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In 1902 Jim Butler, the discoverer of valuable ore that set off Tonopah's first boom, sponsored two young prospectors searching for new veins of gold and silver. About twenty-five miles south of Tonopah they found a ledge of gold ore that turned out to be more valuable than any previously mined in Nevada. As Tonopah boomed in silver, Goldfield attracted thousands more people looking for gold. By 1907 Goldfield had become the largest city in Nevada, with a population of well over 15,000, while Tonopah had 10,000, Rhyolite 6,000 to 8,000, and Reno 8,000.

Publicity and speculation—a feature of all the early twentieth-century mining booms in south-central Nevada—were strongest in Goldfield. The speedy construction of numerous fine stone houses and public buildings not only satisfied residents but also helped promote the idea of continued economic success. In 1907 the town won the designation of Esmeralda county seat from Hawthorne. However, Goldfield's star faded quickly; by 1910 the decline had begun, later exacerbated by natural disasters. Set in a valley, the town endured a devastating flood in 1913. An enormous fire in 1923 wiped out much of what remained of Goldfield's built environment. Today a few landmarks stand as relics of the booming past in a quiet town of about 400 people.

Writing Credits

Julie Nicoletta

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