In the early 1860s, two prospectors from discovered gold and silver in a canyon, which they named after their hometown of Rochester, New York. Some minor, intermittent work was done here and in nearby Limerick Canyon before the turn of the century, but didn't amount to much.

By the early 1910s, Joseph Nenzel quietly gained control of the canyon's existing claims, and in July 1912 let news of his 'strike' break. By 1913, some 2200 men arrived and established four camps:

  • Rochester, later known as Lower Rochester, was lowest in the canyon and laid out November 20, 1912. Here is where the original Rochester post office was located until late 1913, and where the Lower Rochester post office was opened in 1915.
  • East Rochester, laid out December 24, 1912, soon became the primary camp in the canyon. It became known as just Rochester in late 1913, when the post office was relocated there. By the late 1920s, it was known as Upper Rochester.
  • Central Rochester was laid out in early 1913 between Rochester and East Rochester, but didn't last long and was soon contiguous with the other camps.
  • Rochester Heights, on Nenzel Hill above the other camps, was laid out February 6, 1913, but too was short-lived and only lasted until about 1915.

In 1914, Lower Rochester was reached by the Nevada Short Line Railway, which connected it to the Southern Pacific at Oreana Station (Nenzel). The following year the 120-ton Rochester Mines Company Mill was completed, and soon rails connected it to the mines on Nenzel Hill. By 1917, however, the railroad had proven undependable and an aerial tramway was constructed to replace it. This, coupled with a cloudburst that destroyed much of the line led to its abandonment in 1918.

By the end of the 1920s, litigation caused the Rochester Silver Corporation (formerly Rochester Mines Co.) to enter into receivership, and Rochester quickly declined. Lessees continued to work the area until at least the early 1950s, at which point over $9 million in silver and gold had been produced. Since 1986, the mines on Nenzel Hill have given way to the massive, modern Coeur Rochester Mine. At Lower Rochester, much remained until 2012 when a wildfire swept through the area, leaving only concrete mill ruins.

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