Potosi Nevada

Potosi Nevada is the oldest lode mine in Nevada and the town site is located just off highway 160 between Las Vegas and Pahrump, Nevada.  The site was started in 1856 by some Mormon prospectors who were lead to the location with the help of a Piute guide.  The Mormons found the site in April 1856 and a month latter it was named Potosi after the boyhood home of Nathaniel Jones.  They did not begin mining until August after a return trip to Utah for supplies.  

Potosi mine, south center of sec. 12, T. 23 S., R. 57 E., the mine workings explore a zone at the base of the Yellowpine limestone. Clark County, Nevada. Circa 1921. Plate 33-B in U.S. Geological Survey. Professional paper 162. 1931.
Potosi mine, south center of sec. 12, T. 23 S., R. 57 E., the mine workings explore a zone at the base of the Yellowpine limestone. Clark County, Nevada. Circa 1921. Plate 33-B in U.S. Geological Survey. Professional paper 162. 1931.

By September, the first wagon of ore sent back to Utah for trading and three months later three wagons returned with supplies including bellows, furnace, and hearths among other things.  On Christmas day 1856, an crude adobe furnace was used to smelt ore.

In the spring of 1861, a larger smelter was setup by the Colorado Mining Company at the Potosi Spring.  News of new silver mine spread all over the west in no time.  The town of Potosi was setup 700 feet below of the Potosi Mine or the Las Vegas Silver Mines as they were called and was soon home to 100 miners.

Carol Lombard was killed on a Douglas DC-3, Jan 16, 1942 on Mt Potosi
Carol Lombard was killed on a Douglas DC-3, Jan 16, 1942 on Mt Potosi

The site continued to slowly grow and develop until 1906.  In 1913 the Empire Zinc Company purchased the rights and was soon Potosi was Nevada’s largest producer of Zinc.  After nearly 100 years of production Potosi produced about 4.5 million in lead, silver and zinc.

Town Summary

NamePotosi
LocationClark County, Nevada
GNIS849366
Latitude, Longitude35.9708047, -115.5408395
Elevation5705
Population100
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Cerro Gordo California

Located in the Inyo Mountains on the eastern side of Owens Valley, Cerro Gordo California is a currently a ghost town after almost 100 years in operation from 1866 to 1957.  Several buildings still survive, including the general store, assay offices and hoist house. Cerro Gordo, spanish for “Fat Hill” is located on private land and permission to visit must should be obtained.

Cerro Gordo overlooking the then full Owens Lake.
Cerro Gordo overlooking the then full Owens Lake.

The town site is currently on the ridge of the mountain range, and accessible from either the western side in Owens Valley, or from the East from the Saline Valley Road.  Founding of the site is credited to Pablo Flores who began mining near Buena Vista Peak.  Initial development of the area was hindered by Native American activity in the area.  The establishment of Fort Indepence helped “control” this activity and the amount of activity in Cerro Gordo increased.  Early efforts were primitive with most mines being open pits or trenches and smelting was done in adobe ovens.

Mortimer Belshaw
Mortimer Belshaw

The location began to develop with the foundation of the first store at Cerro Gordo by Independence businessman Victor Beaudry.  He soon acquired several claims in exchange for payment of debt at his store and soon built two smelters.  

In 1868, Mortimer Belshaw established a partnership with another stakeholder the Union Mine.  He secured financing from Los Angeles, and built the first road, a toll road known as the “Yellow Road”, which gave him a lot of control over shipments coming down the mountain.

Cerro Gordo was famously a rough and tumble town and claims that a murder a week was commonplace. Water is not available at the townsite and several attempts were made from bring the life sustaining liquid to the town. For a time, water was piped in from several springs many miles away. The springs dried up when the Owens Lake was drained by Los Angeles in the 1920’s. Water was brought up by burro and for a time it was pumped up from 600 feet down the Union Mine. The ore was delivered down hill to Keeler utilizing an aerial tramway. From Keeler, the ore was transported some 275 miles to the small port city of Los Angeles.

The townsite was place for sale and the ghost town was sold for $1.4 million dollars along with some 360 acres surrounding and 22 structures remaining. The development group which features Brent Underwood is hoping to turn the town into a destination of sorts. While undergoing renovations, the American Hotel burnt down on June 15th, 2020 along with the ice house and a nearby residence. Brent Underwood is currently living full time in the town and uploads videos about once per week on a YouTube channel.

It is clear from his videos that Mr. Underwood has a passion for the area, the town, the history and some point, I would love to pay him a visit.

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Bullfrog Nevada

Located at the northern end of Amargosa Desert, Bullfrog is a ghost town in Nye County, Nevada. The Bullfrog mine was discovered on  August 9, 1904 by Frank “Shorty” Harris and Eddie Cross. This discovery lead to many new townsites being platted out in the following seven months. It is said that Ed sold his interest in the claim for $125,000. Shorty Harris claimed to have discovered that he sold him claim during a 6 day celebration. Claims where made for miles surrounding the original mines.

Main Street in Bullfrog Nevada - 1905
Main Street in Bullfrog Nevada – 1905
Frank "Shorty" Harris
Frank “Shorty” Harris

The name Bullfrog was chosen either because Eddie Cross was fond of singing ‘O, the bulldog on the bank and the bullfrog in the pool…’ or due to the ore rich gold ore sample was green and frog-shaped.

