Take it easy
  National (Sheatown)

41°49'45.09"N 117°34'41.93"W


We Visited: June 8, 2022
Our Breakast: Black Rock Grill, Lovelock
Our Supper : The Pig, Winnemucca


Directions: From Orovada, head north on US 95 for 18.5 miles; turn east on Buckskin Canyon Rd, Turn left 0.2 mi; Turn right 1.7 mi; Keep left 3.8 mi


First, I will force you to read this exhaustive description from the Mining and Scientific Press from 1910:

National, Nevada, By H. C. CUTLER

National, the latest camp to attain prominence in Nevada, is in the northern part of Humboldt county. It is about 8 miles south of old Fort McDermitt and the Oregon line, and 75 miles north of Winnemucca, on the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific railroads. It lies well up in the mountains bordering the eastern edge of Quinn River valley and, unlike the majority of camps in Nevada, is rather pleasantly situated. Water and grass are plentiful and sagebrush and green shrubbery cover the mountain sides. Cottonwood and other trees are found in the gulches near the water, but not in sufficient quantities to furnish fuel for any length of time. At present, the population of the town and vicinity is about 750. A daily stage brings the mail from Winnemucca over a road which is excellent for the larger part of the year. Freight and express are delivered in town for 1 1/2¢ per lb. A few wooden buildings have been erected, but the town is still largely composed of tents. The camp was established in June, 1907, by Jesse L. Workman, a prospector who used an automobile for transportation and who during the past six years had been over a large part of Nevada. He was attracted to this section by stories of highgrade float found at different times by sheepherders or cattlemen who had neither the time nor the inclination, nor yet the knowledge, to follow up and discover the source from which it came. Workman located forty claims in the vicinity, but was not fortunate enough to find the high-grade deposit. Credit for this belongs to lessees who were attracted to the camp by the reports sent out by Workman. Among these were George and Frank Stall, who had mined in California and prospected in Nevada. They took a lease on the West Virginia claim on Charleston hill and, although often discouraged, out of money, and ready to give up. stuck to it and finally found the bonanza deposit in February 1909.

Meantime, four of the claims located on Charleston hill had been incorporated under title of the National Mining Company, and control of the company secured by S. W. Gundaker, who kept the lessees hopeful and working until they were rewarded by finding the highest grade ore ever fouqd in place. Later, a change in ownership of the control caused a dispute as to the rights of the lease, and litigation ensued which tied up the property during a part of 1909 and 1910. The suits were finally compromised and on April 9, 1910, work on the lease was resumed with a year and twenty days to run. In August 1910 the lease was sold back to the parent company for a large sum, although it is generally supposed that the best of the rich ore-shoot had been extracted. From April until August 1, 1910, the production of high-grade ore alone exceeded $650,000. This ore was worked in a small pan-arrastre mill and the tailing shipped to the smelter. The ore averaged $25 per pound, assaying in the ratio of about an ounce of gold to an ounce of silver.

