In the 1800s Pioche had a reputation as being a rough town. In fact it was reported that six dozen people died of unnatural causes before a citizen died of old age. Oftentimes, arguments were settled by shooting or stabbing one another. Boothill cemetery is the final resting place for many of these unfortunate soles. The name "boothill" came from the fact that many of the deceased were entombed with their boots on. The town of Pioche rededicated the cemetery in 2009 after doing some significant restoration. I included in this blog many of the more interesting headstones in the cemetery. (Information from the Lincoln County Museum pamphlet).
One of the best preserved mining relic in Pioche is the aerial tram. The tram transported ore from the mines on Treasure Hill to Godbe mill in the valley for processing. The tram started operations in 1920 and ended 10 years later in 1930. The tram was mainly gravity powered with the aid of a five horsepower motor.
Structure on the tram route
Tram history sign with Pioche in background
The top of the tram where ore was loaded into the buckets
The last two days of Thanksgiving weekend I took a trip to visit the pictureque mining community of Pioche, Nevada, in Lincoln County. It is located 220 miles south of West Wendover, Nevada, and 107 miles south of Ely. Pioche was one of Southern Nevada's most productive silver and lead producers. It also had a reputation as a lawless community with numerous gunfights and stabbings.
History: The boom began in 1863 when Paiutes showed ore they called "panacre" to Mormon missionaries. Serious developement would not begin until 1868 when Pioche bought claims and built a smelter in the valley. In its early years silver ore was transported to mills by wagons increasing prices. In its early years Pioche also had a reputation for crime. Law enforcement was ineffective and most people were not punished for their crime. Despite the violence, a large fire in 1870, and the transportation costs the boom town thrived with seven dozen saloons, red light district, schools, courthouse, restaurants, and market.
The legend of violence grew. It was reported that six dozen men died of violent deaths before anyone died of natural causes. The town created a large boothill cemetery for the dead. Gunmen walked the streets. Fights would break out with little to no provacation.
Production peaked in 1872 and finally a railroad (the Pioche and Bullionville) was built; however, within a couple years a number of factors caused the mines to close. Litigation and higher prices slowed the mines. Flash floods in 1873 and 1874 and a large fire in 1876 gutted large parts of the business district causing many citizens to leave.
The town received a second revival in 1937 when the mines reopened and produced lead-zinc for two decades. Today there are a number of mines operating near Castleton to the west however, there is very little mining activity in the city of Pioche. The town has a large number of historic buildings and a very good museum downtown. (Information from the Lincoln County Museum).
After visiting the historic town of Pioche, I drove south to Cathedral Gorge State Park where I spent the night. During the day the temperature was warm (in the high 50s); however at night the temperature dropped into the high teens making for a cold night in the campground. I woke early the next day to hike the four mile loop trail starting from the campground and photograph the scenery. Needless to say Cathedral Gorge is stunning and a great place to visit.
More information about the park:
Geology: Over 1 million years ago during the Pliocene this area was covered by a large freshwater lake. The lake drained exposing sediment and clay. Over decades rainwater and snow have eroded the lake bed creating fissures and canyons.
Ecology: Desert plants and animals thrive in the park. Common plants include yucca, juniper, saltbrush, sagebrush and rabbitbrush. Common animals include jackrabbits, cottontails, coyotes, kangaroo rats, foxes and deer.
Trails: The longest trail is four miles.
Camping: The campground cost $17 per night and is on a first come first serve basis. Remember during the winter it can get cold at night.
Early morning sunlight in the desert
Old water tower built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps)
Directions: The town of Eureka, Utah, is located approximately 60 miles south of Tooele, Utah, off of UT 36.
History: Tintic Mining District- Began with the discovery of silver ore in the East Tintic Mountains by George Rush in 1868. A year later mines had sprung up all over the mountains. With the arrival of more and more people communities such as Eureka, Mammoth and Dividend were built. The district was relatively small- six miles long and two miles wide. The district mined gold, lead, zinc and copper ore well into the late 1950s. Up until 1914 the Tintic mines had produced over $143,215,800 worth of metal. Unlike other mining districts in the west, this district produced for decades. In November of 2011, I saw evidence of mines operating near Silver City and on the eastern side of the Tintic Mountains. (information from Elements Unearthed and http://www.tinticgoldsminersin.com/)
History of the town of Eureka: The boom town of Eureka would be known for its longevity. Mining operations started in 1870 and continued until 1957. The mines produced many metals including silver, copper, lead and gold. Today, the town is considered an EPA Superfund site. Recently, eighteen inches of soil has been removed because of the presence of lead.
