Peter Marschall


The discovery of silver in south-central Nevada produced a major mining boom that revived the state's mining industry in the first decade of the twentieth century, and fueled a fierce economic recovery across the region. The Tonopah bonanza re-galvanized Nevada's status as a mining empire, organized a railway through its center, and may have preserved its status as a state in the union.


The settlement of Sparks sprang up virtually overnight when officials of the Southern Pacific Railroad moved maintenance operations from Wadsworth to an area just east of Reno in the summer of 1904. The railroad cited Wadsworth's outdated structures, lack of a good water supply, and the need to straighten dangerous curves in the track as reasons for moving to Sparks. The little community, which today is one of Nevada's major cities, thrived in the once swampy area east of Reno.


The Ruth mining claim, named and discovered by D. C. MacDonald in 1897, did not show much promise in the beginning. Gold and silver turned out to be sparse, and copper deposits were of low grade and unknown quantities. But all that changed when Edwin Gray and Dave Bartley optioned the claim from MacDonald and began tunneling into the mountainside. By 1902, the partners had found staggering quantities of copper ore that would lead to the establishment of the town of Ruth and a mining boom to rival the other remarkable episodes in the industry's history in Nevada.


As "company towns" began to expand in White Pine County in the early 1900s, several other communities were developed to provide additional housing and services to area miners. But because they were not subject to the strict laws of company towns, they quickly turned into wild and rowdy communities with economies that revolved around prostitution and liquor. Riepetown's dubious business district managed to outlast those of the others.


Located in northeastern Nevada near the Idaho border, Owyhee slowly emerged after the establishment of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in 1877. The town got its name from the Owyhee River, which flows through the reservation. Original housing was made of sagebrush and willow structures called wikiups, but permanent structures eventually followed. A small school was erected in 1881.


Soon after large copper deposits were discovered in central White Pine County between 1900 and 1902, four towns were established by the companies who owned claims in the area. Of those "company towns," McGill was the largest and most important because it processed ore in a district that would continue to produce copper for over seventy years.


Lovelock owes its formal beginning to the railroad, but was important to travelers many years before the first train arrived. The site was known to pioneers of the 1840s and 1850s as Big Meadows because it was an important place to rest and water animals before crossing the Forty-Mile Desert. James Blake is credited with establishing the first permanent settlement there in 1861, but he later sold his property and stage station to George Lovelock, who arrived in 1866. Lovelock donated eighty acres of his ranch to the Central Pacific Railroad to establish the town that now bears his name.


The Wadsworth area was important for settlers as early as 1841, but was not formally established until the railroad arrived. Westbound immigrants, having crossed the Forty-Mile Desert to the east, found the area on the big bend of the Truckee River a welcome place to rest and water livestock. Seasonal trading posts were established by 1854. Wadsworth turned from small settlement to permanent town in 1868, when it was designated as a service station and headquarters for the Central Pacific Railroad's Truckee Division.


The town of Kimberly was established in 1903 for the purpose of mining plentiful copper in central White Pine County. It was one of four "company towns" in the area, and was built by Giroux Consolidated Company on some of the oldest copper discoveries in the district, some of which dated back to the 1870s.


The town of Jackpot, which sits on Nevada's northeastern border, began to emerge after Idaho outlawed slot machines in 1953. The Horseshu Club was built in 1954, and it was followed by the establishment of Cactus Pete's two years later. The two casinos immediately drew customers from Idaho, and in that same year they succeeded in doubling the number of vehicles traveling along Highway 93, which bisects the town's business section.


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