The geology of the country, both in the mine and its vicinity, is complicated. The camp lies near the southern edge of the Idaho lava flow. To the north and east, the mountains are capped with heavy flows of basalt and the gold-bearing Tertiary eruptives do not come to the surface. Beginning at Eight-Mile creek, about two miles north of National, the rhyolite and andesite appear and can be traced for a number of miles to the south. Buckskin peak, about three miles south of camp, is nearly all rhyolite. Farther south, the more ancient rocks, such as limestone, schist, slate, and granite, appear. All of this range is being closely prospected at the present time, but so far nothing of commercial value has been found outside of Charleston hill, where the Stall lease was situated. Scarcely enough work has been done in the mine to determine the actual geological conditions with certainty. A north-south break traverses the property its entire length and has been traced for several miles in the adjacent claims. This break has every indication of being a faulting plane —heavy gouge, crushed quartz, and country rock. smooth boulders embedded in the clay, and striations on the wall. All of the Stall lease workings are in this fault plane, and all of the high-grade ore extracted up to the present time, with the exceptions noted later, has been in the form of smooth boulders and pebbles or in crushed quartz. The rocks vary in size, from a pinhead to pieces weighing 150 lb. When small they are scattered throughout the gouge and crushed quartz near the wall or fault plane and make from a foot to 18 inches of mill ore assaying from ten dollars to several thousand per ton. This mill ore is, however, confined strictly to the high-grade shoot, and is necessarily limited in amount. The fault plane, starting with a dip of 49° at the surface, gradually straightens until at the 400-ft. level the dip is 80°. The east side of this break is a highly silicified rhyolite and the west side, where the ore occurs, is andesite. There is every indication that the west side has been raised, but just how far it is impossible at present to tell on account of the limited amount of development. The andesite belt is apparently not over 300 ft. wide, and directly west of it is a diorite dike, not more than 100 ft. thick. Farther west, the rhyolite appears again lying over the diorite. Basalt dikes cut through both the andesite and the rhyolite, with a general north-south trend, but I do not believe they have any relation to the ore deposition. It was originally believed that this main break was a contact fissure in which the ore was formed and afterward broken and displaced by a general faulting movement, and still later slighly recemented in places by a later solution. Development has tended to disprove this theory and the present indications are that the ore was derived from a vein in the andesite striking S. 20° E. This vein is one of a series of parallel veins cut and displaced by the fault. All of these veins do not carry ore of commercial value, although it is possible that high-grade ore will be found in some of the others. If this contention of a general faulting plane is true, and now it appears to be the only reasonable explanation, then all the ore mined up to the present time is simple 'drag' from this main vein and the fault has broken through and displaced the ore from a phenomenally rich ore-shoot. No ore has been cut by the fault, although a drift was run several hundred feet south. It is quite possible that there are parallel veins carrying ore of value farther south, and a number of lessees are working in that vicinity with this idea in mind. Some work was done on this main vein, and a few pounds of ore of the same phenomenal richness taken out, but on account of the limited hoisting facilities and the appearance of so much high-grade ore in the faulting plane lower down, work was discontinued later. Several thousand feet of work has been done by the National Mining Co. on this fault plane north of the Stall lease, but up to the present time no ore of any kind has been found beyond a point 50 ft. north of the lease boundary. Quite recently on the Hyde lease, in a block of ground about 1500 ft. north of the Stall lease some of the high-grade was found in one of the parallel veins in the andesite. This may lead to another bonanza deposit.

At the Stall lease, while operating, 75 men were employed. It was equipped with a 25-hp. Fairbanks gasoline hoist, a 1600-lb. skip, a No. 4 Buffalo exhaust fan, and a complete high-grade plant. A change-room, with lockers and washrooms, was provided for the miners, and a complete change of outside garments required. The high-grade ore, assaying over $20 per lb.. was taken out in sacks to the mill, crushed in a small Blake crusher to 1/2-in. mesh, then re-crushed in a small laboratory crusher to /4-in. mesh. From this crusher it passed to a No. 2 cone-grinder and finally to a Braun discgrinder, where it was pulverized to pass a 60-mesh screen. The pulp was then put into a 4-ft. pan-arrastre with the proper amount of quicksilver and water and amalgamated for six hours. About 150 lb. of ore was run to a charge and four charges in 24 hours. An extraction of 98 to 99.5% was made by the process and the tailing shipped to the smelter. About $650,000 in bullion was turned out of this little mill in less than three months. Besides the high-grade ore, three other grades were made seconds, assaying from $2 to $6 per lb., high-grade mill ore, $100 to $1000 per ton, and low-grade mill ore, anything assaying over $8 per ton and too low grade for other classes. The last three grades were placed in bins or on dumps until such time as other means of reduction could be obtained. At the present time, the centre of activity in the district is on Charleston hill, and a number of lessees are working on the National Mining Co.'s property and on adjacent claims both north and south. Among the more prominent properties being developed in this way are the National Consolidated, the First National, the Charleston Hill Mining Co., and the Mayflower. A mile from Charleston hill, in the suburbs of town, the • Radiator group is being developed under bond by Seattle capitalists. All of these different places will be watched with interest, as a discovery in a new place will mean much to the camp and possibly may cause another of Nevada's booms.
-Mining & Scientific Press, November 5, 1910

They were a new breed of prospector, eschewing mules and pack horses and exploring by automobile.

Workman and Davis Have Shipper In the National
Bringing with them some rich specimens of ore from National camp near Buckskin Mountain, J. L. Workman and Fred L. Davis arrived in Winnemucca in their auto last night. One of the "specimens" weighs fully fifty pounds, and it shows plenty of ruby, horn, and chloride of silver. The ore will go fully $400 per ton and is from a ledge three feet wide.
-Tonopah Bonanza, October 26, 1907

They say the name came from Mr. Workman's National automobile, hence the names of some of the prominent points there like Radiator Hill and Auto Hill. National made both electric and gasoline cars from 1900 to 1924, when they merged with the Associated Motor Industries, which was then renamed the National Motors Corporation in 1923, and then went out of business the next year.

