As prospectors dispersed from Austin, several of them discovered rich placer sands located in what is now Elko County. It was in 1867, shortly after the Civil War, and one of the miners called the place Tuscarora to honor a Union gunboat on which he had served. Area underground deposits attracted some attention, but surface placer mining was the primary focus.

Profit was elusive until Chinese workers, recently discharged from the completed transcontinental railroad, began arriving in 1869. They purchased placer claims and turned them to profit. Over a hundred Chinese overshadowed a resentful EuroAmerican minority.

Local EuroAmericans focused their attention on underground mines, which were sometimes prosperous, particularly from 1877 to 1880 and 1887 to 1892. At its height Tuscarora grew to an estimated 3,000, attracting people from depressed regional mining districts. The thriving town held considerable promise until mining depleted the ore bodies. Tuscarora's population declined dramatically beginning in the late 1890s.

In 1966, Dennis and Julie Parks moved to Tuscarora and established an internationally famous pottery shop and school. Two decades later, twentieth-century mining technology made local low grade ores profitable, and open pit mining threatened the historic town. A handful of residents remain in Tuscarora.

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