By Robert Drain
White Pine County… vast, beautiful, and historical. Three reasons why White Pine County should celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2019.
Between mid March and early June, 1869, two European American settlers began their hunt for gold, or at least ore. The hunt was spurred by the mining boom of the time. From Lander Counter to empty, unclaimed land, White Pine County was born. Named for the White Pine tree, or so the settlers believed it to be, Hamilton became the first seat of the County.
Even though the mining boom only lasted just over two years, White Pine County, now named and claimed, remained. It was a rough time for the county. With no real revenue, it was a broke county. In 1887, Hamilton’s courthouse burned down. With no time or money to build a new courthouse, Ely became the new seat of the county.
Despite all the changes and hardships, White Pine County started down the road of prosperity. In 1902, two mining pits were opened up by the Robinson Mining company – one in Ruth, and one in Kimberly. With all of the ore being pulled out of the two mines, they needed some way to smelt it all down. Thus the smelting tower in McGill was born.
With a huge success (in part due to proximity and access, part due to demand), Robinson smelted $1 billion of copper between 1902 and 1981. This wasn’t just for the county… it was state wide. This made it the states most productive county for over half a century.
The Robinson mine wasn’t the only mining operation within the county. With 8,897 square miles, how could it be? In 1872, the Taylor Mine operation was started. It wasn’t until mid 1880 that the mine, and the town of Taylor, truly began to grow, and grow it did. By 1883, Taylor had three general stores, a few boarding houses, restaurants, and a drug store, just to name a few. The mine had struck gold (literally), pulling and shipping $260,000 worth of ore, it’s to be expected.
However, everyone knows the old saying “A candle that burns bright, burns fast.” By 1885, both Taylor and the Taylor mine began their spiral down. Without the needed resources, the mining began to slow. People began to lose hope, and started leaving, looking for a better life. The mine, still struggling, saw more and more people leaving, moving for the booming town of Ely. By 1888, only a handful of people remained, rendering the town a ghost town. In 1918, a mining company, Wyoming Mining and Milling came through, beginning a revival operation, which is still going strong to this day.
Now, there are a couple of contradicting websites about Taylor, and instead of making this too much about Taylor, I am going to put two sources of Taylor at the bottom. Do a little research into it. It’ll be interesting to see what everyone finds. Post what you find in the comments.
And who could possibly forget about the Ward Charcoal Ovens? Erected in 1872, their primary function, as guessed by the name, was to produce coal for the ore smelters. Crafting coal was a lengthy and somewhat grueling process. First, wood was loaded into the ovens, with cast-iron doors mortared behind (or, rather in front of) the wood For 12 days. The wood burned, with vents opened up periodically. Once the wood was finally burned to nothing but coal, the ovens were shut up entirely for an entire day to ensure the fire was out. Between the six ovens, one process created about 600 bushels of coal… that’s nearly 12,000 pounds of coal!
However, the charcoal ovens lasted a short life of three years. This was due to two major reasons. One, with the immediate surroundings of lumber being used, and the expense to import it to the ovens rising, it was turning into a money pit. That coupled with a new, more efficient fuel source (Petroleum Coke), the ovens became quite obsolete.
White Pine County is the 5th largest county in Nevada. For most of its life, it has been quite prosperous, both for itself and for the state. It spans 8,897 square miles, from Mount Wheeler Peak to the Ruby Mountains, White Pine County is worth celebrating. For its beauty, its size AND its history. I implore you not to only celebrate the 150th anniversary, but to relish it, as well.