Here is where R.S. and Andrew Hatch built their quartz mill and smelter, among the first on the east side of the Sierras. Gold ore from the area contained galena, a lead sulphide, from which the community gained its name. Because of the galena in the ore, the mines weren't profitable but the mill continued to operate to reduce ore from the Comstock Lode. A harsh winter from 1864-65 disrupted freight traffic from Virginia City and the mill was forced to close.

In the meantime, Galena also developed as a lumber center. By 1863, eleven sawmills were in operation and Galena was home to stores, hotels, saloons, a justice court, and a school which was used as a community center. Galena was finally deserted following two fires in 1865 and 1867.

In modern times newer housing developments have enveloped the site of old Galena, although the schoolhouse and cemetery can be found on the old Callahan Ranch. Today Galena also lends its name to a high school in the area that serves South Reno.