Take it easy

39° 17' 35"N, 119° 15' 01"W

VISITED We Visited: 7-19,20,21-2006
Our Lunch: Hamburger & steak sandwich, DJ's Diner, Eureka
Our Dinner:
Steaks and beans
Our Breakfast: Potatoes, eggs,peppers, & sausage in a tortilla
Our Dinner: Cheeseburgers
Our Breakfast: Steak and eggs
Our Lunch: Burger & Chicken sandwich, Toiyabe Cafe, Austin, NV
DIRECTIONS East from Fallon on US-50 for 221.3 miles; right on County Road 11, generally south for 10.6 miles

Silver was discovered at Treasure Hill in 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War, but the place was so inhospitable that another location was selected, and that location was named Hamilton. The location was also sometimes known as Cave City. In 1868 a rush resulted in over 10,000 people coming to the area. White Pine County was formed in 1869 with Hamilton as its seat. By 1869 there were almost 20,000 people living there, and the townsite was roughly two square miles. Besides the usual businesses and schools, there were theaters, skating rinks, auction houses, and breweries, according to Paher. A water company with steam pumping was added.

A slightly different take on the population.

Hamilton, the original county seat of White Pine County, is situated in the southwestern part of the present county, at an elevation of 8,003 feet. The site was first used as a camping ground by miners, who were prospecting White Pine Mountain during the fall of 1867. The place had often been called Cave City by prospectors because of the numerous caves below the present location. The town was laid out on May 16, 1868, by Edward Goben, Henry Kelly, and W. H. Hamilton, the man whose name it was given. It was incorporated in the year 1869, after the rush to the district had commenced. The movement of population to the town was such that houses were made of canvas in order to take care of the estimated ten thousand who filtered in. The first frame house was built in June, 1868 by King and Ivers to be used as a saloon. The post-office and Wells Fargo office were established in 1868. The first public school of the district was opened in July, 1869, and in the fall of the same year a school house was built at a cost of $4,000. A brick courthouse and jail was erected in 1870 at a cost of $50,000 and Hamilton by this time was well on its way to becoming a city. From no population in 1865 to about eight hundred in 1868, and to an estimated ten thousand in the latter part of 1869 and the early part of 1870-- such was the record of this bustling mining town.
-THE EARLY HISTORY OF WHITE PINE COUNTY, NEVADA, 1865-1887, Russell Richard Elliott, The Pacific Northwest Quarterly

The arrival of settlers and miners here was somewhat frantic.

Across the wide, treeless Mirage Valley, over the low Pancake Mountain, across another and narrower valley, and we enter at last the long winding canon which leads up into the White Pine Mountain Range and terminates at Hamilton. Long lines of mules and oxen, drawing heavy wagons, laden with supplies of every kind—mill machinery, whiskey, provisions, whiskey, hardware, whiskey, mule feed, and whiskey again—"jerk-water" stages, which had been three or four days making the trip of one hundred and ten miles from Hamilton with passengers for the mines; mine owners, or those who had but recently sold mines, and were flush, on horseback; bull-whackers, in soldiers' coats, with whips a dozen feet in length on poles longer still, just in from Austin or Wadsworth ; honest miners, with salted claims, ready to sell to the newly-arrived greenhorns; footpackers, without a cent, who had packed their blankets and luggage all the way from Elko, painted Jezebels from every mining camp from Idaho to Sonora; Shoshone Indians, Chinamen, and "capitalists," who in San Francisco were never known as men with plethoric bank account, crowded the streets of Hamilton. All was bustle and hurry, noise, excitement, and confusion. The stores and saloons were crowded with men in huge overcoats, the pockets of which were filled with big specimens, small silver bars, and rolls of location notices and assay certificates, buying, selling, and talking mines, and "bummers" of the seediest class, who drank at the expense of every stranger who approached the bar—swore, talked, fought, and "swapped" filthy lies from morning to night. In the evening the streets were deserted, but the mad excitement indoors was as great as ever. The bartenders were kept in incessant motion in their frantic efforts to supply the demand for drinks which poured in from every direction.
-Overland Monthly for March, 1869

