Both politically and economically it was the driver’s seat from which the development of the region was controlled. Goldfield has been called the town that built San Francisco. The current day value of the gold and silver extracted from the Goldfield area exceeds $1 billion.
In 1908 a tent city grew up around a gold find, the miners christened the spot “Lime Field”. Abandoned for several years during which a newspaper man called the location, “a place where water, supplies, and food are scarce, but Indians are not.” In 1918, new silver ore veins where discovered and the town was christened “Hornsilver”. The town was soon abandoned again and except for a brief resurgence during WWII, the site was the definition of a “Ghost Town” and would have blown away forever if not for the luck of the current residents. Sheriff Harold Stone won $250,000 in a Las Vegas casino and has spent most of the last 30 years, and all of the winnings, “plus some pocket change” preserving this unique part of history.
Tonopah Springs, later the site of one of the richest booms in the West, was an Indian campground for many years, long before Jim Butler spent a chilly night here. A number of stories exist as to how Butler discovered the ore. The most popular version is that Butler’s mule wandered away and when Butler found the ornery critter, he noticed an outcropping that appeared to be heavily laced with silver. Butler took a number of samples. The date was May 19, 1900. Tonopah today is a regional hub of commerce and the closest town to the Nevada National Security Site (formerly Nevada Test Site) and Groom Lake (Area 51).
In March of 1860, Cold Springs Pony Express Station was built by Superintendent Bolivar Roberts, J.G. Kelly and others. It was put to use by the Pony Express in early April 1860. The 1860 structure was built of large native rocks and mud. It was a large station, measuring 116 feet by 51 feet. The walls were four to six feet high and up to three feet thick. There were four distinct rooms — storage area, barn, corral, and living quarters. The horse corral was located next to the living quarters primarily as a safety measure to guard the valuable animals. This location also took full advantage of the animals’ body heat during cold Nevada winters. The only other source of heat was from one small fireplace. On Bob Haslam’s famous ride he stopped at Cold Springs to change horses and went on to Smith Creek Station. He stayed there nine hours and when he returned to Cold Springs he found it had been attacked by Indians, the keeper killed and all the horses taken away.
Berlin was a mining town that went from boom to bust in a very short span at the turn of the century from 1896 to 1908. Berlin was dead by 1911, but served as an outpost for forest rangers, a fact that lead to its well-preserved state when most other old mining towns were stripped bare by nearby settlers. Many of the buildings contain a wealth of history preserved inside, from turn of the century chemical bottles at the assay’s office, to antique trunks and alligator luggage.
Belmont is said to be the queen of Nye County’s ghost towns. It all began in October of 1865 when an Indian discovered a rich deposit of silver in the Toquima Mountains. Belmont is credited with having a population of 10,000 although 4,000 is a better estimate. The Belmont boom drained the population from many nearby towns including Ione, the county seat. It wasn’t long before Belmont became the new county seat. Construction began on a large two-story brick building that was to house the courthouse. It was completed in 1874.
Ione came into existence in November 1863 after silver was discovered by one Mr. P. A. Havens in the Shoshone Range. Ione developed as a trade and milling center. Members of the community were shortly petitioning the territorial government for the formation of a new county and in January 1864 Nye County was organized within the Nevada Territory; Ione was granted a stipend of $800.00 with which to construct the county’s first courthouse. Within three years development at Belmont had created enough excitement to lure away a great percentage of Ione’s population, and in February of 1867 the county seat was moved to Belmont.
Mud lake is a non-descript alkai flat that rest on the Western edge of the Nevada test site. Its proximity to Groom Lake (Area 51) made it a natural site as an emergency landing site for top secret military test flights. The SR-71 Blackbird used the lake bed numerous times during its development and most famously the crash of the X-15 airplane in 1962 by astronaut Pete Knight. Colonel Knight lost power at 173,000 feet and performed a “visual, seat of the pants” crash landing on Mud Lake. His unusual display of flying skill earned Colonel Knight the Distinguished Flying Cross.