End of the road, Goldpoint
April 18, 2004
Or, What's In a Name?
A keepsake produced for the spring doins of the Queho Posse, Chapter 1919 of the Ancient and Honourable Order of E Clampus Vitus
Under the illustrious leadership of Noble Grand Humbug
Dann "Fuzzy" De Boer
This keepsake was confounded, confused, compiled, collated, conditioned, coordinated, controlled, and compromised by
XNGH Mark Hall-Patton, Clamphistorian
The Obfuscationist Press
Lime Point/Hornsilver/Gold Point,
or What's in a Name?
The ghost town of Gold Point had its beginnings in 1866, when Thomas Shaw discovered gold in the area around Gold Mountain. The Gold Mountain Mining District was organized in 1868. It was followed by the Tokop District, which became the Hornsilver District many years later. Shaw developed the Oriental Mine. A nearby mine camp, also named Oriental, was started in 1871. The nearby town of Lida Valley was founded in 1872. Lida, as it was soon known, would figure in the early history of Lime Point, and its successor towns.
There were a large number of mining camps and towns founded in the Lida valley and nearby Gold Mountain. These included Gold Mountain, also known as Stateline after its most productive mine, Oriental, also known as Old Camp, and Lime Point, also known as Hornsilver and Gold Point. It is an interesting sidelight light that town and camp names were seemingly a matter of constant review and change, as none of the four camps or towns kept their original name throughout their existence. It is Gold Point that holds the record, though, with three names.
By 1880, mining near Lime Point, about one mile from the downtown area of today's Gold Point, was underway. It was not successful in the long run because of the distance to the mills at Lida. Shipping costs forced the closure of mining operations in 1882.
By the late 1890s, mining had started again in the area previously known as Lime Point. A new mine district was formed called Hornsilver. The mineral horn silver is also known as Cerargyrite, and is a chloride ore that can contain as much as 75% silver. With the boom at Goldfield in 1905, mining began in earnest in the area.
J. T. Murray located the first claims in the district in the twentieth century. He called his seven claims the Lime Point Gold Mining and Milling Company. On his heels were Howard Russell and William Kavanaugh, who located claims southeast of Murray's. Murray did not follow up on his claims, moving to Goldfield to become deputy sheriff instead, but Russell and Kavanaugh did. They enlisted Russell's brother, James, and began operations. Their mine, the Great Western, would go on to be one of the most important and successful in the history of the area.
The success of their claim led to speculation about bringing a railroad to the area. The Bullfrog and Goldfield Railroad was organized in 1905, and planned an extention off the Lida Valley spur to Hornsilver. Though eventually built to Goldfield, the spurs to Lida and to Hornsilver were never built. Similarly, projected spurs from the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad, and an abortive Lida Valley Railroad, the latter having never gotten past original speculation, never materialized. For all its projected glory, Hornsilver was destined to never have a railroad.
It was the Great Western Mine that produced the horn silver for which the new town would be named. The town was laid out in March 1908, and the first official sale of town lots occurred on April 15.
Hornsilver grew rapidly, as was the norm for desert boomtowns. On May 9, 1908, within a few weeks of the first sales of lots, the Hornsilver Herald began publication. Earle R. Clemens, who was the editor of the Rhyolite Herald, founded it. With A. B. Gibson as mining editor, the new newspaper was produced as a weekly, coming out every Saturday. It was a non-partisan paper, in an era when many papers proudly defined their political leanings. The masthead of the paper noted that it was the pioneer paper of the Hornsilver district, and carried news of Hornsilver, Old Camp, Gold Mountain, Willow Springs, Tokop, Lida, Bonnieclaire, Tule Canyon, and Cuprite. It was published throughout the boom period of the town's history, running through at least February 1909.
Hornsilver's post office was authorized on May 16, 1908. G. Ernest Shannon, foreman of the Great Western Mine, was the first postmaster. He was also appointed Justice of the Peace for the town. On May 22, before the post office had begun operations, Nevada's Governor, John Sparks, died. The new residents decided they should fly a flag at half-mast in his honor, though it took some time to find the only American flag in camp. However, when produced, it was raised over Fowlie Hall, and then lowered appropriately to half-mast
The post office actually began operations in a tent in late May, and, according to a short notice in the Herald,
"Postmaster Shannon went this week to Palmetto and bodily brought its post office outfit to Hornsilver…From now on we will enjoy citified postal facilities. Very soon the tent structure will give way to a snug frame building and all needed conveniences."