In 1869 Hamilton had a population of 10,000, a mining stock exchange, city government, and a waterworks, the water being pumped through a 12-inch pipe over Mokeamoke Ridge from Illapah Creek, 3 miles east. There were three newspapers, two of which were dailies. Treasure City, on the summit of Treasure Hill, nestling amongst the mines claimed a population of 4,000; two banks, waterworks, numerous dance halls, and all the appurtenances of a western mining camp. Eberhardt, south of Treasure City, had a population of 2,000; Shermantown, two miles west of Treasure City, a population of from 2,600 to 3,000; and there were several other smaller communities scattered at various places throughout the district. In all there were more than 25,000 people within the borders of the district. In 1870 there were 197 mining companies operating, with a nominal capital of $277,564,000 besides numerous leases and private enterprises. At this time there were 20 mills with 200 stamps dropping on ore, In addition to this there were nine smelters of various capacities, reducting the ores of the lead belts. The lead ores were so rich in lead that bullion derived from these smelters was little better than crude ore, and none of these smelters was economically successful. By 1887, the decline of the price of silver and exhaustion of most of the easily accessible ore bodies on Treasure Hill practically closed the era of silver mining in the district and it had greatly declined in population and mining activity.
-Mines and Minerals, Mining at Hamilton, 1909

Like many mining towns, stuff wasn't cheap. In the following excerpt, I've inserted today's equivalents in blue:

A cup of coffee and a slaughterhouse steak cost $1.00 ($13.86); a bed, hay mattress with blankets- crickets thrown in-- $1.00. Apples are 25¢($3.47) each, and chickens are $5.00 ($69.31) apiece and scarce at that . Flour is $17.00 ($235.66) per hundred, and meats 35¢ ($4.85) to 50¢ ($6.93)a pound, Canned fruits and vegetables are plentiful at $1.00 ($13.86) per can, and potatoes are 2O¢ ($2.77) per pound. There are Some 50 or 60 Chinese in the district, engaged in cooking and washing. By clubbing together and renting a room, with one of them to cook, five or six men can live for $60.00 ($831.75) a month apiece. Wood, cut within 40 rods (220 yards) of town, is sold at $3.00 ($41.59) to $5.00 ($69.31) per jackass load. Hay is $200.00 ($2,772.49)per ton, barley 15¢ ($2.08)per pound. A friend of mine kept four horses at Hamilton four days, and the bill was $84.00 ($1164.45).

To ride from Hamilton to Treasure Hill costs from $2.00 ($27.72) to $3.00 ($41.58), and we saw $17.00 ($235.62) paid for hauling one ton of freight up the hill. Merchandise of all kinds is pouring into the district.

