White Pine County

White Pine County Courthouse
Built 1908

Miners rushed to the area known as the White Pine District in 1868 after rich silver deposits were uncovered. A camp known as Hamilton quickly grew, and in 1869 its population was near 12,000. A new county, carved from parts of Lander and named for the White Pine district, was created that year with Hamilton as the county seat. By the 1870s, however, the ore body in Hamilton played out and the town was in decline. After a fire destroyed the courthouse in January 1885, recordkeeping began at a new courthouse in Ely. In 1887, Ely officially recieved the title of county seat.

White Pine County's next big boom occured just after the turn of the century. Copper ore was discovered in Robinson Canyon, and in 1907 large mining operations began. The Nevada Northern Railway was built connecting the copper mines and Ely to the Southern Pacific in Cobre, and a smelter was built in McGill. Three company towns (Ruth, Kimberly, and Veteran) were established and the area west of Ely was alive with mining activity - and still is, despite the mine being closed from 1978 until 1994.

Further east, near the Utah border, White Pine County is also home to Nevada's only National Park: Great Basin. Great Basin National Park's history begins with the accidental discovery of Lehman Caves by Absalom Lehman around 1885. Lehman opened the Caves to the public, and in 1922 Lehman Caves was made a National Monument. In 1986, the National Monument was consolidated with the newly created Great Basin National Park, due in part to bristlecone pine groves that were found in the mountains nearby.

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