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The Town Of Rhyolite Nevada

It was in the month of August, way back in 1904 that two prospectors, Frank Harris and Ernest Cross found gold in the hills of of an area known as the Bullfrog district. It was thing find of high grade ores that started a stampede. The town of Rhyolite was a result of this stampede and this area saw thousands of prospectors, miners and merchants rush to this camp. These ore samples from the site suggested values up to $3,000 a ton which would be around $100,000 a ton in today's dollars when adjusted for inflation.

There were a few camps that set up in the area with news of these finds. Towns like Blair and Silver Peak got their start during this time, however it was Rhyolite that took the center stage and became the big grand town. Now I want to just pause here for a moment and make you aware of some timelines and ponder what you are about to hear. The town of Rhyolite started out as a two tent camp in January 1905, and within two weeks there were 1,200 people and by June that same year, there was a population of 2,500. By that time there were 50 saloons, 35 gambling joints, 19 boarding houses, 16 restaurants, a couple of barber shops, a public bath house, and of course numerous brothels.

Now, within another two years, this town already had concrete sidewalks, running water, telephone and telegraph lines, electric lights, a couple of newspapers, police and fire departments, a hospital, a school, a train station, three banks, an opera house, a public swimming pool and two churches. Now this is hard to imagine, but believe it or not Rhyloite even had it's own stock exchange building. This stock exhange building housed the Rhyolite Mining Stock Exchange, which opened on March 25, 1907, with 125 members, with brokers from New York, Philadelphia, and a few other cities. Another building in particular was the John S. Cook and Company Bank which cost more than $90,000 at the time. That would be equivalent to around 3 million today. Much of expense was spent on things like the Italian marble stairs, the fancy stained-glass windows, and lots of other luxuries.

By this time the population was somewhere between 5 and 7 thousand people, depending on different sources. Imagine all this being built in less than four years time. Something of this scale would never happen today. After three or four years, we'd still be doing studies, risk analysis and waiting on permits.

So what really casued this boom to begin with anyways? well it was the Montgomery Shoshone Mine that got the real rush started. In February of 1905 miners pulled ore out of the ground that assayed as high as $16,000 a ton. That would be equivalent to over $500,000 a ton in todays money. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this number. Anyways, this mine was started by a fellow by the name of Ernest Montgomery. He didn't own the mine very long because with high grades of ore like they were getting, it didn't take long for big money to come into town and so in 1906 he sold the mine to Charles Schwab. Remember those old TV commericals, When E F Hutton talks, people listen?? Well Back in those days it was, wherever Charles Schwab went, people followed, so raising additional cash was never a problem. It's been rumored that Charles paid a couple million bucks for the mine. That would have been a lot of money back then.

First thing Charles did was expand the operation by hiring more workers, opening new tunnels and drifts, and building a huge mill to process the ore. He had water piped in, ran 100 miles of power lines from a hydroelectric plant in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and then had the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad build a rail line to the mine. Eventually there were three railroads that served the town of Rhyolite. The rail connection at Rhyolite served to move goods into the remote region that helped build new mines and districts like Skidoo and the Keane Wonder Mine. If you are interested in seeing videos on either of those mines, I've left links in the description box below and also pinned in the comments.

Now while all this was going on, behind the scenes there was trouble brewing. First of all there was that big earth quake in San Fransisco in 1906 and some of the investors were from that area and needed money to rebuild. Then there was that Panic of 1907. This financial crisis was caused from some bad banking decisions saw people taking their money out of the banks. This also lead to people selling their stock in mining companies from lack of trust and as the stock prices fell the more the selling occured.

Even though the mine was profitable, by 1909 no new ore was being discovered and this lead to the value of the remaining ore steadily decreasing and in 1910, the mine operated at a loss for most of the year, and in March of 1911 the mine closed. Similar results where the same from other mines in the district. High grade ore that made the Bullfrog district famous turned out to be in narrow veins that just petered out. The lower grade ore was not profitable to mine in those days, and many mines closed.

It was at this time that the writing was on the wall and the town of Rhyolite pretty much became a ghost town. The post office closed in November 1913, the last train left town in July 1914, and the Power Company turned off the electricity and removed its lines in 1916.

Over time a lot of buildings were moved to places like Beatty just a few miles away and other building were scavanged for any valueables. You can still drive out to the old townsite today. A lot of the old stone buildings are still standing. Buildings like the John Cook Bank and the train station are still there.