Advertisers in the White Pine News, June 10, 1870
Name Profession Street Town
Thomas Cahill & Bro. Assayers Hamilton St. Hamilton
Van Wyck & Co. Assayers Main St. Hamilton
Liebenau & Janin Assayers Shermantown
T. M. Luther Assayers Shermantown
Thomas Cahill & Bro. Assayers Main St. Treasure City
R. D. Ferguson Attorney Main St. Hamilton
B. F. Sherwood Attorney Hammilton St Hamilton
Aldrich and Wren Attorney Hamilton
J.S. Pitzer Attorney Hamilton
Thomas P. Hawley Attorney Hamilton
A. M. Millhouse Attorney Main St. Hamilton
Tilford and Foster Attorney Main St. Hamilton
J.O. Darrow Attorney Hamilton
John J. Musser Attorney Shermantown
Wm. W. Bishop Attorney Treasure City
C. J. Lansing Attorney Treasure City
Reily & Woodberry Auctions Main St. Hamilton
Korn's Bakery Bakery
Bank of California Bank
Billy Dougherty Barber Main St. Hamilton
Pioneer Boiler Works Boilers Hamilton
Post Office Bookstore Book Store Hamilton
Albany Brewery Brewery Main St. Hamilton
Philadelphia Brewery Brewery Main St. Hamilton
Pioneer Market Butcher Main St. Hamilton
People's Market Butcher
E. Schoppman City Engineer Treasure St. Hamilton
Robert O'Keefe City Marshal Hamilton
F. Tacliabue Civil Engineer & Surveyor Main St. Treasure City
Frank Castagnetto Coffee Treasure St. Hamilton
J. M. Bellrude Commissioner in Bankruptcy Main St. Hamilton
George W. Birdsall Constable & Collector
A. J. Houghtaling & Co. Contractor Dunn St. Hamilton
F. C. Nichols Dentist Main St. Hamilton
G. R. Alexander Drugs Hamilton
Pioneer Drug Store Drugs Main St. Treasure City
H. Lewis & Co. Dry Goods Main St. Hamilton
J. Cohn & Brother Dry Goods Main St. Hamilton
D. A. Meyendorff Freight Main St. Hamilton
W. L. Pritchard Freight Hamilton
F. F. Marx Freight
Barney & Jones Grocery Main St. Hamilton
Albert Mau & Co. Grocery Main St. Hamilton
Hunt's Market Grocery Main St. Treasure City
Albert Mau & Co. Grocery Main St. Treasure City
Hallock & Meyers Grocery Main St. Treasure City
P. A. Wagner Hardware Main St. Hamilton
Mott, Fish, & Co. Hardware
Pollard's Hotel Hotel Main St. Hamilton
California Lodging House Hotel Main St. Hamilton
Occidental Hotel Hotel Main St. Hamilton
Nevada Hotel Hotel Broad St. Hamilton
W. Manning Jewelry Main St. Hamilton
B. K. Davis Justice of the Peace Hamilton
Mrs. Blaser Ladies Goods Main St. Hamilton
Pioneer Laundry Laundry Hamilton St. Hamilton
Hamilton Lumber Yard Lumber Main St. Hamilton
Pioneer Foundy & Machine Shop Machine Shop Broad St. Hamilton
Mrs. M.T. Ward Millinery Oppposite WF&Co.  Hamilton
Mrs. H. Watson Millinery Hamilton
H. S. Sanders Mining Agent Hamilton
W. W. Hobart Notary Public Main St. Hamilton
Wm. J. Blake Notary Public Hamilton St. Hamilton
Thomas Flintcroft Ore Bags Main St. Hamilton
Wm. Wilson Painting Main St.
Dr. D. L. Deal Physician Dunn St. Hamilton
Dr. R. Bell Physician Main St. Hamilton
Dr. S. A. McMeans Physician Dunn St. Hamilton
Dr. J. R. N. Owen Physician Hamilton St. Hamilton
Dr. S. A. McMEans Physician Main St. Hamilton
White Pine News Printing
W. W. Bishop Real Estate Treasure City
Moch's Restaurant Main St. Hamilton
Cosmopolitan Restaurant Main St. Hamilton
Marchant's Lunch House Restaurant Hamilton
Belding's Saloon Main St. Hamilton
Stone Saloon Saloon Hamilton
St. Nicholas Saloon Saloon Main St. Hamilton
Chloride Saloon Saloon Main St. Hamilton
Headquarters Saloon Saloon Shermantown
Bureau Saloon Saloon Main St. Treasure City
M'Cluskey & Monahan Saloon Main St. Treasure City
William Pardy Searcher of Records
J. Calisher & Co. Shoes Main St. Hamilton
Pioneer Corral & Stable Stables Main St. Hamilton
Jim Miller & Co. Stables Treasure St. Hamilton
Pioneer Livery & Feed Stables Stables Hunter St Hamilton
Treasure City Livery Stable Stables Treasure St. Treasure City
Beachy, Wines, & Co. Stage Line Hamilton
Woodruff & Ennor Stage Line Hamilton
Silver Park Stage Stage Line Main St. Hamilton
Travis Brothers Stage Line Hamilton
Coombs & Hagar Stage Line Main St. Treasure City
Treasure City Passenger Line Stage Line Treasure City
Austin Stages Stage Line Main St.
Bulkley and Mason Surveyors Treasure St. Hamilton
Morris Cohn Tobacco Main St. Hamilton
Frank Wheeler, 'Red' Wholesale Liquor Main St. Hamilton
Vorbe Brothers Wholesale Liquor Main St. Hamilton

Obviously, these weren't the only businesses in the area- just the ones that were advertising in this particular issue of the newspaper.

