Take it easy

39° 26' 22"N, 118° 03' 08"W - WONDER MOUNTAIN quad

VISITED July 21, 2001

Highway 50E from Fallon 40 miles, Turn N on Dixie Valley Road (121) about 1.8 miles, Turn NE about 11.5 miles. The sites of Hercules (2.1mi.) , Victor (5.2 mi.), Red Top (6.5 mi.), and Kingston (5.8 mi.) are nearby.

From Fallon : 53 miles


Prospectors from Fairview made discoveries in this area in May of 1906 and by August there was already a newspaper and a thriving camp. The financial panic of 1907 halted most of the operation in the district until 1911 (or 1913, depending on who you're talking to) when the Nevada Wonder Mining Co. constructed a 200- ton cyanide mill at its mine, which operated until 1919. The town had telephone service by November 1906, electric power in February 1911 and a school from 1907 to 1919." The dates on the Mill photos from the Churchill County Museum don't jibe with these dates, so further research may be required.

First, a couple of brief overviews:

The Wonder District is on the west slope of a a southern spur of the Alpine range, sometimes called the Augusta Mountains, in west Churchill County. It is 55 miles by road east of the town of Fallon, the nearest railroad point; 40 of the 55 miles are over paved Lincoln Highway and the remaining distance is over fair desert road with an easy grade from the highway to the camp, the rise being approximately 2,000 feet in 15 miles. The elevation of Wonder is 5,500 feet.

The first location in the Wonder District was made in April 1906 by T.J. Stroud on the Jackpot group of claims, and the NEvada Wonder mines was located shortly afterward by Murray Scott, William Mays, and others. The discovery of rich silver-gold ore started a stampede from Fairview that began in May in the same year, and in a few weeks over 1,000 locations were made. The discovery attracted considerable attention, and it was not long before a camp of several thousand people was established. In the first few years of the camp' s history, a number of companies were organized, but the bulk of the metal yield was derived from the Nevada Wonder mines, incorporated in Delaware on September 19, 1906.

Later this mine was taken over by a group of eastern capitalists, who began a systematic development campaign and in 1913 constructed a 200 ton cyanide mill at the mine. Electric power was brought in from bishop, Calif., and at the time this transmission line had the distinction of being the longest in the world. The Nevada Wonder Mining Co. controlled, by stock ownership, the claims of the Wonder Extension, reorganized North Star, and Hidden Treasure Mining Companies, totaling 401 acres, 328 of which were patented. In 1910 water was brought to the camp by a gravity pipe from Horse creek,a distance of ten miles. The company ceased operations in December 1919, after a very profitable history.

The total amount of dividends paid was $1, 549,002. In 1924 the mine equipment was dismantled and most of it sold. In 1935 the mine and the equipment remaining was purchased by L.F. Curtis of Reno, Nev. In recent years, mining in the district has been by lessees, largely at the Nevada Wonder Mine.
-Nevada Bureau of Mines, Date Unknown (1938?)

At first, conditions were rough. Today's values are in blue.

Wonder, the scene of the latest mining excitement in Nevada, is situated about 22 miles northeast of Fairview, thus making it 80 miles from the nearest railroad point. It may be reached either direct from Fairview, or, as most prefer, by going to Westgate, 12 miles distant, where there is plenty of water, and thence to Wonder, 16 miles more. A stage leaves Fairview daily for the camp, and makes the trip in about six hours. The new camp is situated in the Silver mountains, about four miles from the head of an old river channel, and half way between Chalk Mountain and Horse Creek. It is flanked on either side by high rolling hills, which seem to be less broken than those surrounding Fairview. The tops are covered with a sparse growth of timber, which insures plenty of comparatively cheap fuel. There is enough mountain grass to feed burros. The camp was discovered during the early part of June, sensational surface ore having been obtained from the Wonder claim. The news immediately brought a rush of men from Fairview, nearly depopulating it temporarily, and all surrounding ground was staked off for miles. Several new strikes were made, but nothing approaching in richness the original location. The camp was discovered during the early part of June, sensational surface ore having been obtained from the Wonder claim. The news immediately brought a rush of men from Fairview, nearly depopulating it temporarily, and all surrounding ground was staked off for miles. Several new strikes were made, but nothing approaching in richness the original location. At present the camp consists of about 60 to 80 tents, no wooden buildings having yet been erected, though several are about to be. Beside work on the Wonder claim, there is much prospecting going on in the surrounding hills, and several rich finds are reported, especially near Horse Creek. Just now the camp is laboring under severe handicaps, the worst being lack of water. All water is hauled from Westgate, and has a ready sale at $6 ($160) per barrel. However, a new strike of water has been made three miles away, and there is every indication that a good supply will soon be secured. Prices of all commodities are high, but no higher that the conditions warrant. Meals of dubious quality may be had at 75¢ ($15.39). Town lots are closely held, prices ranging from $150 ($3,078.54) to $400 ($8,209.43) in the center of town. Wonder is emphatically not a "poor man's camp." All goods must be hauled in, and ore hauled out, to Hazen, and as the roads are in sandy soil, with frequent steep grades, freight rates are as high as 3 1/2 (17¢)cents to 5 ($1.03) cents per pound. But these difficulties can be overcome, and with an intelligent management of capital invested, Wonder should justify the good opinion already formed by conservative mining men who have visited the camp.
Excerpts from WONDER, NEVADA By W. Fay Boericke
[courtesy Nevada Bureau of Mines]

