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The Placer Camp Of Osceola

This is the story about the mining camp of Osceola Nevada. This camp is located about half way between Ely and the Utah border. Unlike a lot of Nevada mines, this area became known as placer mining camp and in fact this camp Nevada's richest and longest-lasting alluvial gold mining camps.

It was in 1872, that two prospectors, James Matteson and Frank Heck found gold in this area. These two prospectors staked over 100 claims in this quartz veined area but in the end never did anything with them as the gold values just weren't high enough to turn a profit and the claims were abandoned. Then in 1877 a prospector by the name of John Versan came through the area and starting looking for alluvial typs of gold between a couple of gulches and struck it rich. In a very short order there were over 300 mining claims staked up and once word got out there was a stampede to this area. Within 5 years by 1882, the town of Osceola had a population of more than 1500 people. The town had several stores, a butcher and blacksmith shop, a restaurant, and a couple of stages running regularly to Ward.

The ground beween these two gulches was super rich with really course gold and big nuggets. One day miners plucked out a 24 pound gold nugget right out of the ground. That nugget would be worth around a quarter million bucks today. But the only thing that was hampering the mining growth here was water. Alluivial mining needs water and the more water the better and there was little to be had to have a large mining operation running.

Then in 1884 it was decided to dig some ditches from several small creeks on the west side of the mountain range and drain all the water into these newly dug ditches and have that water run to where it was needed. So a 16 mile ditch, known as the West Ditch, was dug on the west side of the Snake Range and drained to their mining operations. However this proved to produce too little water as they could only mine for a few hours each day so another ditch had to be planned out. So they had surveyors start looking at how to get more water to the mine.

Then in 1889 they started to dig a second ditch from the other side of the range and this ditch was 8 miles long. This time the ditch was dug along the east side of the range diverting water from Leaman Creek. This ditch was a big job. They had to blast through over 600 feet of rock to make a tunnel. A sawmill had to be hired to cut wood to build over 3 miles of wooden flumes. It took a hundred men almost a year to build this ditch at a cost of over 100 thousand dollars. It was a lot of money and big gamble but within a few months the mining operation was running 24 hours a day and the gold was coming in strong. However like pretty much all the old mining stories you read about all good things come to an end. By 1892, mining slowed because of water shortages caused by mild, dry winters. Water being lost from leaky wood flumes and legal issues over water rights, reduced the water supply even more. Over the next couple years, mining slowed and by 1905 all the mining at Osceola came to a close.

From 1936 to 1942, different miners have gone in and tried a bit of mining along with remining the old tailings from the old timers. This area however produced well over 3.5 million dollars worth of gold during it's time in operation.