Things were pretty much going smoothly in Hamilton now. How many hotels do you know of that have a fireplace in each room?

HAMILTON, White Pine Co, PO, Incorporated city , and County seat, the principle town of Eastern Nevada, is situated on the northern slope of Treasure Hill, in the midst of a rich mining section. The town was located in 1868, and grew very rapidly, reaching a population of 5,000 within the first year of its existence. The remarkably rich deposits of silver ore found in the winter and spring of 1868, in Treasure Hill , caused a wild excitement throughout the Pacific Coast, and this hitherto unknown region was soon overrun with a flood of adventurers, and the cities of Hamilton, Treasure, and Shermantown sprang into existence. The attention then given to this section was of great benefit to the mining interest , and resulted in a more thorough exploration of that portion of the State, the discovery of mineral veins of great value,and the organization of Districts of growing and exceeding importance. Among these are Ely, with its growing town of Pioche in the southeast, Robinson and Pahranagat Districts in the same general direction, Reveille District south, Eureka and Pinto Districts west, and others . These are generally contributory to Hamilton, and are connected with it by lines of stages, making this the central point of business for a large area of country. Several lines of stages run daily and from Elko, Carlin, and Palisades on the Pacific Railroad, the first named being 120 miles north, and is the principle depot of freight and passenger travel for this region. The mines of this (White Pine) District yield both chloride and galena ores, the first reduced in stamp mills, and the later by smelting, producing from thirty to sixty thousand dollars weekly, with more experimental than complete reduction works. Large and comprehensive reduction and separating works are in course of construction , which it is hoped will add greatly to the prosperity of the place. Schools, churches and benevolent associations are among the institutions maintained, and a daily newspaper published, The White Pine News, a large and handsome paper, giving its readers telegraphic dispatches from all parts of the world, and spreading information of the great resources of Eastern Nevada. There were 9 assayers in Hamilton at this time, 29 Attorneys-at-Law, and at least 2 bars for each lawyer (there being over 50 bars in operation at this time) , the Bank of California Agency established a bank here, name any business and you would find it flourishing... The Withington Hotel boasted 17 rooms on the top floor with a fireplace in each room.

By the 1870's, things had come to a screeching halt; a fire in 1873 sounded the death knell for Hamilton. A merchant named Alexander Cohn decided he would set his store on fire for the insurance money, and the resulting fire wiped out much of Hamilton.

The history of Hamilton after 1870 and 1871 is not nearly so interesting nor spontaneous as before those years. In 1873 a fire broke out at five-thirty in the morning on June 28, which swept the whole town and caused an estimated loss of six hundred thousand dollars. The fire was supposedly set by Alexander Chon, who it seems was attempting to get what little insurance there was on his cigar store. He was later sentenced and served seven years for the deed. The town never fully recovered from this catastrophe and was disincorporated in 1875. The bank was moved from Hamilton to Eureka in September 187, and a large proportion of the population followed in the direction of the bank. Then the Eberhardt tunnel failed to show any substantial results, the people who yet remained all but gave up their hope of witnessing a revival of the district. The financial condition of the city at this time was unfavorable in the extreme, there being an outstanding indebtedness of $3,000 and only $1.75 in the treasury.
-THE EARLY HISTORY OF WHITE PINE COUNTY, NEVADA, 1865-1887, Russell Richard Elliott, The Pacific Northwest Quarterly

Still Hamilton hung on. But in 1885, another fire burned down the county courthouse.

