Editor’s note: This is the third article celebrating White Pine County’s 150th Anniversary
By Sean Pitts
Special to The Ely Times
Once the reports of rich silver ore at Treasure Hill were confirmed, there became a rush to White Pine.
Tens of thousands of people sought their fortune on the windswept mountain sides. The Transcontinental Telegraph completed in 1861 allowed the news to spread across the nation where it was relayed across the Atlantic.
White Pine County would become the first mining boom after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, which could speed silver seeking miners to the discovery.
Two local newspapers, the Inland Empire and the White Pine News, were established and published the newest discoveries and news stories of the area. [The White Pine News was the beginning of the Ely Times in White Pine County.]
The articles that were written were picked up by other papers in larger cities. One such paper was the “Alta California” newspaper, published in San Francisco.
Its editor, Albert S. Evans, would make the journey to White Pine County to verify the news about the newly created mining district.
His reports give some of the best descriptions of the mining boom available.
Evans reported that the Eberhardt claim was “beyond any question one of the most rich and extensive deposits of silver ore ever discovered.”
He would go on to compare the entrance of the mine to the cave entered by Aladin.
The minerologist for the State of Nevada would confirm the articles, claiming, “There is probably more immensely rich ore in the Eberhardt Mine than ever discovered in the Pacific States – perhaps the world.”
The news quickly spread and soon, tens of thousands would make the journey to White Pine.
By late spring of 1869, the population of the area was estimated at 12,000 with more than a hundred people moving to the area every day.
Hamilton, the commercial center for the district, became the second largest city in the State of Nevada. Towns were rapidly constructed to house incoming miners.
Treasure City would become the center of mining, Eberhardt would take its place as the center of milling the rich silver ore.
Shermantown, Swansea and Babylon, would all become bustling centers of activity.
Combined, the total population of early White Pine County soared to at least 24,000 but estimates range as high as 40,000.
The increase in population would bring an increase in business ventures.
Silver wasn’t the only way to make money. Merchants found a way to sell everything necessary in a mining town. Beef, flour, eggs and even water were for sale at extremely high prices.
During the boom, the area boasted at least four stage coach companies, two dance halls, two theaters, four breweries, multiple hotels, an ice cream parlor and the only stock exchange between San Francisco and Salt Lake City.
More than a dozen saloons kept miners supplied with alcohol and social interaction.
The busiest towns in the area were the centers of milling where more than 14 mills operated around the clock. According to legend, the operations of the largest mill could be heard from two miles away.
The town of Hamilton realized the increasing population would need the core elements of a community. Accordingly, the town of Hamilton voted a $3,000 special tax to purchase a lot and build a school.
It opened to 35 students and was noted to be “one of the most comfortable and best appointed in the state.”
It would take longer for churches to be built, although services by itinerant preachers would be held in various buildings throughout the district.
The growth of the White Pine Mining District attracted the attention of the Nevada State Legislature. Originally part of Lander County, the new center of mining was a 110 miles from Austin.
Legislators determined a new county should be created and debated it as early as summer of 1868 but no action would be taken until the following spring.
In 1869, things looked promising for White Pine County’s continued prosperity.
Henry Goode Bladsell, Governor for the State of Nevada, recognized the extraordinary potential for the area.
His investments reaped a $200,000 profit and allowed him to entertain the relocation of the state capital from Carson City to Hamilton.
He would fully support the creation of the new county and began the process in the State’s legislature.
Next time: White Pine County Becomes Official