Pioche – Nevada State Historic Marker 5

Pioche, Nevada is a silver mining town and Nevada State Historic Marker 5 located in Lincoln County, Nevada. Pioche was founded in 1864, during the height of the American Civil War. The town’s name is derived from François Louis Alfred Pioche, a Frenchman who was a prominent financier in the mining industry. Pioche’s location was strategic, situated in eastern Nevada near the Utah border. The discovery of silver and other minerals in the nearby mountains led to a rapid influx of miners and settlers.

Photograph of Main Street, Pioche Nevada
Photograph of Main Street, Pioche Nevada

Silver Boom

The town’s initial growth was driven by the discovery of silver deposits in the surrounding hills. The rich ore deposits attracted prospectors and mining companies, leading to a significant boom in silver production during the late 1860s and early 1870s. Pioche became a bustling mining town with saloons, businesses, and a diverse population.

Turbulent Times

Pioche’s prosperity was not without its challenges. The town faced lawlessness and violence typical of many mining settlements during that era. Shootouts, brawls, and clashes between different groups were not uncommon. The presence of rowdy elements earned Pioche the nickname “The Baddest Town in the West.” The local cemetery, Boot Hill, serves as a somber reminder of the violence that marked the town’s early days.

Mining Decline and Resilience

Like many mining towns, Pioche experienced a decline in silver production as the richest deposits were exhausted. By the late 1870s, the boom had faded, leading to a significant decrease in population. However, Pioche managed to survive by diversifying its economy. Agriculture and ranching became important components of the local economy, helping the town weather the decline in mining activity.

In the 20th century, Pioche’s population continued to fluctuate as mining activities occasionally experienced brief revivals. The town’s historic charm and mining heritage began to attract tourists, contributing to its economy. Pioche’s well-preserved historic buildings and its status as a relic of the Old West drew visitors interested in its colorful past.

Today, Pioche remains a small community with a population that hovers around several hundred residents. The town’s history is celebrated through events, museums, and historic sites that showcase its mining heritage and the challenges its early settlers faced. Pioche’s quiet streets and preserved architecture stand as a testament to its enduring spirit and the importance of adapting to changing economic circumstances.

Nevada State Historic Marker 5 Text

Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. These roadside markers bring attention to the places, people, and events that make up Nevada’s heritage. They are as diverse as the counties they are located within and range from the typical mining boom and bust town to the largest and most accessible petroglyph sites in Northern Nevada Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost or damaged.

Silver ore was discovered in this range of mountains in 1864, but no important development took place until 1869 when mines were opened and the town of Pioche was founded.  Pioche soon became the scene of a wild rush of prospectors and fortune seekers. It gained a reputation in the 1870s for tough gunmen and bitter lawsuits.  Miners had retrieved over five million dollars in ore by 1872, but by 1900, Pioche was nearly a ghost town.

Designated as the seat of Lincoln County in 1871, Pioche survived hard times as a supply and government center for a vast area.  Beginning in 1937, Pioche enjoyed two decades of profitable lead-zinc mining.


Pioche Trail Map

Pioche Summary


LocationLincoln County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude37.9265, -114.4487
Nevada State Historic Marker Number5


Crystal Springs

Crystal Springs, Lincoln County, Nevada is an old watering stop, townsite and Nevada State Historic Marker number 205. The Nevada State Marker is location just west of the junction between Nevada State Highway 93 and Nevada State Highway 375, also known as “The Extraterrestrial Highway.”

Crystal Springs,  Nevada State Marker 205 is found just west of the junction between Nevada State Highway 93 and Nevada State Highway 375, also known as "The Extraterrestrial Highway."
Crystal Springs, Nevada State Marker 205 is found just west of the junction between Nevada State Highway 93 and Nevada State Highway 375, also known as “The Extraterrestrial Highway.”

Prior to settlement of Crystal Springs in 1865, the springs served as a valuable water source for a nearby Native American village for generations. Beginning in the middle of the 1800s, the site becomes a watering stop for western travelers before traversing the hot desert climates to the south west.

In 1865, silver discovery in the Pahranagat Valley caused the formation of Lincoln County and Crystal Springs is designated the county seat in 1866. Nevada’s first elected governor, Henry G. Blasdel, nearly lost in life in efforts to establish Lincoln County. To reach Pahranagat, the governor travelled to the location by way of Death Valley. This route was not common at the time, the the expedition soon found themselves running low on supplies after passing through Ash Meadows. Lacking the supplies to complete his journey, Blasdel and the State Geologist, a man named White, rushed into Logan City to obtain additional supplies. Blasdel and White organized a wagon train to resupply the expedition foundering in the desert to the south east. One man did die during this expedition, the travelers exist on lizards and other small animals while waiting for a resupply.

The Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada State Route 375 is located in Lincoln County, Nevada
The Extraterrestrial Highway sign. Nevada State Historic Marker 205 can been seen in the distance on the left side of the highway.

When the Blasdel expedition eventually arrived in Crystal Springs, he learned that the town did not have the population of voters to support the organization of Lincoln County Seat. This event happened the following year in Hiko, Nevada. The town of Crystal Springs is only in existence for about five or six years.

Today, the town of Crystal Springs is little more than a footnote in Nevada’s history. No remains of the town exist.

Nevada State Historic Marker Text

Crystal Spring was used as a watering place and campsite on an alternate route of the Mormon Trail in the mid-nineteenth century.  The town site was designated as the provisional County Seat for Lincoln County in 1866.  With the intention of organizing the new county, Governor Henry G. Blasdel left Carson City in April 1866, accompanied by over 20 people.  After a perilous journey through Death Valley, California, they ran out of supplies and food.  One man died; the others survived on lizards and other desert animals.  The Governor and another man raced to Logan City to obtain supplies and returned lathe party so they reached Crystal Spring.  The Governor found that the region lacked the number of voters necessary to meet the requirements to become a county.  A year later the county government was organized at Hiko.


Site Summary

NameCrystal Springs
LocationLincoln County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude37.5317, -115.2338
Elevation6,161 Feet
Nevada State Historic Marker 205

Crystal Springs Trail Map

The Nevada State Marker is location just west of the junction between Nevada State Highway 93 and Nevada State Highway 375, also known as “The Extraterrestrial Highway.” The marker is located on the south side of Highway 375.


George Benjamin Wittick – Photographer

George Benjamin Wittick was born in Pennsylvania and later moved to Illinois, and then out west in 1878 to pursue frontier photography. He served in the Civil War for the union using the name “Benjamin Wallace” in Company A of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry and Company D of the 2nd Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry, from 1862 to 1865. He first worked for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroads before establishing his first photography studio in Gallup, New Mexico.

George Benjamin Wittick
George Benjamin Wittick

During his career, he photographed many subjects to include the railroad; southwestern landscapes such as Canyon de Chelly, the Navajo Reservation, and Pueblo scenes; and the Native peoples mostly the Apache, Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni. Wittik was the first person to photograph the Hopi Snake Dance. An elder warned him at the time that he would die from a snake bite for witnessing the ceremony and not being an initiated member.

His photographs from this event brought the Hopi religious ritual great attention. 

George Benjamin Wittick - Self Portrait
George Benjamin Wittick – Self Portrait

He carried with him a collection of props for his photographs to include rifles, pistols, blankets, pottery, and more. Most of his photographs were taken outside using the natural sunlight against backdrops.

Geronimo (Goyathlay, 1820–1909), a Chiricahua Apache; full-length, kneeling with rifle, 1887 - Photograph George Benjamin Wittick
Geronimo (Goyathlay, 1820–1909), a Chiricahua Apache; full-length, kneeling with rifle, 1887 – Photograph George Benjamin Wittick

Billy The Kid

Easily, Wittick’s most famous photograph is of Henry McCarty, AKA Billy the Kidd, in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. The image is the only known image of the outlaw to be identified by those who knew him. The image It shows the outlaw dressed in a rumpled hat and ragged clothes, which include a bulky sweater. He’s is holding a Winchester carbine on his right side and a Colt revolver holstered on his left side. Two of these tintypes were produced. One is given to Paulita Maxwell, the kids girlfriend, and the other to friend Dan Dedrick. The last time this original is auctioned, it sold to William Koch for 2.3 million dollars.

Henry McCarty - AKA Billy the Kid - Fort Sumner, New Mexico, 1879 - 80 Tintype by George Benjamin Wittick
Henry McCarty – AKA Billy the Kid – Fort Sumner, New Mexico, 1879 – 80 Tintype by George Benjamin Wittick

It was taken by a traveling photographer who came through Fort Sumner [New Mexico] in 1880. Billy posed for it standing in the street near old Beaver Smith’s saloon. I never liked the picture. I don’t think it does Billy justice. It makes him look rough and uncouth. The expression of his face was really boyish and very pleasant. He may have worn such clothes as appear in the picture out on the range, but in Fort Sumner he was careful of his personal appearance and dressed neatly and in good taste.