Miners are offered $5 ($128.00)per day at Wonder, Churchill county, with no takers on account of high cost of living there.
-Pioche Weekly Record, November 23, 1906

Wonder Sun is the name selected for a weekly newspaper to be published at the mining camp of that name in Churchill county.
-Pioche Weekly Record, July 20, 1906

Wonder began to grown quickly as word spread.

While doing some trenching work on the Atlanta group of claims in the Wonder district, Dick Lonergan uncovered a two foot ledge which assayed $185. The Atlanta is owned jointly by Dick Lonergan and the D'Arcy brothers of Hercules, and is considered one of the best properties in the canyon. The town of Wonder is growing daily by jumps and bounds and fully 150 people a week are now pouring in from every conceivable place. The stages come into town every night loaded down and go out in the morning empty. Over 100 people every day are waiting in Fallon, for a chance to get any kind of ride into the camp, and stage tickets are being sold for two weeks ahead of time. Several large real estate transactions have taken place during the last week, one lot selling for $4,000 ($102,619). One of the finest buildings in Nevada will be erected on the property. Good miners are in great demand in Wonder and many operators are send out for experienced hands. In fact all kinds of labor is scarce and carpenters are lucky to get off for meals, owing to the pressing demand for buildings. In sixty days Wonder will have five hotels, two banks and many other buildings and firms, as plans have all been drawn up for them. It will need all of these, and more, as the town will not be able to grow fast enough to keep ahead of the incoming population. Taking into consideration the fact that Wonder is sixty miles out in the desert, the prices of foodstuffs and all kinds of provisions are surprisingly low. Meals are 50 cents each ($12.40) and beds cost only $1 ($25.65) per night. Water will be running through the pipes into the town in a few weeks, and a site for a swimming tank has already been located.
-Salt Lake Mining Review, March 15, 1907

Naturally, they tried to generate as much excitement about the town as possible.

Marvelous Activity Caused By Rich Discoveries-- All Means of Transportation Taxed To the Utmost-- People Arriving From Every Quarter of the Globe-- Prominent Tonopah Mining Men Visit the Camp and Are Astounded
"It would not surprise to learn that over 1,000 head of horses are on the road between Fallon and Wonder hauling freight and passengers and supplies," said W. W. Booth, proprietor of the Daily Bonanza. "Buildings, fie, permanent buildings, are going up on every side, and more would be in the process of construction if building material could be obtained. BUt in speaking of Wonder, Fairview must not be forgotten. This camp is in the same mineral belt as Wonder and will develop almost as rapidly and consistently as the Wonder camp. Why, in Fairview there is a body of ore so large that it cannot be worked out for the next fifty years. Mark my words."
Tonopah Daily Bonanza April 14, 1907

The scientific journals of the day were a little more subdued.

