Pony Express Trail (1860 – Sesquicentennial – 2010)

The Pony Express Trail (1860 – Sesquicentennial – 2010) is Nevada State Historic Marker #271 is located in Churchill County, Nevada. From Fallon drive head east on US 50 for 15 miles to Salt Wells Road. Turn south onto Salt Wells Road and travel for eight miles. This marker is the last historic marker approved by the the state of Nevada.

Pony express route April 3, 1860 - October 24, 1861 - Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942.
Pony express route April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861 – Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942.

A Brief History

The Pony Express started to fill a need caused by the growing populations of California. After the discovery of Gold in 1848, thousands streaked to the golden state to seek their fortune in the ground. Additional demand for mail service was caused from migration along the infamous Oregon Trail and the Utah Mormon exodus in 1847. Stage Service was used to transfer correspondence across the Western United States.

The service was built and organized by three men, William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell. These men formed the company Russell, Majors & Waddell and in just two months in the winter of 1860 organized 184 stations, 80 riders and 400 hundred horse to race mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Some of the stations were existing stage stops while others were purpose built humble buildings deep in the Nevada territory. They hoped with a 10 day delivery time they could secure government contracts. The costs of the expedited service was 25000% greater that the slower stage service and a 1/2 package would cost $5 at the time.

Marker Text

One hundred and fifty years ago, the Pony Express was founded by W. H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William B. Waddell, operators of the Overland Stage Line of Leavenworth, Kansas. During a visit to Washington, Mr. Russell was urged by California Senator William Gwin to expand the Overland Stage operation to facilitate faster mail service. Mr. Russell’s partners hesitated due to the projected high costs; he persevered and the first ride began on April 3, 1860.

Overland stagecoach stations were located every 10-12 miles as far as Salt Lake City. Eighty skilled and experienced riders, 400 horses and approximately one hundred-eighty-four stations were located in Nevada from Utah (Deep Creek) to the California border (Genoa). The swift riders carried the mail 2,000 miles in 10 days from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The “Pony” improved nationwide communication, western expansion and was credited with California’s continued participation in the Union at the beginning of the Civil War.

A high price was paid for the improved communication, including the cost to post a letter and the trials of the employees during the ride. The cost of mailing a letter as advertised was not economical, “letters less than 1/4 oz cost $2.50; over 1/4 oz, not to exceed 1/2 oz cost $5.00 and so on.” The riders, station masters and division agents faced hostile environments including poor housing, extreme heat and cold, poor access to potable water, food and dangers due to the conflicts between the Tribes and the new comers to the west.

On October 24, 1861, the telegraph was born and the last ride was completed. What had taken ten days could be achieved in ten seconds thus ending the Pony Express but the memory of the riders and the route live on.

STATE OF NEVADA HISTORICAL MARKER No. 271

Nevada State Historic Marker Summary

NamePony Express Trail (1860 – Sesquicentennial – 2010)
LocationChurchill County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.287541, -118.571526
Nevada State Historic Marker Number271

References

Schwab California

Schwab is a gold mining camp and ghost town located in Echo-Lee Mining District of Death Valley National Park in California. The little townsite of Schwab was a short-lived mining camp run by three ambitious women: Gertrude Fesler, Mrs. F.W. Dunn, and Helen H. Black.

Schwab, California - “In the afternoon the townsite company drinks tea,” Death Valley Chuck-Walla magazine, Vol 2. No. 1, June 1907
Schwab, California – “In the afternoon the townsite company drinks tea,” Death Valley Chuck-Walla magazine, Vol 2. No. 1, June 1907

in December of 1906, as the Echo-Lee District is beginning its real boom stage. A new townsite is platted to serve the many mines in the area. The townsite was named Schwab, after the well-known steel and mining magnate, who helo interests in the Echo-Lee District. The townsite was promoted by the Schwab Townsite Company, which was incorporated in Nevada on December 31st, 1906. Thoe project is financed by S. H. Black, J. C. Houtz and J. E. Cram and $30,000 got the town up and running. The town being fully paid in advance by the three principles, made Schwab a closed corporation.

Ads in the Bll Frog Miner and the Rhyolite Herald and attempted to raise interest in the town. The owners claimed to have made arrangements for the town for the completion of a restaurant, a lodging house, a mercantile store, an assay house and a saloon. They also stated that roads were being built and stage service would be establised.

