Mining Stories of Boom & Bust
In 1900, so the story goes, Jim Butler's straying mule broke off a silver-rich rock from a ledge, thus starting Nevada's second great mining boom. Butler named the new camp Tonopah, and by the spring of 1901 it was the center of a major mining rush, bringing in miners and merchants by the hundreds.
At the end of 1901, Tonopah had 32 saloons, 6 gambling houses, 2 dance houses, 2 weekly newspapers, a public school, 2 daily stage lines and 2 churches. Production in Tonopah remained steady, with a high in 1914 of $9,042,471 and in 1918 of $9,311,560. However, by 1930 silver production reached an all-time low of $162,841, and Tonopah gradually declined. Tonopah today is the county seat of Nye County, and exists as a supply center for surrounding livestock and mining interests in addition to nearby federal installations.
The first claims at Goldfield were staked by Billy Marsh and Harry Stimler late in 1902 on Columbia Mountain, 30 miles due south of Tonopah.
By early in 1903 a tent camp had formed on the claim, and in October 1903 the Goldfield Townsite Company platted the new town about halfway between the mines at Columbia Mountain and Malpai mesa to the west. Goldfield experienced a very rapid growth, by 1906 more than 150 buildings were going up monthly, and the town had a population of over 15,000.
Despite a miners strike and a nation-wide financial panic in 1907, Goldfield continued to produce gold ore, and by 1908 Goldfield was Nevada's largest city with a population of more than 20,000 people. The mines continued to do well until a peak of production of $11 million was attained in 1910 .
In 1913 heavy rains resulted in flashfloods sweeping through Goldfield, and in 1923 a fire wiped out 53 square blocks of the city. These events combined with low metal prices resulted in mine closures and the gradual demise of the once great city. Goldfield today has a population of about 200 people, and exists mainly to serve as county seat for Esmeralda County.
The third major mineral strike was made 70 miles south of Goldfield, just a few miles east of Death Valley, in 1903. The district was named Bullfrog because the green coloring of the ore was reminiscent of the color of a bullfrog. Rhyolite, the main town of the Bullfrog district, is today one of the Nevada's best examples of a ghost town, having passed from boom to bust in just eleven years.