Wonder, Nevada May 8-- Since Tom Stroud wandered into the hills north of Fairview a little more than a year ago and discovered what is now the Wonder mining district, a transformation has taken place through which the bleak and barren hills have presented scenes of life and activity with a vividness and rapidity that is marvelous and unusual even in Nevada. A special representative of the Salt Lake Mining Review recently visited Wonder and was much surprised at the advanced stage of development of a number of the properties inspected, considering the very few months that Wonder has been on the map. The constant boom of giant powder, heard night and day, the huge dumps seen at mouth of tunnel and top of shaft, together with the stacks of ore sacked ready for shipment all tell the story of the district's progress. It is stated that nearly three million dollars have been invested in properties in the district since its discovery and conservative estimates are to the effect that no less than $50,000 per month is being spent in development. Of a population of about 1200, over 300 are miners employed. A percentage that admits of but few drones and is self evident of the substantial effort that is being directed to the making of mines. The Wonder district is situated in Churchill county, about fifty seven miles a little south of east from the town of Fallon, the county seat and nearest railroad point, and about seventeen miles north of Fairview. Wonder, the principal town of the district, is located in what is known as Badger Flat at an elevation of 5700 feet. Here, substantial buildings are taking the place of the myriads of tents which served as the habitations of the pioneers, many of whom in their eagerness to secure portions of the valuable ground were content even without these and slept in the open air sheltered only by the canopy of the heavens. In the town of Wonder alone are half a dozen general stores, two banks, several hotels, two lumber yards which cannot begin to supply the demand for building material, and any number of saloons, restaurants, and supply houses, and almost every line of business represented in any prosperous town of this size and catering to the needs of a mining community.
It was in March 1906 that the redoubtable Tom Stroud first left Fairview and became attracted on a prospecting trip to the hills located to the north conspicuous from the entire surrounding country for their vivid mineralization, and made a location which he named the Lost claim, a part of which is now embraced in the Stray Horse group, and the remainder being included in the Horn Spoon holdings. After making this location, Stroud returned to Fairview and interested the D'arcy brothers in the rich samples he had brought back with him, and they equipped him with supplies for a second trip. This trip was destined to be the climax of his crowning achievement, for it was then that he located the now famous Jack Pot. The exact date of this location was April 7th, 1906. A few weeks later, Stroud made a third trip accompanied by R L D'arcy. They made several more locations and on their way out when they were met by another party consisting of Frank Shulty, R L Smith et al. These last named parties made several locations and were later joined by William Mays, L A Savage, and Murray Scott. While prospecting the hill now known as Wonder Mountain, Mays broke a piece of rock from the outcrop of a ledge. Though he had been prospecting but a few weeks, his unskilled eye detected the presence of mineral and upon showing the rock to Scott and Savage, his opinion was verified by their more experienced judgment. Greatly elated by their find, these men immediately began taking up the surrounding ground, locating the Last Chance and Hidden Treasure. Mays soon after this returned to Fairview and their hearts were all made glad by the returns from the assays from the samples of rock secured from their find, which showed values of $1200 in gold and silver. in some manner the news of the strike became public and saddle horses, burros, single rigs, double rigs, and every other means of transportation available were hastily brought into service and the stampede was on. Many who were unable to procure even a burro struck out on foot. Among those first upon the ground were C C Higgins, Harry Morris, Frank Lamb, Scott Groo, J B Cobb, and a number of others many of whom have disposed of their interests for handsome sums. It is stated that more fortunes have been acquired in a given time by the original locators in Wonder than in any other district in Nevada.
-Salt Lake Mining Review, May 15, 1907

This article points to the fact that the mill was probably built in 1911.