Things weren't always smooth and jovial in the camp. You can read about the Strange Case of Mr. Riley Wooten elsewhere on this site.

Possession of Property Is Take By Force--- No Bloodshed But Situation Is Very Serious--- J. J. Workman Alleged to Have Smashed Bulkhead of Mammoth-National Mine.
With a number of guards, all said to have been heavily armed, J. L. Workman, said to be the princial factor in the Charleston HIll syndicate, which owns the Mammoth National mine at National Nevada, which is now in the hands of the Mammoth company under an option and lilcense to work, on Saturday night entered the Mammoth property forcibly and bulkheaded the tunnel leading from the Mammoth's No. 2 to the National mine, owned by the National Mines company. Superintendent Harrison of the National mine was driven away when he tried to break down the bulkhead with an axe and Harold Baxter, superintendent of the Mammoth mine, was imprisoned in the mine. His men telephoned to Winnemucca for aid and deputy sheriffs from that place have gone to National to liberate Baxter and take charge of the situation. So far there has been no bloodshed but there may be serious trouble before the matter is settled. This trouble is the result of much litigation over the property in the famous National district.
-Tonopah Daily Bonanza, October 31, 1911

From a contemporary overview in 1915:

During the prospecting in Nevada that followed the discovery of the Comstock mines, the Santa Rosa Range was not overlooked. Prospecting began here about 1868, or even earlier. The bonanza of National camp was not uncovered until 1908, although the veins on the summit line just north of Buckskin Peak have been known for many years. The deposits at national were discovered in 1907 by J.L. Workman, who entered the district by automobile and named the striking points in the vicinity after parts of his machine. He found encouraging indications and made many locations, some of which covered the ground of the present national Mine. In August of 1908, ore containing both silver and gold was found on Charleston Hill, and 5 tons were shipped to the Selby smelter near San Francisco. The smelter returns were only $40 a ton. The Stall Brothers bought out many of their neighbors, and in 1909 rich ore was discovered at the Stall brother's shaft about 40 feet below the surface. Much rich ore, averaging $30 a pound, was shipped. In July 1910, the two Stall brothers were seriously injured by the caving of a hanging wall. The mining of incredibly rich ore continued without their personal supervision, but, as well may be imagined, the results were not satisfactory, and in 1910 the Stall Brothers sold out to the National Mines Co. of Chicago. Up to November 1910, the production is believed to have been approximately $1,700,000. In 1911 the exploitation of the narrow rich shoot was in progress, and the total production was said to have reached $4,000,000.

The panorama seen from any of the hills or ridges around this basin is interesting and striking. The mining camp of National, a typical Nevada boom town, straggles for half a mile along the bottom of a smooth basin. In June, 1911, the town consisted of 50 frame houses and about 100 tents, the national Hotel, a two-story frame structure, being the most striking object. No trees shade the hills, but, as seen on a June day, the gray-green mantle of the luxuriant sagebrush and the broad splashes of yellow wild flowers give the color scheme of the landscape.

The camp has a checkered history. When the rich ore shoot was discovered, adventurers and gamblers of all kinds flocked to national, with the usual consequences. The high-grade ore invited pilfering as well as stealing on a large scale. On two occasions armed men broke into the mine and stole a number of sacks of rich ore. A searchlight was then erected, whose rays played during the night on the entrance to the mine. In 1912 another bold attempt was made to steal some rich ore belonging to the Mammoth National Co. In short, the brief but exciting history of the camp-- largely a history of the National Mine-- illustrates well the dangers and annoyances connected with the mining of exceptionally rich ore, not only from robbers, but also from the processes of the law.

-Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey
Bulletin 601
Geology and Mineral Deposits of the National Mining District, Nevada
By Waldemar Lindgren

Now here is something interesting. O'Leary's Map of the National Mining District, 1912, Second Edition, shows the location of National in a much different location than the USGS map. It shows a plat of the town directly NE of Radiator Hill, right in the middle of 46N 39E Section 33. Then, in the place where many of the maps I've seen marked as the location of National, it shows about fifteen buildings marked "Sheatown," about 800 feet south from where Sections 28, 27, 33, and 34 meet. I've also seen this location marked as "Shay."

