Belmont Nevada

Following a silver strike and quatz vein by a Native American in the area, Belmont Nevada was founded in Nye County, Nevada. The silver boom along with other minerals including copper, lead and antimony brought in the settles and the town of Belmont was growing in 1867.

Belmont in 1871
Belmont in 1871

Located at 8000 feet in the Toquima range, the small town was the center of the Philidelphia Mining District. In 1867, the small town became the county seat for Nye County when this honor was transferred from Ione, which was in decline at this time. The settlement boasted two saloons, four stores, post office, livery, bank, assay office school and all of the assorted business to support the mining activities. A court house was built in the county seat in 1875 by the county commission, which still stands today.

Like many small mining towns, the prosperity of Belmont the ebbed and flowed with the price of metals. The town boomed in 1866/67 and between the years of 1883 and 1885. The estimated population of the town ranged between 4,000 and 15,000.

In 1887, meager mineral production caused to town to wain and soon the sole purpose of Belmont was to provide government service. This sole source of industry was removed in 1905 when the county seat was relocated to nearby Tonopah, Nevada.

CANFIELD'S MILL, BELMONT, NEVADA - NARA - 524117
CANFIELD’S MILL, BELMONT, NEVADA – NARA – 524117

Belmont Nevada Map

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Belmont Nevada

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Belmont Nevada 38.596000, -116.874000 Belmont Nevada is a ghost town in Nye County.

Ione Nevada

Ione Nevada is a ghost town, which is located in Nye County, Nevada. In April 1863 a silver stike was made by P. A. Haven in the Shoshone Range. Haven had failed in earlier efforts working the Comstock. The mining camp was named Ione after the herione in the book, “The Last Days of Pompeii”. Ione was founded later that year, in November 1863. The mining camp developed into a town with an influx of people from near by Austin and served as a trading and milling center. Ione Nevada started small and boasted about 50 buildings in 1863.

Ione settlement, with Ione Valley in the background, c 1900
Ione settlement, with Ione Valley in the background, c 1900

The people of the new town were soon petitioning for the formation of a new county and in 1864, Nye County was founded within Nevada. The county’s first courthouse was built in Ione with an $800.00 stipend from the newly formed county. The court house was a sound investment and still stands to this day. In 1864 the new town boasted a post office and a population of 600 people and over 100 buildings.

As with many towns in the area and of the era, Ione soon started to decline, with its population moving to nearby Belmont, Nevada. In February 1867, the county seat followed the people to Belmont. The towns population fell to 175 in 1868.

Ione Nevada
Ione Nevada

The town languished for a while. In 1896 a 10-stamp mill was built on the site and the following year the majority of mining and milling interests were purchased by A. Phelps Strodes who further invested in the site. However, Iones fortunes fell with the price of silver a year later.

The small town profited off the discovery of mercury in 1912. The rusty colored cinnabar was passed over in the excitement and profits of gold and silver. The mercury sustained Ione Nevada into the 1930’s. The post office was closed in 1959.

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Ione Nevada

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Ione Nevada 38.948300, -117.588000 Ione Nevada

Rawhide Nevada

Rawhide, Nevada. 1908.
Rawhide, Nevada. 1908.

Rawhide Nevada was a mining town in Mineral County. The town site is located approximately 55 miles south of Fallon, and 22 miles down a dirt road south of highway 50.  The town was founded in 1906 when gold and silver deposits were discovered by prospector Jim Swanson in the hills surrounding Rawhide.  Charles  B. Holman and Charles “Scotty” A. McLeod soon join him and also found gold on nearby Holligan Hill.

Rawhide, Nevada - 1915
Rawhide, Nevada – 1915

Rawhide is an example of a town that existed on the promise and promotion of gold rather than the production of gold.    Fueled by rampant speculation the population swelled.  Rawhide boasts four churches, three banks, twelve hotels, twenty eight restaurants, thirty seven saloons, a theater and a school to support a population of 7,000 in 1908.  However, the over promise and under delivery of gold doomed the town, at its glory began to fade.