Paulita Maxwell Jaramillo, the Kid’s girlfriend – 1920’s

In 1900, he established his last studio at Fort Wingate. In 1903. he decided to return to visit the Hopi Snake Dance. As a gesture of friendship towards the Hopu, he captured a rattlesnake to bring to as a gift. While handling the snake, he is bitten on the thumb on August 8, 1903 and died three weeks later at Fort Wingate, New Mexico, just as the Hopi elder had predicted many years earlier.


Timothy H. O’Sullivan – Photographer

CDV of Timothy H. O'Sullivan with imprint of F.G. Ludlow, Carson City, Nevada Territory on verso. Taken between 1871–74 while O'Sullivan was the official photographer for the Wheeler Expedition.
CDV of Timothy H. O’Sullivan with imprint of F.G. Ludlow, Carson City, Nevada Territory on verso. Taken between 1871–74 while O’Sullivan was the official photographer for the Wheeler Expedition.

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (c. 1840 – January 14, 1882) was a photographer best known for of the Civil War and the western United States. O’Sullivan began his photography career as an apprentice in Mathew Brady’s Fulton Street gallery in New York City. He moved on to the Washington, D.C., branch managed by Alexander Gardner. In 1861. At the age of twenty-one, O’Sullivan joined Brady’s team of Civil War photographers.

Little is known about his early life. He was either born in Ireland or New Work City. As a teenager, Timothy was employed by Matthew Brady where he learn the newly invented craft of photography. When the Civil War broke out, he is commission as a first lieutenant in the Union Army, in 1861.

After the was, in 1867, Timothy H. O’Sullivan is hired by Clarence King to accompany the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel as a photographer. O’Sullivan was with the Survey for the seasons of 1867, 1868, 1869 and 1872.

During these expeditions, he is known to carry two or possibly three camera outfits which include a 9″x12″ and 8″x1O” plates and for stereoscopic views. He developed the plates in the field, as was necessary with the wet plate process, and worked in either a photographic tent or a mule-drawn ambulance wagon. The negatives were usually sent back to the Survey offices in Washington D.C. where they are printed.

In 1871, O’Sullivan join the geological surveys west of the one hundredth meridian, under the command of Lieutenant George M. Wheeler of the U.S. Corps of Engineers. Wheeler would caption O’Sullivan’s photographs with practical information useful in the later establishment of roads and rail routes and emphasized the west’s suitability for settlement.

In 1873, on another Wheeler expedition, O’Sullivan photographed the Zuni and Magia pueblos and the Canyon de Chelly and its remnants of a cliff-dwelling culture. He returned to Washington, D.C., in 1874 and made prints for the Army Corps of Engineers. Soon after being made chief photographer for the United States Treasury in 1880, O’Sullivan died of tuberculosis at age forty-one.

Sand dunes, 1867, Carson Desert Western Nevada RG 77 Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1789-1988 Photographic Album of the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel – The King Survey, 1867-1872 ARC ID 519530 77KS-3-160

Timothy H. O’Sullivan Portfolio

Gold Hill, Nevada Circa 1867, 1868 Photographer Timothy H. O'Sullivan
Gold Hill, Nevada Circa 1867, 1868 Photographer Timothy H. O’Sullivan


Upper Lake Campground

The Upper Lake Campground is a free camp ground which features lakeside camping along the shore of Upper Lake Pahranagat, in Lincoln County, Nevada.

Upper Lake Campground, Pahranagat Valley in Lincoln County, Nevada
Upper Lake Campground, Pahranagat Valley in Lincoln County, Nevada

The Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge is managed as a sanctuary where present and future generations of people can discover a connection to the rhythms of life. In spring, indigo bush and beavertail cactus bloom at the edges of verdant meadows and wetlands, fed by brimming lakes. The vital, spring-fed waters of this Mojave Desert oasis attract thousands of migratory birds each year. Pahranagat NWR’s seasonal marsh, wet meadows, and alkali flats provide high quality resting and foraging habitat for wintering and migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and other waterbirds along the Pacific Flyway. Riparian gallery forests of willow, cottonwood, and associated plant communities support a flourishing population of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher as well as a rich diversity of migratory and resident songbirds, colonial nesting species, and birds of prey. Coveys of Gambel’s quail emerge at dusk along with abundant cottontails and jackrabbits as nighthawks, coyotes, and owls begin to hunt. Each fall brings returning waterfowl and waterfowl hunters, while mountain lions follow mule deer down into the valley. 

Campground Trail Map

The Upper Lake Campground is situated along the easter shore of Upper Lake Pahranagat between the lake Nevada Highway 93.

Campground Summary

NameUpper Lake Campground
LocationPaharagat Valley,
Lincoln County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude37.3018, -115.1231
Number of Sites15