In September 1864, a five-man party from Austin found silver-lead ore here - the first major silver-lead discovery in America. For a short period of time, ore was shipped to Austin for smelting but the ore's high lead content caused the venture to fail. In 1869, new furnaces were installed that were capable of treating the ore successfully and attention shifted to Eureka.

Eureka grew rapidly during 1870, and the Eureka Sentinel began publication that July. Smelters were built, stages arrived from all directions, and a fast freight line connected Eureka to the Central Pacific Railroad at Palisade. In 1873, Eureka became the seat of the newly created Eureka County. That same year, construction began on the Eureka & Palisade Railroad, which was completed in October 1875. The E&P connected remote eastern and central Nevada to the rest of the country; Eureka developed as a hub for numerous stage lines connecting to the railroad from Austin, Belmont, Tybo, Hamilton, and even as far as Ward and Pioche.

By 1878, Eureka had become the second largest city in Nevada with a population of 9000. There were over 100 saloons, several gambling houses, theaters, hotels, and other businesses. Sixteen smelters treated ore from over fifty mines, with a capacity of 745 tons per day. Clouds of black smoke and soot dust from these earned Eureka the nickname the "Pittsburgh of the West." That year $5.2 million was produced that year, making it Eureka's most profitable.

In 1879, the Charcoal Burners' Association staged a strike and stopped charcoal delivery to the smelters to protest a price reduction of their product. After the burners threatened to take over town and destroy property, the county sheriff and a posse ambushed the burners at Fish Creek. Five burners were killed, and at least that many injured. Despite this slowdown and a major fire in April, production in 1879 almost reached the same as 1878.

Production began to slow in 1880, and the population around Eureka dropped to only about 6300. Another major fire that August destroyed a significant amount of the city, but much was rebuilt. The next year, the Eureka Consolidated Company encountered water and were required to use expensive pumps to work the lower levels. The major ore bodies were exhausted by 1885, and from then on were worked by lessees. By the end of the decade the price of silver fell and in 1890 the Richmond smelter closed, followed by the Eureka smelter in 1891. During these boom years, Eureka produced $64 million in silver and gold, and over 225,000 tons of lead.

A short revival began in 1906 when the Richmond-Eureka Consolidated Company was formed by the merger of the two largest companies from Eureka's early days. Disastrous flooding in 1910 washed out the Eureka & Palisade as well as the shorter line running to Ruby Hill, bringing the revival to an end. Lessees again worked the mines sporadically until 1940, with the E&P (known as the Eureka-Nevada after 1912) being dismantled in 1938.

In more recent years, Eureka has seen a resurgence of activity. Mining in the area has brought growth to the town, which now has a population of over 600. A number of historic buildings line the streets of town, many of which have seen restoration during the past few decades.

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