Goldfield, Nevada

Goldfield, Nevada

Goldfield, an unincorporated community, is the county seat of Esmeralda County, Nevada, United States. It is about 170 miles southeast of Carson City, along U.S. Route 95. The population was 440 at the 2000 census, almost half of the county's population, though for several years in the early 20th century Goldfield was the largest town in Nevada.

Goldfield was a boomtown in the first decade of the 20th century due to the discovery of gold — between 1903 and 1940, Goldfield's mines produced more than $86 million. While a small permanent population remains in Goldfield, it is largely a ghost town. Gold exploration still continues in and around the town today.


Gold was discovered at Goldfield in 1902, its year of inception.

By 1904 the Goldfield district produced about 800 tons of ore, valued at $2,300,000, 30% of the state's production that year. This remarkable production caused Goldfield to grow rapidly, and it soon became the largest town in the state.

One prominent, or notorious, early Goldfield resident was George Graham Rice, a former forger, newspaperman, and racetrack tipster, turned mining stock promoter. The collapse of his Sullivan Trust Company and its associated mining stocks caused the failure of the Goldfield State Bank in 1907. Rice quickly left Goldfield, but continued to promote mining shares for another quarter-century. []

Goldfield reached a peak population of about 30,000 people in 1906. In 1907 Goldfield became the county seat.

In addition to the mines, Goldfield was home to large reduction works. The gold output in 1907 was over $8.4 million; in 1908, about $4,880,000.

By the 1910 census, its population had declined to 4,838. By 1912, ore production had dropped to $5 million.

The largest mining company left town in 1919. In 1923 a fire destroyed most of the town's flammable buildings; some brick and stone buildings from before the fire remain including the old hotel and the high school.

By 1950 Goldfield had a population of 275.

Labor relations during the boom years

Soon after mining on an extensive scale began, the miners organized themselves as a local branch of the Western Federation of Miners, and in this branch were included many laborers in Goldfield other than miners. Between this branch and the mine owners there arose a series of more or less serious differences, and there were several set strikes in December 1906 and January 1907 for higher wages. In March and April 1907, because the owners refused to discharge carpenters who were members of the American Federation of Labor, but did not belong to the Western Federation of Miners or to the Industrial Workers of the World affiliated with it, this last organization was, as a result of the strike, forced out of Goldfield.

Beginning in August 1907, a rule was introduced at some of the mines requiring miners to change their clothing before entering and after leaving the mines — a rule made necessary, according to the operators, by the wholesale stealing (in miners’ parlance, "high-grading") of the very valuable ore (some of it valued at as high as $20 a pound). In November and December 1907, some of the owners adopted a system of paying in cashier's checks. Except for occasional attacks upon non-union workmen, or upon persons supposed not to be in sympathy with the miners’ union, there had been no serious disturbance in Goldfield; but in December 1907, Governor Sparks, at the insistence of the mine owners, appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt to send Federal troops to Goldfield, on the ground that the situation there was ominous, that destruction of life and property seemed probable, and that the state had no militia and would be powerless to maintain order.

President Roosevelt thereupon (December 4th) ordered General Frederick Funston, commanding the Division of California, at San Francisco, to proceed with 300 Federal troops to Goldfield. The troops arrived in Goldfield on December 6, and immediately afterwards the mine-owners reduced wages and announced that no members of the Western Federation of Miners would thereafter be employed in the mines. Roosevelt, becoming convinced that conditions had not warranted Sparks’s appeal for assistance, but that the immediate withdrawal of the troops might lead to serious disorder, consented that they should remain for a short time on condition that the state should immediately organize an adequate militia or police force. Accordingly, a special meeting of the legislature was immediately called, a state police force was organized, and on March 7, 1908 the troops were withdrawn. Thereafter work was gradually resumed in the mines, the contest having been won by the mine owners.

Present-day attractions

The unoccupied buildings of the ghost town remain an attraction. They are not abandoned; each building has an owner, many with plans to renovate the property.

In addition, the Goldfield Days festival is held in August each year. The festival includes parades, booths, historical displays, and a land auction.

Goldfield is home to a small but eclectic population of artists and independent thinkers, one of whom maintains an art car park on Highway 95. He is deceased, but some of his cars are still there for sale

Goldfield Hotel then and now

The town's four-story Goldfield Hotel opened in 1908 at a cost of $450,000 (in 1908 dollars) and was reported to be the most spectacular hotel in Nevada at the time. At the opening of the hotel, champagne flowed down the front steps in the opening ceremony. The rooms were outfitted with pile carpets, many with private baths, and the lobby was trimmed in mahogany, with black leather upholstery and gilded columns. It also featured an elevator and crystal chandeliers.

The hotel ceased operations in 1946 but the abandoned building remains as of 2008. The building was used in the 1971 movie "Vanishing Point" as the site of Super Soul's radio station, KOW. At the 2003 Goldfield Days auction, the Goldfield Hotel was sold to Red Roberts, a rancher and engineer from Carson City. Roberts has plans to refurbish the bottom two floors of the four-story hotel and open them to the public.

In 2008, TAPS, of the popular paranormal TV show "Ghost Hunters", investigated Goldfield Hotel for paranormal activity.


As of the 2000 census, there were 440 people, 221 households, and 118 families residing in the Goldfield CCD. The racial makeup of the CCD was 93.2% White, 0.2% Black or African American, 2.0% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 1.4% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. 5.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.


*In 1906 a lightweight boxing championship match was staged in Goldfield between Joe Gans and Oscar "Battling" Nelson.
* Goldfield's famous former residents include former Governor/Senator Tasker Oddie, Wyatt Earp and Virgil Earp. Virgil Earp was hired as a deputy sheriff in Goldfield in January 1905; Virgil died there, in bed with pnumonia in October 1905, and Wyatt left Goldfield shortly thereafter.
* Goldfield served as the fictional Californian town in the 1998 film "Desert Blue".
* Author Jeffery S. Miller wrote the short story, "The Witch of Goldfield" in 2007, about Wyatt and Virgil Earp's encounter with a witch. Miller fictionalized the Goldfield fire, blaming the fire on a satanic witch who cursed the town and the Earp brothers.
* Author David Tyson who wrote "The Fifth Age: Book I: The Quest for the Stone of Power", grew up in Goldfield and plans in his future books to base some of his stories from his home town.
* Goldfield served as the fictional town of "Glory Hole" in the 1987 film "Cherry 2000".

See also

* Goldfield Hills

External links and sources

* [ Official website]
* [ Radio Goldfield KGFN, 106.3 MHz<]
* [ Discussion Board]
* [ Official State of Nevada Tourism site]
* [ The Goldfield Strike] , from the KUED public broadcasting website
* [ Map of the Goldfield CCD] from the Census Bureau website
* [ Some photographs of Goldfield] from the Library of Congress
* [ Goldfield on] , an ad-supported website
* [ Virtual-reality exploration of Goldfield and the Goldfield Hotel]

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