Goldfield, Nevada

Esmeralda County Courthouse, Goldfield, Nevada
The Esmeralda County Courthouse in Goldfield, built in 1907

In 1902, gold was discovered near what is now the town of Goldfield (unincorporated). Between 1903 and 1940, more than $86 million worth of gold was dug out and brought to the surface in this area. But while Goldfield was the largest town in Nevada for several years with the population reaching a peak of around 30,000 people in 1906, today it is a virtual ghost town. There is still some mining and prospecting going on in the surrounding countryside but the halcyon days of Goldfield are long over. Gold output peaked around 1907 and biggest mining company left town in 1919. Most of the town's flammable structures were burned to the ground in 1923 but some of the old stone and brick buildings still remain. By 1950, the population of Goldfield had dropped to 275, but it seems to be recovering a bit these days.

Goldfield was another area of the mining west that saw a lot of union and anti-union activity in the early 1900's. While there was no serious destruction of property and no one got killed, the town was occupied for a period of time in 1907-1908 by Federal troops sent by President Theodore Roosevelt on the pretext of maintaining order. As soon as the troops had arrived and taken up positions throughout the town and surrounding area, the mine owners (who had cooked up the whole fraud) reduced miner's wages and fired and replaced every union (Western Federation of Miners) member with non-union employees. When Roosevelt heard about this, he ordered Nevada to organize their own militia/police force. The state did so quickly and the Federal troops were withdrawn on March 7, 1908.

Virgil Earp (of the infamous/famous Earp brothers) was hired as a deputy sheriff in Goldfield in January, 1905. Virgil and Wyatt had come to town together but Wyatt was making a quiet living at the poker tables and didn't need a job. As famous as the two brothers were, there doesn't seem to have been much trouble raised around them. In October, 1905 Virgil died in his bed of pneumonia and Wyatt left town shortly after the burial.

As usual in an Old West boom-and-bust mining town, there were some remarkable structures built, and quite a few still stand. One of the more famous in Goldfield is the 4-story Goldfield Hotel. Costing $450,000 in 1908, the grandest hotel in Nevada at that time had a huge opening day celebration, complete with champagne flowing down the front steps during the opening ceremony. With crystal chandeliers, an elevator, mahogany woodwork, gilded columns and black leather upholstery, the place was "over the top" for Nevada in 1908. The hotel closed its doors in 1946 but was used as a setting in the 1971 movie Vanishing Point. Red Roberts, a rancher and engineer from Carson City bought the building at the Goldfield Days auction in 2003. At the time, Roberts had plans to refurb the lower 2 floors of the building and open it to the public again. The SciFi network's Ghost Hunters did an episode in 2008 where they investigated paranormal activity in the old hotel.

Goldfield Days is a festival held every year in August. There is a parade, historical displays, booths and a land auction held as part of the festivities. While most of what still stands in Goldfield looks abandoned, nearly every building is actually owned, the taxes are paid up and most owners have plans to refurbish the buildings and reopen the businesses.

A prospector's store in Goldfield, photo from about 1940
A prospector's grub store in Goldfield, circa 1940
Fast Facts about Goldfield, Nevada
Goldfield, Esmeralda County, NV 89013
Founded: 1902
Elevation: 5,689'
Latitude: 37.715°N
Longitude: 117.24°W
Resident Racial Breakdown:
White Non-Hispanic: 90.2%
Hispanic: 5.2%
Other: 1.8%
Two or More Races: 2.7%
High School or Higher: 84.7%
Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 10.1%
Graduate or Professional Degree: 1.9%
2009 Estimates:
Population: 311
Males: 170
Females: 141
Median Resident Age: 48.8 Years
Estimated Median Household Income: $42,040
Estimated Median Home Value: $55,480
2011 Cost of Living Index for Goldfield: 87.2
Major Industries:
Government, Mining, Lodging & Food Services, Transportation Services, Educational Services, Utilities, Professional Services, Data Processing, Computer & Electronics Products, Motion Picture & Sound Recording Industries
Unemployed: 8.5% logo
Photo of Esmeralda County Courthouse courtesy of Sydney & Russell Poore, CCA ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Photo of Prospector's Grub Store c. 1940 courtesy of Arthur Rothstein via the Library of Congress
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