The city of Rawhide was already in decline, when in September 1908 a fire tore through the town.  In August 1909 the town flooded and destroyed much of the town as described in this excerpt from a Colorado newspaper.

Sept. 4, 1908. Devastating fire in Rawhide Nevada. Over $1 million in property damage and thousands were left homeless.
Sept. 4, 1908. Devastating fire in Rawhide Nevada. Over $1 million in property damage and thousands were left homeless.

NEVADA TOWN SWEPT FROM MAP BY CLOUDBURST

Ten-Foot Wall of Water Overwhelms Squattertown, Near Rawhide, in the Night.

SIX REPORTED MISSING

300 Families Rendered Homeless and Property Piled in Tangled Heap by the Flood.

Rawhide, Nev., Aug. 31.  “Squattertown”, a settlement just south of Rawhide, was swept by a ten-foot wall of water, following a cloudburst in the hills to the north tonight, and 130 buildings were partially or completely destroyed.

It is reported that two women and four children are missing, but up to a late hour tonight it was impossible to obtain verification of this report.
The cloudburst occurred on the summit of the low hills to the north of the camp. In a few moments a three-foot wall of water was pouring down the slope, covering the three miles from the summit to Main street with the speed of a railway train. The flood rushed into the street, which lies in a hollow and forms a general drainage canal, and every business house on the east side was flooded to a depth of from one to four feet.
Several structures were torn from their foundations and floated some distance down the street, while the crest of the flood was covered with furniture, animals and debris.

Gathering force as is poured down the channel, the flood swept into and over Squattertown, half a mile further down. The water formed a wall 10 feet high as it crashed into the frame structures, inhabited for the most part by miners and their families, and buildings were overturned and demolished at the first blow.

Darkness had fallen and the worst of devastation went on in the night.
Before the wave had passed 500 persons were homeless and their property piled up a tangled heap in the basin at the foot of National hill.
Several daring rescues were made. Mrs. Hobeloff and her two children clung to the wreckage of their home as it floated down the street and were rescued by Emil Gutt and P. R. Whyteck.

The Fountain Bar, a saloon located in a small frame building was swept from its foundations and carried five blocks down the street to be landed high and dry on a low bank, with its fixtures little disturbed.

Colorado Spring Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO 1 Sept 1909

Streets of Rawhide, Nevada 1908
Streets of Rawhide, Nevada 1908

The town survived but was never the same.  The twin tragedies gave the citizens more than enough reason to leave and the over promise of gold gave them little reason to stay.  In 1941 the post office closed and the town ceased to be.  Mining is still alive and well in Nevada, and sadly a modern mining operation has destroyed the town site.

Rawhide Trail Map

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Rawhide Nevada

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Rawhide Nevada 39.016600, -118.391000 Rawhide Nevada

Ballarat California

Ballarat, California - Marriedtofilm at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Malafaya using CommonsHelper.
Ballarat, California

Located in Inyo County, Ballarat California is a ghost town which supposedly has a few residents living their dream within the town. Ballarat is located in the Panamint Mountain range just off the Trona Wilderness Road and sough of highway 190.

As early as 1849, the area served as a watering hole known as Post Office Springs. Prospectors and travelers alike would stop for water in the hot and dry Mojave Desert.

The town of Ballarat was founded in 1897 and named for Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, by an Australian immigrant George Riggins. Ballarat Clifornia was originally founded as a supply point for the mines Panamint Mountains and surrounding area. A blacksmith shop and store supported this efforts.

Within a year of the founding, the towns population stabilized at about 500 residents. Three hotels, seven saloons, a school, jail and morgue all served this outpost along with a post office and Wells Fargo station. The town site featured few natural resources and had to be shipped into the remote location. Adobe bricks were used as the primary building material.

The town was relatively lawless and was mostly filled with hard working miners looking for relaxation and an opportunity to blow off steam. The saloons and a population of prostitutes were supported by Ballarat.

The town began to fail following the closure of the Radcliff Mine in 1903. Despite supporting other mining towns like Harrisberg, as the gold played out, so did the fortunes of Ballarat, which closed the post office in 1917. “Shorty” Harris, along with a few other prospectors continued to live in and around the town site for decades after the closure. The last of these die hard prospectors, “Seldom Seen Slim” died in 1968.

