Esmeralda County

Esmeralda County Courthouse
Completed 1907

Esmeralda County was created in 1861, as the southern-most of Nevada's original nine counties. James Manning Cory, an early California miner, named the Esmeralda District after the Gypsy girl from Victor Hugo's novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Aurora was chosen as the seat, and aside from that area most of the county had yet to be explored. John C. Frémont discovered Big Smokey Valley in 1845, and the northern corridor had been crossed as well. In 1862, when silver was discovered in the Reese River District, a rush to the Toiyabe Range at the eastern edge of the county prompted the creation of camps like Washington and Marysville. Not long after that, silver was discovered in the Shoshone Range and the Union district formed in 1863. After the establishment of Ione, its residents claimed that the district was too far from the seat in Aurora and petitioned for the creation of a new county. As a result, Nye County was formed from the eastern half of Esmeralda County on February 16, 1864 with Ione as its seat.

Following the decline of Aurora, it was decided in 1883 that Hawthorne become the new county seat. There it remained until discoveries were made at Goldfield, and in 1907 the county seat moved to the rapidly expanding city. Shortly thereafter, Esmeralda County was once again split in half, and the northern half became Mineral County in 1911.

Today, Esmeralda is the least populated county in Nevada (and second in the nation) at less than 800. Goldfield, now merely a shadow of the great city it once was, is still the county seat and largest town in the county. Other communities include the farming hamlet of Dyer, and the lithium mining town of Silver Peak. Abandoned mines dot the mountains of Esmeralda County and one of Nevada's best preserved ghost towns, Gold Point, can also be found near its southern tip.