As early as 1848, this area was a popular campsite for emigrants traveling westward to California and Oregon. In the early 1860s, silver ore was discovered in the Humboldt Range, and towns like Unionville and Star City came into existence. In 1862, the Pride of the Mountain mine was located on what is now Winnemucca Mountain. Meanwhile, additional discoveries in Idaho caused an increase in traffic to and from California, and a camp called "Frenchman's Ford" or just "French Ford" sprang up at this crossing of the Humboldt River. In 1865, Joseph Ginaca built a bridge to replace the ford, and the following year the community changed its name to Winnemucca, after the famed Paiute chief.

In October 1868, Winnemucca was reached by the Transcontinental Railroad, and following its completion in May 1869 became a central shipping point, connecting the region's mines to points east and west. By 1870, 290 people lived in town, and in 1873 Winnemucca became the Humboldt County seat.

By the turn of the century, Winnemucca had grown to become a thriving town of over 1000. While shipment of ore along the railroad continued, ranching also became a mainstay of the area. The town was also no stranger to fire, as conflagrations in 1891, 1905, and during the late 1910s destroyed several blocks. Nevertheless, Winnemucca rebuilt. In 1922, Winnemucca gained another boost when the path of the Victory Highway - later US 40 - was routed through the middle of town and businesses popped up to take advantage of the influx in travelers.

Winnemucca's next boost came in the late 1970s, when microscopic gold was found and led to an increase in mining. Around the same time, Interstate 80 was completed to replace US 40 and modern businesses opened. In the years since, Winnemucca's population has grown to over 7500. As the largest city between Reno and Elko, Winnemucca continues to be a popular stopping point for travelers and, despite the loss of several landmarks due to more recent fires, several historic buildings remain in town.

Central Pacific Railroad
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