“Shorty” Harris founder of Harrisburg, photographed in Ballarat, California
“Shorty” Harris founder of Harrisburg, photographed in Ballarat, California

Time has taken its tole on the builds of the adobe buildings. Wind and water are literally melting the builds back into the desert.

Today, Ballarat is the subject of a few odd television shows and again made headline with the Ballarat Bandit camped around Ballarat and Death Valley.

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Ballarat California

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Ballarat California 36.047800, -117.225000 Ballarat California

Bodie California

Bodie, California is the ghost town by which all others are judged.  Located at 8300 in the Bodie Hills above Mono Lake, Bodie is the largest and perhaps best preserved ghost town in America. Established as a ghost town and state park in 1962, the town site is now administered by the Bodie Foundation.

Bodie, California c1890
Bodie, California c1890

Currently preserved in “Arrested Decay” a condition and phrase coined by the State of California for the Bodie, the town site is preserved as it was found in 1962. This essentially maintains the structures as the were at that time, and work may be done to keep them to that standard. Some buildings get new roofs, windows sealed and foundation rebuilt to preserve the state of degradation. It is because of this forward thinking policy that the town remains in the state of decline that it does.

Bodie CA is a town lost in arrested decay. Photograph by James L Rathbun
Bodie CA is a town lost in arrested decay. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Standard Mill, Bodie, CA. Photograph by James L Rathbun
The Standard Mill, Bodie, CA. Photograph by James L Rathbun

I remember my first visit to Bodie was probably in the the late 1970’s.  My father drove our old Ford truck into the town, and as I jumped out my eyes found the old Standard Mill.  The Standard Mill still dominates the valley with its grayish-blue siding, multiple smoke stakes and extreme size.  The Standard Mill is the most intact mill in California and processed over $14 million dollars in gold during its 25 years of service.

Evelyn Myers, a three year old girls grave marker located in Bodie, CA reminds us that not all mine camps were filled with men. Photograph by James L Rathbun
Evelyn Myers, a three year old girls grave marker located in Bodie, CA reminds us that not all mine camps were filled with men. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Formed in 1859, the town under went several mining booms, busts and fires.  At it’s peak in 1879, Bodie hosted 5000 – 7000 souls, 65 saloons, a “Redlight” district, a china town, four volunteer fire stations, several newspapers, churches and of coarse, a Jail.  Bodie maintain a rough reputation over the years and suffers from murders, shoot outs, stage robberies and the odd bar room brawl.

By 1910 the population settled at about 700 people, mostly families, as the miners and those who service the miners moved on to more prosperous areas.  The last printed paper was in 1912, and signaled the beginning of the end for the scrappy little town.  Although labelled a ghost town in 1915, Bodie continued to linger and dwindle is size until 1940 when the Post Office closed.

The interior of a general store is virtually the way it was when the store owner left Bodie, Photograph by James L Rathbun
The interior of a general store is virtually the way it was when the store owner left Bodie, Photograph by James L Rathbun

Under threat and vandalism the state of California took over the town site, and currently hosts some 200,000 visitors per year.

Remote locations, harsh weather and rustic builds make Bodie is a popular site for photographers.

The road into Bodie is accessible to almost any vehicle, but can server as a launch point the many back roads and trails. Nearby attractions are Masonic, Chemung and Aurora who like to get off the beaten path.

A weathered wagon wheel in Bodie reminds us of a bygone era. Photograph by James L Rathbun
A weathered wagon wheel in Bodie reminds us of a bygone era. Photograph by James L Rathbun
General Store still found in Bodie, California. Photograph by James L Rathbun
General Store still found in Bodie, California. Photograph by James L Rathbun
A deteriorated globe in the schoolhouse windows reminds us of the life that used be in Bodie. Photograph by James L Rathbun
A deteriorated globe in the schoolhouse windows reminds us of the life that used be in Bodie. Photograph by James L Rathbun

Bodie Trail Map

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Bodie California

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Bodie California 38.211500, -119.013000 Bodie California