Pioche

In 1863, Paiutes led a Mormon missionary named William Hamblin to a ledge of silver ore, which they called 'panacker,' in exchange for food and clothing. The following April, the Meadow Valley Mining District was organized by J. M. Vandermark and Stephen Sherwood, but due to remoteness and trouble with Indians, little work was done until 1868 when the property were purchased by Francois L.A. Pioche of San Francisco. A small furnace was built, and a small camp began to develop.

"Million Dollar Courthouse"
Built 1871

In 1869, the Raymond & Ely Mining Company and Meadow Valley Mining Company quickly developed and expanded their mines. A townsite was laid out by P. McCannon, L. Lacour, and A.M. Bush and, at the suggestion of Mrs. Carmichael Williamson, named Pioche. In 1870, over $600,000 was pulled from the ground at Pioche and shipped to mills at Bullionville. By 1871, Pioche had a population of over 7000. That year, it became the Lincoln County seat and a fine stone courthouse was built.

During its early days, Pioche was one of the roughest camps in the west. It is said that 72 men were killed before anyone died of natural causes, and nearly sixty percent of reported murders in Nevada in 1871-72 were in Pioche. Due to its remote location, law enforcement failed to be effective and many of these crimes went unpunished. Many of these graves can be found at Boot Hill, where men were said to have been buried "with their boots on."

Pioche reached its peak in 1872. The Pioche & Bullionville Railroad was built, and after June 1873 made transportation of ore to the mills more effective. Unfortunately, around this time ore began to diminish. Major floods in 1873 and 1874 followed by a fire that destroyed 21 buildings in 1876 helped to further Pioche's decline. The two major companies closed in 1876, and for over a decade the district was quiet. The Pioche & Bullionville Railroad was abandoned in 1881.

In 1890, the Raymond & Ely, Meadow Valley, and Yuba Mining Companies were merged by William S. Godbe to form the Pioche Consolidated Mining & Reduction Company. The following year a new mill was built below town, with the Pioche Pacific Railway connecting it not only to the Pioche mines, but also to the mines at Royal City (Jackrabbit). The mill burned in 1893, but was rebuilt. In 1907, a new line was built by Union Pacific, connecting Pioche to the mainline in Caliente, and in 1913, the Prince Consolidated Mining Company built their own railroad to connect their interests on the west side of Treasure Hill to the Pioche Consolidated Mill.

Combined Metals Mine

In 1923, the Pioche Consolidated Mining Company was purchased by the Combined Metals Reduction Company. A new mill, leased by the Combined Metals Reduction Co. but owned by the Amalgamated Pioche Mines & Smelter Co., was built in 1924 on the hill above town. In 1929, the Combined Metals Reduction Co. reconfigured the former Consolidated Mill to be a 250-ton flotation concentrator. The mill once again burned, but was rebuilt in 1930. At this time the aerial tramway was built connecting the mill to mines on Treasure Hill. In 1929, the Combined Metals Reduction Co. opened an 8000-foot tunnel connecting the mines at Pioche with Caselton to the west. Plans called for an extensive milling complex to be built at Caselton, but were delayed until after the completion of Hoover Dam in 1936 when more electrical power was available. The new mill was finally opened in 1940.

By 1958, most mining in Pioche ceased. In addition to silver, lead and zinc were produced for about two decades. Mining continued at nearby Caselton, with the large mill closing in 1978 and the removal of the railroad to Caliente in 1984. Today, Pioche boasts a large number of historical buildings and sites, including the Million Dollar Courthouse (now a museum). With a population of around 1000, it is not quite a ghost town; nevertheless it is a must-visit for any ghost town enthusiast, who will find it easy to spend an entire day or two exploring the town and the surrounding area.

I Visited Pioche
7.1.2006, 7.21.2016, & 5.26.2019

Bibliography