Gertrude Fesler was a young stockbroker out of Chicago who moved to Rhyolite and ended up purchasing a one-third interest in Schwab, located in the Funeral Range. After meeting her business partners, Fesler soon bonded with their wives and it wasn’t long before Mr. F.W. Dunn put his wife in charge and Helen Black purchased her husband’s share in Schwab!

Schwab was a popular town for local gold prospectors in early 1907, but the town did not survive the Financial Panic of 1907. Little remains of the town today besides one fuzzy black and white image from the Death Valley Chuck-Walla magazine, showing the three women and one unidentified person sitting at a tent, and small historic artifacts such as broken glass.

The town of Schwab is situated just below the Inyo and Skibo camps at the junction of the wagon roads leading up the east arm of Echo canyon and to Death Valley on the south. In other words, Schwab is located in the north or upper branch of Echo Canyon, astride the main Echo-Lee wagon road, across a small ridge from the present Inyo ruins, and about 1-1/2 miles from those ruins. At this location, evidence of the old townsite may be found.

The remains consist of seven leveled tent sites, some with ow and crude stone retaining walls remaining. More tent sites were once present, but have been erased by high water in the adjacent wash during Death Valley’s infrequent but violent flash floods. Two of the tent sites have eroded cellars behind them, about ten feet square and five feet deep. Since an immense pile of broken 1900 to 1910-dated beer bottles is located directly behind one of these tent-cellar sites, it is safe to say that this was the tent saloon, where once twenty-nine men were counted drinking at one time. The townsite covers several hundred feet along the-shallow wash which marks the northern branch of Echo Canyon, and remains are mostly restricted to the west side of that wash On the east side, however, is another tent location, and a shallow, unmarked grave, a lonely monument to one prospector who ended his days during the brief life of Schwab. About 300 yards to the west of the townsite is a crude derrick, the remains of Schwab’s well. The well site is dry and completely filled in, but numerous five gallon cans are scattered along the trail from the well to the townsite.

Rhyolite Herald of 22 February 1907.

Town Summary

NameSchwab, California
LocationDeath Valley National Park, California
Latitude, Longitude36.50556, -116.72361
Elevation3,340 feet
Population200
Post Office

Schwab Map

References

Sutro Nevada

Located at 4,478 feet, Sutro Nevada is a ghost town located in Lyon County Nevada built to support construction of the Sutro Tunnel.

The town of Sutro Nevada, taken in 1874
The town of Sutro Nevada, taken in 1874

The story of Nevada can not be told without the Comstock Load. The Comstock Load was a massive silver mine located under the eastern slope of Mount Davidson, near Virginia City, Nevada. The strike is made public in 1859 and lead to the largest rush into Nevada since the California Gold Rush of 1849.

Miners following the silver ore tunneled deeper and deeper into the mountain. Natural springs frequently flooded the tunnels and many miners escaped with their lives after tapping into a large underground reservoir of water. The deeper the miners tunnelled, the more expensive to remove the scalding hot water from their tunnels.

Adolph Heinrich Joseph Sutro (1830–1898) was the 24th mayor of San Francisco, California, serving in that office from 1894 until 1896 - Photographer Mathew Benjamin Brady
Adolph Heinrich Joseph Sutro (1830–1898) was the 24th mayor of San Francisco, California, serving in that office from 1894 until 1896 – Photographer Mathew Benjamin Brady

Adolph Heinrich Joseph Sutro proposed a solution to the water problem. His proposal was to build a drainage tunnel from the deepest part of the Comstock Lode.

The Sutro Tunnel

In 1865, Sutro’s tunnel gained traction and had gained approval from the federal and state governments. The Sutro Tunnel Company is formed and started selling stock certificates to raise funds. Construction began in 1869 and connected to the Savage Mine on July 8th, 1878. On June 30th, 1879, the tunnel is connect of all of the mines and the first water is released. The tunnel was 3.88 miles in length and runs from Dayton to Virginia City.

