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gold point

Gold Point, Nevada

Gold Point, Nevada is a well preserved ghost town in Esmeralda County, Nevada.

The area that would become Gold Point, one of Nevada's best ghost towns, was first settled by ranchers and a few miners during the 1880’s. A small camp was formed a few hundred yards west of the present day town at an outcropping of limestone that was called Lime Point. When new discoveries of gold and silver established the major mining towns of Tonapah and Goldfield, Nevada in the early 1900’s, a flood of prospectors returned to the old Lime Point mining camp. They all wanted to try their luck at finding gold and silver of their own. In 1902 silver was discovered in the area and in no time the old camp was revived and renamed Hornsilver for a particularly rich source of silver ore.

At this time, the scarcity of water in the area required that the ore be shipped to nearby Lida for milling. The only major supply town was about 250 miles north at a town called Unionville, a major mining town northeast of present day Lovelock. When the miners didn’t find silver in the abundance that they had hoped for, the costs of shipping the ore to Lida became too high-priced and within a year, the early settlement was abandoned. However, in 1905, the Great Western Mine Company began operations about a half mile southeast of Hornsilver and before long, discovered a rich silver vein which brought a stampede of miners back to the camp. In addition to the rich silver ore, gold was also mined in small quantities. By 1908, the tent homes turned into more permanent wooden structures and the camp became a town. In May, 1908 the Hornsilver Herald began publication and the following week a post office was established. Before long the residents organized a Chamber of commerce and numerous businesses sprouted up, including as many as 13 saloons. The Chamber began to actively pursue a railroad extension to Hornsilve. This sadly never happened. The nearest railroad depot was at Ralston, which was about 15 miles east of Hornsilver. As deep ore bodies were extensively developed, the town peaked at a population of around 1,000 with over 225 wood-framed buildings, tents and shacks throughout the camp. Unfortunately, the town’s original founders didn’t find the boomtown they had hoped for, as this strike also proved to be short lived. In 1909, litigation due to claim jumping brought many of the area mining properties into the courts. These many lawsuits, along with inefficient and costly milling practices halted the town’s growth just a little more than a year after it was established. Before long, most of its businesses closed and its residents again moved on.

But, Hornsilver was not yet a ghost town, as mining operations resumed again in 1915.  However, it must not have done very well as Charles Stoneham, of the New York Giants baseball team, purchased the Great Western mine in 1922 at a receiver’s sale.
In 1927, a miner by the name of J.W. Dunfee went down the mine and made an even better discovery – gold! Within a few years, more gold than silver was being mined and the town’s name was changed to Gold Point. It was after this discovery that Gold Point enjoyed its longest period of success, at a time that the rest of America was suffering from depression. However, when World War II began, mining resources were severely restricted to those mines extracting strategic metals. This resulted in gold mining efforts coming to a standstill in Gold Point And once again most of its residents drifted away or went off to war. After the war, mining resumed on a smaller scale and continued until the 1960s until a cave-in occurred from a dynamite blast at the Dunfee Shaft. More expensive to fix, than the quantity and value of ore extracted would pay, the mine was closed. Other than a few small leases and diggings, this was the last serious mining operation at Gold Point. The old camp is a living history lesson with about 50 buildings still standing, including former Senator Harry Wiley's home and the post office that now serves as a museum. The Post Office Museum is open on most weekends and for large parties. Memorial Day Weekend is the annual Chili Cook-Off with loads of prizes & drawings, food & drink, games for all ages, and live music all day and through the night. For a few days of the year, the population soars to 400, but usually its 7. Gold Point is home to the High Desert Drifters Western Historical Society and the club routinely performs western reenactment and gunfights in the plaza. Guest services are available year round, including electric hook-ups for RV's. One can take a guided tour of the town and mill site or explore on your own the remains of as many as 16 old mining camps and hundreds of mines within a short drive. Keep your eyes open for the abundant wildlife. Nearby nature sites include waterfalls and watering holes frequented by wild horses and burrows, Indian petroglyphs, fossils, petrified woods, and a breathtaking view of Death Valley National Park from Big Molly.

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