They are two different places, although close to each other- only about 750 yards apart.

THe office of Supervisor Blakeslee, of the Santa Rosa forest reserve, is in receipt of advices from Ogden to the effect that the matter of the elimination of the National townsite from the reserve has been taken up by District Forester Sherman with Forester Graves, at Washington. While it is generally conceded that the townsite will be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the reserve officials, it is not considered likely that it will embrace the six sections of land asked for by the residents of National. It is thought that the withdrawl of so large an area would have atendency to interfere with grazing regulations. It is probable that the elimination will consist of less than 640 acres, but so arranged to include the present townsite of National, running over and embracing "Sheatown."
-The Silver State, June 22, 1911

It's between National and the mine.

The wagonload of machinery overturned the latter part of the week near National has been reloaded and delivered at the National Mine. Very little damage was done. The wagon overturned in "Sheatown," within sight of the mine. G. W. Summerfield, who superintended the reloading, is expected home today.
-The Silver State, December 31, 1912

It was on the road between National and the mine and important enough to warrant a new road. You can still see some of the old roads.

Improving Highway to Facilitate Hauling Ore to Market
Frank R. O'Leary, the well-known National engineer, arrived from camp yesterday on private business, returning to day. He reports that National is looking up and is fast assuming its forme bustle and activity. The National Mines company is building a road from the hill back of Sheatown to National. It will run on an approximately straight line and will be cut down to bedrock. This will prove a great convenience to teamsters in hauling out ore and bringing in machinery. Judge George Shea has taken a lease on Auto Hill and will begin operations shortly.
-Nevada State Journal, April 23, 1913

Apparently Mr. Shea-- for whom Sheatown was named--was not someone to mess with.

Justice George Shea of National, who alleged he was put off a train at Hazen becuase his ticket was misdated and who instituted suit for damages against the Souther Pacific Company, has compromised the case. He says he received $700 in settlement.
-Reno Evening Gazette, September 11, 1914

Another clue

The Shilo Mining Company has cut a vein in its lower tunnel about four feet wide, consisting of fine quartz and talc. There is a smll flow of water coing from the vein and it has all the eaermarks of a producer of rich minerals. It is the intention of the company to start a new tunnel near Sheatown and cut the vein at a greater deapth.
-Salt Lake Mining Review, March 15, 1916

Mr. Wallace, a retired USGS geologist, confirms my suspicions when he writes:

I did a little sleuthing on Sheatown. The place was named after or by George Shea, who, per the Silver State, took out a lease on the National Consolidated mine in the fall of 1909. The paper in April 1910 wrote that he built a large dining hall and bunkhouse that was for employees of the miners at the largest mines. Other people likely built additional houses and buildings near Shea’s buildings, which is what we see in the photo. Shea was elected to be the justice of the peace for the National precinct later in 1910, and the newspaper referred to him as Judge Shea after that. He came from Nome, Alaska, remained in National into 1914, and eventually wound up in Prescott and then Kingman, Arizona. He was born in Wisconsin in 1869 and was married to Florence; no kids. He died in Kingman in 1933. Waldemar Lindgren, a well-known geologist, studied the geology and mineral deposits of the National district and published his results in USGS Bulletin 601 in 1915. His plate (attached) shows the town of National. Just to the northeast, in the reddish area (rhyolite) is “Shay.” That undoubtedly was Sheatown but misspelled. You can also see the line of mines along the main National vein just to the east. Thus, Sheatown indeed was close to the mines and a good spot for a boarding house and dining hall for the miners. People were scattered all over the place, but National was the main “business” district. Bob, who asked about this in the first place, is correct about locations. The most-recent USGS topo map shows “National” at about the site of Sheatown, and the actual town of National was to the southwest. Both National and Sheatown (Shay) are shown correctly on Lindgren’s and O’Leary’s maps.

All good things must come to an end, and when the post office closes, you know it's time to leave.

The post office at National has been closed, and mail, which heretofore has been sent here, will be recevied at McDermitt.
-Reno Evening Gazette, January 6, 1920

Interest in the ara continued, however. As late as 1953, Whelchel Mine company from Idaho started poking around a bit.

POST OFFICE August 7, 1908 - December 31, 1919
NEWSPAPER National Miner

There's not much left here at National. Recent mining activity appears to have bulldozed a lot of stuff out of the way, leaving only a few piles of old equipment and parts.

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