Esmeralda County, NEVADA
Gold Point is one of the best little ghost towns and living history museums in Nevada and is a must-see. It sits at the southern end of State Highway (SH) 774, 7.4 miles south of SH 266 at a point 7.3 miles west of the junction of SH 266/US 95, which is 15 miles south of Goldfield and about the same north of Scotty’s Junction, midway between Reno and Las Vegas.
This old mining town began life as a silver mining camp established in 1868. Many of the nearby mining camps (like Palmetto) proved to be ephemeral, and Lime Point was no exception. This little “flash-in-the-pan” produced a cluster of tents, shallow workings that soon dried up and was soon abandoned when other mines out yonder called.
The silver prospects at Lime Point may have been abandoned, but they were not forgotten. In 1880, prospectors revisited the abandoned workings and dug out more silver. The ore shipments attracted attention and a few folks re-established the little mining camp. It was isolated, had few amenities and off-and-on discoveries nearby kept it chugging along through the tail end of the 19th Century.
Right after the turn of the century, prospectors and complacent “beans-and-bacon” miners got a kick in the shorts. Sixty five miles to the north, a massive silver strike awakened Nevada’s generally moribund mining industry. Tonopah suddenly became THE place to be, and with a major discovery at Goldfield (30 miles to the north) in 1902 and another huge gold strike at Rhyolite in 1904, western Nevada came alive.
All around Lime Point, exploratory shafts were driven into the desiccated hills. Just east of camp, the Great Western Mine, a little mine with a grandiose name, showed some promise. At the surface, ore values ran $6-8.00/ton, increased with depth. During the summer of 1907, the owners shipped some of the richer ore, and even after milling and transportation costs were deducted, the net profit was over $40.00 per ton. They shipped an additional 20 tons of ore in September, netting a cool $1000. Lots more ore was visible, but the isolation of the mine, lack of water and high transportation costs hurt. Even so, the profits made it worthwhile, and some of the ore had values as high as $113.92/ton. (Remember this was in the days of 54 cents/ounce silver!)
In March 1908 a proper town called Hornsilver was laid out on the flats just to the north of the mine. On April 12th, two saloons opened and Hornsilver was in business. Seven days later, the town had 18 tents and two frame buildings. The boom was on.
Also on the skirts of the Tonopah/Goldfield/Rhyolite booms, additional boomlets occurred at the nearby off-and-on mining camps of Lida (original 1872, second 1906) and Palmetto (original 1866, 2nd 1888-1894, and 3rd one 1905-1907). Once Hornsilver opened up, those two other camps quickly drained. Both camps were nearly abandoned, so enterprising individuals quickly stripped the camps of any usable tents, buildings and building material. It was all loaded onto wagons and hauled to Hornsilver where the wagons were stripped of their goods faster than the owners could offload!
By the end of April, Hornsilver had two automobile stage lines, a barber shop, feed yard, livery stable, four lodging houses, four restaurants, six saloons, a stage station, three stores and had promises of a railroad line, as well as telephone and water systems. The post office opened on May 16, with G. Ernest Shannon serving as the first postmaster. A month later, Hornsilver was a true boomtown. It had around 250 tents and frame buildings housing the Union Bakery, six real estate brokers, three drug stores, four grocers, a pair of hotels, eight merchants, the Hornsilver Herald newspaper, seven saloons, a telephone exchange and at least six restaurants.
In July Hornsilver peaked with a population in the 800 to 1000 range. After three months of frenzied activity, the boom busted. People left as fast as they arrived, and by November the population dropped to about 100. Shortly after the first of the year, the Hornsilver Herald newspaper followed the other 90% of the population – elsewhere.
A small handful of residents remained, but unlike many other busted mining towns, Hornsilver did not disappear. The mines still produced, although on a much reduced scale. Enough folks remained behind to keep the post office and a couple businesses open. In the 1910 census, the official population was 50, and the post office, two stores and a hotel were also counted. Through the 1910s, the mines continued to produce and population increased slightly. Enough so, that a school was built in 1917.
By the early 1930s, most of the remaining mines were producing more gold than silver, and the population had slowly increased enough that there was a move made to change the name of the town to something more appropriate, so on October 15, 1932, the post office and town were officially renamed Gold Point.
Through the Great Depression, Gold Point did opposite what most towns did – it actually grew. By 1940, about 200 people lived here. The future was looking bright until 1942, when the mines were forced to close. The town busted. Once the war ended, there was a serious attempt to reopen the mines, but four or five years of inactivity and higher costs took a major toll. The mines remained closed and in 1950 Gold Point was a has-been with only 23 people. Even so, the post office remained open.
Through the 1950s and into the 1960s, articles about Gold Point popped up in magazines and vignettes padded the pages of ghost town books. A new boom began and the few remaining residents catered to the growing hoards of the curious ghost town chasers. They kept a sharp eye on the town to prevent it from disappearing piece by piece. Even with the renewed activity, the post office shuttered its doors on January 12, 1968. Despite its closing, electricity and a paved road brought Gold Point into the modern age. In 1973, the 1917 school burned, but enough buildings remained along with the loyal residents and Gold Point stabilized. A few new folks also arrived.
Gold Point has its remembered past. It has a stable present. It also has a bright future.
The town is privately owned and the population is barely two dozen. However, most of the buildings have been stabilized or restored and the town’s friendly and gregarious owners welcome visitors, regaling them with stories of the past. Life goes on, and the positive aura projected across the dry breeze here keep people coming, AND returning.
Gold Point is truly one of those tough little survivors that will not disappoint.
· Sec 6, T7S, R42E, Mount Diablo Meridian & Base Line
· Latitude: 37.3546528 / 37° 21’ 17” N
· Longitude: -117.3650767 / 117° 21’ 54” W
This was our Ghost Town of the Month for June/July 2014
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FIRST POSTED: June 02, 2014
LAST UPDATED: July 29, 2014
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