The Palmetto post office had been closed as of December 31, 1907, after having been in operation for two years, with mail forwarded to Lida. It served a mining camp located about 32 miles west of Lida, and was named for the joshua trees in the area. Locals incorrectly thought they were related to palm trees.
1908, Hornsilver's boom year, was an eventful one. New residents flooded to the mining district. Hornsilver grew to 800 within a couple of months, with residents arriving at a rate of 50 a day during April and May. A description of the town by James Russell noted that by June 3 there were 250 tents, and 11 saloons, 16 boarding houses and restaurants, 3 lumber companies, 3 butcher shops, 3 grocery stores and 3 general stores. It seemed destined for greatness.
There was also a red light area, though we know this from newspaper accounts rather than contemporary advertising. It is interesting to note, perhaps as a measure of the ongoing honesty of the journalism fraternity (an honesty well known today through the efforts of Jason Blair of the New York Times and others) that the Hornsilver Herald noted that local residents were so hardworking that they did not frequent such establishments.
Hornsilver was up to date technologically as well. Telephone service was provided starting about May 4, though it consisted of one telephone operated by Miss Alice Waldron, the telephone operator. It was located in the Hornsilver Townsite and Telephone building, which is operated today as the Gold Point Saloon, a building our red-shirted brothers will have occasion to visit during the duration of our doins. [I would note here as an aide, that, costs for libations in the saloon are by donation, so all redshirts should give generously, since all receipts go toward the upkeep of the volunteer fire department.]
As was typical with boomtowns, Hornsilver grew quickly, and lots became quite valuable. When originally sold, town lots went for $75.00, but within a few weeks, they were selling for $350.00 to $750.00, with choice lots being offered as high as $2,500.00. With this kind of increase in value, residents quickly could not buy property on which to build their dream homes, or shacks as we more technically call them today. The only similar run-up in value since these mining camp boom days, seems to be California of recent date, though the reason is less clear to those who know the glories of Nevada.
The Hornsilver Townsite Company, which had laid out the town and promoted it, went out of business in 1909, turning over the last 60 lots held by the company to the county for taxes. Hornsilver's boom had gone bust, and most residents were quickly leaving the area. By 1910, only 50 residents were listed on the U. S. census, and it continued to drop from there.
An interesting sidelight on the history of Hornsilver was its relative lack of crime. With Foreman Shannon of the Great Western Mine as Justice of the Peace, there was only one Deputy Sheriff serving the town. He was Jack Spaulding, though there was so little crime, no jail was built in the community. In one case, a somewhat intoxicated miner was handcuffed to the end of a freight wagon to await the morning when, as the paper noted, "…he was more thoroughly able to understand himself." J. W. Dunfee was later appointed Deputy Sheriff for the Hornsilver district in 1916, perhaps because of a shooting incident with Speed Barnes earlier that year. It is not known how long he served, but in 1920 he located a large gold ore lode in the Orleans Mine, located behind today's saloon. This led to a revival of interest in the area. He died in 1931 in Hornsilver, and was buried in the Elks plot in the Goldfield cemetery.
This lack of crime was in marked contrast to nearby mining camps, most notably Lida and Goldfield. Lida was known, starting in the 1870s, as a "bad" camp. During the boom period of Hornsilver, Goldfield was experiencing numerous hold-ups and robberies. Hornsilver was, to all appearances, a quiet town.
Even as it declined, Hornsilver continued to serve as the post office for the surrounding district. In 1929, the Lida post office was closed, and mail service was moved to Hornsilver. Lida was reopened for about a year starting August 8, 1931, but mail service was again transferred to Hornsilver.
After Hornsilver's boom year of 1908, mining continued in the surrounding area. The Great Western was the major producer for the first year or so, but it was shut down in June of 1909. Litigation about other claims led to most Hornsilver mining operations ending about 1915.
1917 saw the opening of the first school in Hornsilver. It operated until 1925, when it was closed for lack of students. Re-opened in 1935, it hit it peak enrollment in 1941, with 17 students.
Fire in 1918 led to the destruction of three downtown buildings, but the fire was stopped before any further damage could be done. Fire was a feared scourge in old west mining camps, and Hornsilver was lucky to have escaped with minor damage.