Courthouse Burned.
From the Eureka Sentinel we learn that the White Pine county courthouse at Hamilton was entirely destroyed by fire Sunday, at 2:30 A. M. The county records and all the books of the County Clerk were burned. Nothing was saved except a few books in the Treasurer's and Sheriff's offices. Nothing definite could be learned as to the cause of the fire. Several persons, including the Sheriff, were sleeping in the building at the time, but escaped. The building was constructed in 1869, and was not only a large two-story structure, but its cost, it is said, exceeded that of any like building in Nevada. There was no insurance. The loss to White Pine county is a severe one, inasmuch as its financial condition is anything but prosperous.
-Silver State, January 8, 1885

This was the last straw. Despite protests from Hamilton, the county seat was moved to Ely.

The burning of the records of White Pine County leaves us all in a rather chaotic condition. Now that the Courthouse has been destroyed by fire and it will not cost anything to move the county seat, some place should be selected near the center of the county whereon to build the Courthouse. We put in a bid for Ely, on Murray creeks, which is not to exceed two or three miles from the center of the county.
-White Pine Reflex, January 10, 1885

By the time of the Tonopah-Goldfield boom, Hamilton was suffering terribly...

The town of Hamilton, situated about the geographical center of the district, was for 16 years the County Seat of White Pine County. In 1885 a fire destroyed much of the town, and all the county buildings, whereupon the county seat was moved to its present location, Ely. Today the impression one receives on viewing it, is that of a well-nigh deserted habitat of days long past. Many of the buildings spared by the fire are dilapidated and rapidly falling into decay, and the skeletons of numerous mills, big waste dumps, and its history, are all that is left to tell of its once flourishing condition.

A spur of the Lincoln Highway went to Hamilton as late as 1913, but by the time 1924 rolled around, the highway bypassed the town completely. Some folks held on, but by the early 1930's the town was pretty much deserted. The 1930 census shows 57 people living in the "Hamilton Election Precinct." By 1940 it was down to 33, with more involved in ranching than mining.

POST OFFICE August 1868 - March 1931
NEWSPAPER Inland Empire, White Pine News

Hamilton is easy to get to by U.S. Forest Service road, and there are lots of things to see, both at the site and nearby. One of the first things you'll notice is a large steel building, left behind by a contemporary mining company. It's pretty much ransacked by vandals, but if you ever find yourself in the middle of some inclement weather, it will provide quite a bit of shelter. The town itself has deteriorated very much over the years, and there isn't much left, unfortunately. Still, there is plenty to see.

As seems to be usual, the contemporary mining company left behind a bunch of stuff, including some tanks and some pieces of equipment, which takes away a bit from the historic atmosphere. Nevertheless, the same could be said in 1931, I suppose, of the mining companies who pulled out and left their garbage. So it's all relative.

There is a great cemetery here, and the ruins are varied and widespread. There are many many cows roaming about, so if you go hightailing down the road you might frighten one. Bad idea. It's interesting in that the Lincoln Highway, as one time, passed through the area specifically to go to Hamilton, even though by then the town was well on its way to being deserted.

We camped at the Illipah campground. When we got there is was windy and thunderstorms were threatening. There are two camping areas, one overlooking the reservoir, and the other in the pit. We chose the pit, since it cut down on the wind a bit. There is no potable water at the campground, although there is an outhouse. It's populated by swarms of flies that bounce up against your bum- nasty business. Otherwise, we were alone until Thursday night. I'm getting too old for camping. I like to sleep in a comfortable bed. I think I'll try one more time with an air mattress and blanket and if that doesn't work, I will leave Luis out there and stay at the Motel 6 in Ely. Some brain dead individual "tagged" the historical marker for Hamilton on Thursday night. I hope he or she got two flats, and is even now stumbling through the trackless hills and valleys between Ely and Eureka, the tips of their index finger blackened by paint, their painful and lingering demise eagerly anticipated by the local fauna. I saw how fast chipmunks could go through a bag of nacho cheese Doritoes; stripping the meat off the bones of a graffiti-painting dweeb will be no challenge.

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