The mill of the Nevada Wonder Mining company at Wonder Nevada as well as that of the Nevada Hills Mining company at Fairview has been idle since early in January and it will probably be the first of April before the plants are again in active operation. This enforced idleness was caused by the Hydro-Electric Power Company being unable to generate the necessary power at Lundy, California, the seat of activity of the latter concern. Extremely cold weather early in the year almost completely shut down the Lundy plant, only enough current being made at the present time to operate lights, hoists, and compressors. The Hydro-Electric Power Company, however, is rushing work with a large force of men in erecting a huge dam and will soon be able to furnish adequate power for all purposes. This dam should have been built last summer, but on account of the great avalanche of a year ago in which several men were killed and the then power plant destroyed, all energy was diverted to the reconstruction of the plant. Consequently the reservoir plans were unavoidably postponed and, the vicinity experiencing the coldest weather in over ten years, the present deadlock has resulted. The temporary closing of the Nevada Wonder mill, however, has not interfered with the mine workings. The miners who had been busy stoping ore for the mill have been put on development work and much is being done now that could not be done when the mill was running. The Nevada Wonder shaft is a small single compartment shaft and its capacity was taxed on an output of eighty tons of ore daily, the mill being a one hundred ton affair. Many eastern stockholders not knowing the circumstances questioned the reason for not running the full one hundred tons per day. The present opportunity is being taken advantage of and the shaft is not only being lowered from the 500 foot level, its depth two months ago, but is being sent down as a two compartment shaft as well, from the 500 foot point. It is now past the 650 foot point and will be lowered to 700 feet or more. It is also the intention to carry the two compartment shaft from the 500 foot level to the surface, after which the mill will not only run at full capacity but extensive development work will be taken care of also. The mine is equipped with 2 -14 inch Sullivan drills and Waugh stopers, a Leyner hoist, a Laidlaw Dunn Gordon compressor, and a Sturtevant blower, all operated by electric power. The Leyner drill sharpener and automatic ore gates at the mine bins being operated by compressed air. The mill has given entire satisfaction, more than meeting the expectations of the management as a value saver during the period of its running. It treated an average of eighty tons daily, all the small shaft could furnish, and the percentage of extraction from the assay values of the ore ranged from a little over 90 per cent at the beginning of the run to 96 per cent at the time of closing down, and a further improvement in recovery is anticipated on resumption of milling, as several changes and additions are now being made. The concentrators, which were experimental, have been abandoned and another Dorr thickener is being added to the equipment, also one more classifier and a system of continuous agitation is being installed. With the additions and improvements as outlined, the capacity of the mill will be one hundred and twenty tons daily. The refinery is equipped with Faber du Faure tilting furnaces, the building is heated throughout by an elaborate steam system. The fuel used for this purpose being California oil. Water is supplied through a ten mile four-inch pipe line from Horse Creek, a large 100,000 gallon storage tank above the mill constantly overflowing.
- Salt Lake Mining Review, March 30, 1912

Production eventually slowed as the ore body was depleted.

The production of silver from this mine decreased gradually from 1915 to 1919 in consequence of the depletion of the ore reserves and necessity for treating ore of a lower silver content. The higher price of silver offset the increased costs and permitted this lower grade ore to be worked at a profit.
-Operations of the Nevda Wonder Mining Company During Four Years of War, Mining and Scientific Press, April 10, 1920

Things slowly petered out and finally stopped.

The property was taken over by a group of stern capitalists and they began a thorough, systematic development campaign. An immense tonnage or ore was blocked out and in 1913 a 200-ton cyanide plants was installed. Electric power was brought in from Bishop, California, and at the time of its installation this hydroelectric power plant held the distinction of being the longest transmission line in the world. The mine and mill were completely equipped with the most modern, up-to-date electrically drive machinery obtainable, and production commenced which eventually yielded over six million dollars. In 1919 the mine and mill were suddenly closed down and the property remained idle until 1924, when the machinery was placed on the market. in 1933 the mine and what machinery remained were purchased by the present owner, who continued to sell off the equipment. In the meantime, with the closing of all operating mines in Rawhide, Nevada Hills (Fairview) and Wonder, the principle points of power consumption, the transmission line was removed and all mining operations ceased. But the Wonder mine holds the distinction of being the only mine in the west where company operations were not followed by lessees or tributers. Early in 1931 a lease on the property was granted to a well known Tonopah lessee and operator. He found a man's size job confronting him, for during the long period of idleness the three compartment main working shaft that had been sunk to the 1300 foot level was found to be in bad repair and required considerable re-timbering. Having full faith in the property, the lessee set about the task of timbering the shaft and old workings, which work was completed only to the 200 foot level, when lack of funds prevented further activities along these lines.
-Report On the Nevada Wonder Mine, 1938

As was previously mentioned, water was quite an issue at Wonder until a pipeline was finally run to the town. This was not a simple pipe stuck in a creek that dripped into a tank. This was a rather sophisticated system, complete with a telegraphic monitoring system. Rather than laboriously transcribe the workings of this system, I will allow you to read the Adobe PDF document detailing its workings by clicking here.

Sep 1906 - Aug 1920

NEWSPAPER American Enterprise (weekly) during 1908 Wonder Miner (weekly) during 1907 Wonder Mining News (weekly) from 1906-1912

The road to Wonder is easy to find, easy to get to, and easy to drive on. As a result, the townsite is pretty much picked clean. No buildings remain save the mill ruins, and the debris ranges from a few rusty, flattened tins to more recent mine equipment, abandoned in the 1960's and 1970's. All that's left of the cemetery are a few pieces of wood and the remains of a picket fence that once probably surrounded a grave.

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