Town Summary

NameSutro Nevada
LocationLyon County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.28, -119.584167
GNIS856145
Elevation4,478 ft (1,365 m)
Population600 – 800
Post OfficeMarch 1872 – October 1920
NewspaperSutro Independent Sept 25, 1875 – Nov 22, 1880

Sutro Map

References

Sutro Tunnel

The Sutro Tunnel was a drainage adit into the Comstock Load, which is located in Lyon County, Nevada.

The entrance to the Sutro Tunnel in the late 1800s. Suntro, Lyon County, Nevada.
The entrance to the Sutro Tunnel in the late 1800s. Suntro, Lyon County, Nevada.

Following Silver discovers and in the Comstock Load, a rush of people came into Nevada. The Comstock load is hindered by water flooding the tunnels at depth.

In 1865, Sutro’s tunnel gained traction and had gained approval from the federal and state governments. The Sutro Tunnel Company is formed and started selling stock certificates to raise funds. Construction began in 1869 and connected to the Savage Mine on July 8th, 1878. On June 30th, 1879, the tunnel is connect of all of the mines and the first water is released. The tunnel was 3.88 miles in length and runs from Dayton to Virginia City.

Sutro was a town, a tunnel and a man. The orderly town was headquarters for the Sutro drainage tunnel. Adolph Sutro, German born, came to the Comstock in 1860. He advocated a drainage tunnel, visualizing development of the Comstock resource by a system long used to drain and explore mineral deposits.

By 1865, his vision gained approval of state and federal legislation. However, the mining interests, having at first supported the tunnel, became strongly opposed.

When construction began in 1869, it was first financed by the mine workers, since the tunnel would improve mine safety. Later, the funding came from international bankers.

The main tunnel broke through in 1878. Lateral tunnels were extended and the project drained, ventilated and serviced the Comstock as planned. When the tunnel was proven, Adolph Sutro sold his interest in the tunnel company and returned to San Francisco. A “magnificent hole in the ground” remains.

Nevada State Historic Marker Summary

NameSutro Tunnel
LocationLyon County, Nevada
Nevada State Historic Marker85
Latitude, Longitude39.2744, -119.5645

References

Stokes Castle

Stokes Castle is a point of interest and Nevada Start Historic Marker number fifty nine located in Lander County, Nevada. The granite rock tower is located on a hillside just outside of Austin, Nevada.

Stokes Castle is a three-story stone tower named for Anson Phelps Stokes who was a banker, investor and railroad man who built the tower as a summer home. The design of his summer home is inspired painting which pictures a tower in Roman Campagna, Italy.

Construction is started in 1896 and completed the following year. The hand-hewn granite stones were lifted into place using a hand winch and secured with a rock and clay mortar. The first floor of the tower consisted of a dining room and kitchen. The living room was located on the second floor, while the third floor houses two bedrooms. Each floor benefitted from a fireplace and the second and third floors boasted balconies along with plate glass windows to accentuate the view of the valley below..

Despite the money and time investment, the Stokes family only occupied the granite towerN for a few short weeks. Stokes sold his interest is some of the local mining operations, and moved further west. After which the structure fell into disrepair.

Today, Stokes Castle is a privately owned property and recognized as Nevada State Historic Landmark. The structure is surrounded by a chain link fence to prevent unauthorized access.

Nevada State Historic Marker #59

Anson Phelps Stokes, mine developer, railroad magnate and member of a prominent eastern family, built Stokes Castle as a summer home for his sons.  After the castle (or the tower, as the

Stokes family always referred to it) was completed in June 1897, the Stokes family used it for two months.  Since then, with one possible exception, the structure has remained unoccupied.

Stokes Castle is made of huge, granite stones, raised with a hand winch and held in position by rock wedging and clay mortar.  The architectural model for the castle was a medieval tower Anson Stokes had seen and admired near Rome.  This building originally had three floors, each with a fireplace, plate glass windows, balconies on the second and third floors, and a battlemented terrace on the roof.  It had plumbing and sumptuous furnishings.

Stokes Castle has served for decades as an iconic Nevada building often photographed by enthusiasts of Western history.

STATE HISTORICAL MARKER NO.59
STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICE
AUSTIN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Marker Summary

NameStokes Castle
LocationLander County, Nevada
Nevada State Historic Mark59
Latitude, Longitude39.4936, -117.07986

Nevada State Historic Marker Map

References