The boom began with the discovery of silver ore above Eureka in 1870. Within a year a few buildings were built. Residents flooded in when John Beck discovered rich silver ore in the gulch directly outside the town. This mine- the Bullion-Beck- would be one of the richest producers in the region. From the beginning the town was known for its chaotic nature with streets everywhere and houses right next to mines and mills.
From its beginning Eureka had its share of heartache. In its early years typhoid and small pox killed many residents. A flash flood in 1890 wiped out many local businesses. In 1893 a fire burned over twenty buildings in town. As a result of the fire, residents built newer buildings out of stone. Even with the setbacks the town prospered.
At its climax the town was one of the quietest boom towns in the west. Gunfights were nonexistent because of an active police force. Eureka had department stores, theaters, hotels, schools and churches. Andrew Carnegie financed a large library which contained over 12,000 books and many mgagazines. Three newspapers also printed in town including the Eureka Chief and Eureka Response. Two railroads the D&RGW and the Union Pacific competed to transport ore from the mines.
Starting in 1930 the mines gradually closed due to a lack of water, high costs and lower metal prices. In 1957 the last mine closed down. Today, because of the high cost of metals mining activity has increased in the region; however, the town of Eureka is a shadow of its former self. (Information from: Utah Ghost Towns by Stephen Carr)
Company stores were important in many mining towns
The Silver Club in town Falling down building
Another interesting building Downtown Eureka today
While touring America's boom towns, I learn alot by walking around cemeteries. For example, you really see the role that immigration played in not only the mining history 0f America but also the creation of America itself. Second, diseases such as Typhoid killed large numbers of people. Last, many young children did not live past two years old. The Eureka Cemetery is huge, a monument to the hardships in a western boomtown.
A child who didn't live past one year
Spanish speaking immigrant
Cemetery with surrounding countryside Jose Arellano
Directions: Mammoth is located two miles off of Utah 36 on a paved road. It is located approximately eight miles from the town of Eureka.
History: Mammoth began in 1873 with the discovery of a rich ore vein containing gold, silver, copper and bismuth by the Samuel and William McIntyre brothers. Within a couple of years a number of mines were producing including the Ajax, Black Jack and Mammoth. Prospectors rushed in and a town sprang up near the mines. From the beginning water was a problem and residents paid high prices for drinking water.
In 1890 two mills- the Mammoth near the townsite and the Sioux down the the canyon- were built by a man named Robinson. Wanting to garner as many prophets as possible, Robinson created a town in his name. The railroad was built into Robinson but not Mammoth angering the McIntyre brothers. As a result, they ran him out of town. From then on Mammoth would have an upper and lower town.
Business and mining activity was greatest in the early 1900s. Uppertown (Mammoth) would be the residential area while businesses were located in Robinson (lowertown). Robinson had a wide diversity of businesses including a general store, meat markets, a dry good store, stable, billiard hall, bookstore and four large hotels. One of the hotels would be remodeled as the Tintic Hospital. Just like most boomtowns Mammoth had a newspaper called the Mammoth Record.
In the early 1900s the mines in town were making an extraordinary amount of money which caused dissatisfaction with many of the miners. It was necessary to load the ore under armed guard because of the high price of the shipments. In fact one carload in 1907 carried over $107,000 worth of ore. The mines profits were well over $20 million. Miners disatisfied with their pay began "high grading" the ore- or pocketing high value ore when they left the mines. This led to a certain amount of organized crime in town.
The boom in Mammoth faded because of lower ore volumes and higher production costs. Today, the town has a number of old buildings and many relics from its past. It is a must stop for anyone interested in the history of the western United States. (Information from Utah Ghost Towns by Stephen Carr).