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- TONOPAH (NEVADA) Part 1 -

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TONOPAH

In 1900, legend has it, Jim Butler was camping at Tonopah Springs when his mule wandered off. Jim chased after it and picked up a piece of rock to throw at it.
Thinking that the rock looked rather unusual he held on to it and on his return home to Belmont told of his find to a young lawyer, Tasker Oddie, who in turn had a chemistry teacher friend arrange for the specimen to be analysed. The sample contained silver and the ore turned out to be worth over $200 a ton! (Whatever happened to the mule?!)aButler1.jpg - 19605 Bytes

Jim was persuaded by his wife, Belle, to return to the site. Having filed eight mining claims he excavated a quantity of ore which he then transported to Salt Lake City in Utah for smelting. The proceeds ($500) were used to purchase equipment for future development of a silver and gold mine site.

A small town-ship named Butler sprang up in the vicinity and by mid 1901 the population of the town was over 200 with the residents living in shacks or tents. A stage coach service and a post office were established in 1901. By the end of 1902 the population stood at over 3000 and facilities included several churches, a school, saloons, two newspapers and various other businesses. Wyatt Erp lived in the town at that time and ran one of the saloons as well as occasionally assisting the local lawmen.

A sixty-mile-long railway was built in 1903 to join a branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad at Sodavill in order to accommodate the large volume gold and silver of ore required to be transported for smelting. In 1905 the name of the town (Butler) was changed to Tonopah.

The Butlers had already sold their interests in the properties to a financier, who formed the Tonopah Mining Co. The lawyer,Tasker Oddie, later formed the Tonopah Belmont Development Company.

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The two companies were instrumental in bringing Tonopah to public notice during 1902. Other companies moved into the district during the following years.

The mine workings at Tonopah comprised three vertical shafts and about 50 miles of lateral workings. The deepest shaft was 1,500 feet. They maintained a high gold and silver production record until the Great Depression of the 1920's and 30's.
By World War II, only four major mining companies were operating. At the end of the war, even these companiesceased to operate in Tonopah and the era came to an end in 1947 with the demise of the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad.

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View over Tonopah (above) towards the one hundred acre Tonopah Historic Mining Park which features old headframes (one visible in the picture), several hoist houses and mining equipment.

Tonopah - Page 2
Tonopah - Page 3
Tonopah - Page 4