Hamilton (White Pine County)

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

39° 15' 11"N, 115° 29' 11"W   USGS Hamilton Quad

Directions: East from Fallon on US-50 for 221.3 miles; right on County Road 11, generally south for 10.6 miles

From Fallon: 231.09 miles

4WD or high clearance desired

What Was

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.

By 1870, things had come to a screeching halt; a fire in 1873 sounded the death knell for Hamilton. After another fire in 1885, the county seat was moved to Ely. 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.

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...

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...

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.

Post Office: August 1868 - March 1931
Newspaper: Inland Empire, White Pine News

What is

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.

The remains of the J.B. Withington Hotel. It was a much grander ruin when the picture in Paher's book was taken.
This is a view of the site taken from halfway up Treasure Hill, looking out at the Newark Valley and Diamond Mountains way in the background.
A panorama looking west towards Babylon Ridge. There is a white trailer parked belonging to some friendly campers , partly hidden by the steel building.
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