Regardless, Bullfrog was the towns name and quickly grew to a population of 1,000. The town supported post offices, newspapers, telephones, hotels, saloons and all of the common businesses which appeared in these dusty destinations in the desert. Advertisements from Los Angeles promoted the town as a new metropolis in Nevada and “The Greatest Gold Camp in the World”.

The formation of the town of Rhyolite led to a brief and wild race for commercial viability and supremacy. By 1906, Rhyolite succeeded and businesses in Bullfrog either closed or moved up to Rhyolite on wagons. Despite this blow, Bullfrog continued on for another three years before its inevitable collapse in 1909.

Bullfrog (eights months old) has post office, express, telegraph and telephone facilities, a $20,000 hotel, a $50,000 water system, a thoroughly equipped pavilion, one of the best equipped banks in the state, an electric light plant in process of construction, a newspaper, population of 1,000

1905 Advertisement – The Los Angeles-Bullfrog Realty & Investment Co.

Today, the town site has little to show of its past. Again, it is superseded to its neighbor up the valley. A small cemetery still exists to mark the lives of those who lived and died there.

Town Summary

NameBullfrog Nevada
LocationNye County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude36.890278, -116.833611
Elevation3,580 Feet
Population1,000
Post Office1905 – 1909
NewspaperBullfrog Miner
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Pioneer Nevada

Beginning as a mining camp near the Mayflower, Pioneer Nevada is an old mining camp and ghost town in Nye County, Nevada. The Pioneer gold mine was first discovered in 1907 as part of the Bull Frog Mining District. The camp was formed between two of the mines in the area, the Pioneer and the Mayflower. A daily stagecoach began between Pioneer and the mining town of Springdale, about 2 miles to the northeast along the Bullfrog Goldfield Railroad

The Camp of Pioneer in July 1910 is partially rebuilt after the fire in 1909
The Camp of Pioneer in July 1910 is partially rebuilt after the fire in 1909

Initially, like many other boom towns, early optimism of rich surface deposits fueled speculation and rapid growth for the down. The fledgling town was laid out and businesses from Rhyolite and nearby Beatty opened up in the small town of Pioneer. By 1909 some 1000 people called the town home, for now. The town was referenced by the Las Vegas Age, which called Pioneer the liveliest place in the state.

The town was organized into two sections known as the upper and lower towns. The serve the population business included hotels, a theater, boarding houses, shoe stores, restaurants, a a cigar store and saloons. The Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad promoted passenger service between Rhyolite and Pioneer. Passengers could step off a train in Rhyloite and quickly into a waiting automobile to drive them to Pioneer. The Las Vegas and Tonopah and the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroads were projecting branch lines up the the town.

Like many boomtowns, the wood construction of the buildings where dried in the desert environment. The town suffered a debilitating fire in May 1909, which destroyed the majority of the business and buildings. The dry buildings were engulfed by flames fueled by a prevailing wind.

The Ten-Stamp Mill in Pioneer Nevada
The Ten-Stamp Mill in Pioneer Nevada

After the fire, the town was rebuilt however it was never quite the same as before. In 1913 a ten stamp mill was constructed and operated from about three years before being shutdown. In 1914 a partial collapse of the Pioneer mine further hampered gold production. The mines continued to operated until 1931.

Town Summary

Town SummaryPioneer Nevada
LocationNye County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude37.005278, -116.783889
Elevation4220ft
Population2500
Post OfficeMarch 1909 –
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Jessup Nevada

Jessup Nevada is a ghost town and gold mining camp located in Churchill County, Nevada. The site was first discovered in February 1908 by Frank Jessup & L. H. Murray.  The town is located about 4 miles northwest of the I-80 and even has an offramp used to access the town site. The mineralization was believed to be an extension of the mineralization from Seven Troughs in Pershing County.

Early days in Jessup, 1908 - Unknown photographer - Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps, Howell North, (1970), p 112, Mrs. R.R. Purdy collection
Early days in Jessup, 1908 – Unknown photographer – Stanley W. Paher, Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps, Howell North, (1970), p 112, Mrs. R.R. Purdy collection

Initially, rich gold ore valued at $100 per ton was hauled from the site using automobiles. When the tents started to from the city, the district is described as “forging ahead” by nearby newspapers. The town supported its 300 citizens from eight active mines. The small town supported three grocery stores, two lumbers, seven saloons and a meat market. For those who do not want to do the math, that is one saloon for every 43 citizens. In April, 1908 the Reno Evening Gazette reported lumbered being shipped to the mine camp by the carload and that the mining tents were being replaced with wooden structures. The completion of the Hotel and other larger structures was slowed by wood shortages.

During its heyday, people could reach the town by travelling by train to Huxley and then jumping on the daily stage service. A new road was petitioned to the county to connect to nearby Miriam. This new route would allow heavy freight to be shipped from the railroad without crossing the muddy, rough crossing salt flats.

One year after its start, Jessup was on the declined after the initial boom faltered in the fall of 1909. Investment continued into the mines and the area, however it was clear the time of Jessup was past.

Town Summary

NameJessup Nevada
LocationChurchill County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.948611, -118.875
Elevation4550 Feet
Population300
Post OfficeMarch 1908 – July 1912
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