In 1922, a new claimant for gold arrived in the form of Charles Stoneham, owner of the New York Giants baseball team. His investment group was mainly other baseball related figures. The Giants had a stake in Nevada, though only for a few years.
This was during small upswing in activity in the district. The town was still going, with an active school, post office, and a few businesses. Water was still not locally available, though it was hauled in from Lida and sold for only 75 cents a barrel.
In 1932, Hornsilver ceased to exist as a post office. On October 15th, the name of the community was changed to Gold Point, though local newspapers did not carry any reason for the change. It can be conjectured that the impact of finding much more gold than silver in the district may have been part of the reason, but it is interesting to note that the district's name continued as Hornsilver.
Gold Point was the official name of the post office, though most local newspaper articles showed the name as Goldpoint (one word). In the same year of 1932, the Ohio Mines Corporation was formed, which brought prosperity to Gold Point until the early part of World War II.
The Ohio Mines Corporation acquired the Great Western Claims and the Orleans, two of the largest mines in the area. They brought in new equipment, including electric generators in 1934 and a new water pipeline that same year. The improvements were meant for the mines, but excess capacity was provided to the town, meaning Gold Point now had electric lights and running water.
The Ohio Mines Corporation built a 100-ton mill in the town, and hired local residents to work at the mines. Though the mill burned in 1935, the Ohio Mines invested enough new capital to allow it to be rebuilt, and Gold Point was off and running again.
Other miners were working claims in the area during this time, including Harry Wiley, who came to the district in 1935, and will figure a little later in this tale, and Harry DeVotie. DeVotie's mining operation was described in a July 16, 1937 Goldfield News and Weekly Tribune article.
"Extreme care has been exercised to guard against any high-grading activities. The crew consists of Former Assemblyman DeVotie as shift boss; Mayor of Goldpoint DeVotie as mucker; H. M. DeVotie, machine and blast; and reserving for himself the position as top man and hoist engineer, closing any and all avenues of highgrading.
Obviously, one-man operations were quite possible at that time.
DeVotie had arrived in Hornsilver in 1908, and become involved in the community. He was in the Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the volunteer fire department. He was a miner first and foremost, but also dabbled in politics. He was elected to the Nevada State Assembly in 1926, and served two terms in the Nevada State Senate starting in 1938. After his defeat by Harry Wiley, he served on the first Esmeralda County Grand Jury in 25 years, where he was the Chairman. He died in 1948, and was buried in the Goldfield cemetery.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Gold Point boasted a population of about 200. It was a successful little mining community, with active mines keeping the town well supplied with utilities and jobs. It continued to be a quiet town, with few reasons for the Sheriff from Goldfield having to visit the community. There was even a Tuesday Afternoon Sewing Club for the widders, and bridge games on Saturday nights.
Most of the town closed in 1942 because of federal regulations. With World War II raging, the government declared any gold or silver mining banned, unless done by men past the age of the draft and then only with hand tools. The Ohio Mines properties closed, as did most of the businesses in town.
In 1942, a new postmistress was named for Gold Point. She was Ora Mae Powell, who became Ora Mae Wiley when she married Harry Wiley that same year. She later liked to boast that she was the only postmistress Gold Point had ever had, though this was not quite true. Mrs. Mary Kelly was postmistress when the post office was renamed. She was replaced by Mrs. Martha Clarke, who was replaced by Ora Mae. Ora Mae served until late 1967, only months before the post office was finally closed. In fact, it was only for a few months, from November 1, 1967 to January 12, 1968, that a man ever filled the position of postmaster for Gold Point, when William Meridith presided over the closing of the post office.
With the closing of the mines because of the war, Gold Point also closed. A few residents stayed on, including Harry and Ora Mae. In 1940, Wiley became involved in politics, running successfully for the Esmeralda County Commission. Re-elected in 1942, Wiley decided to follow Harry DeVotie to Carson City, and ran against him for the Nevada State Senate seat in 1946. Wiley won, and went on to serve in the State Senate until his death in 1955. He was buried in the Masonic Cemetary at Goldfield. He and Ora Mae lived in Gold Point throughout his senatorial career, and Ora Mae stayed on in Gold Point until her death in 1980.
Ora Mae was the voice of Gold Point for many years after World War II. Though there were many rumors of the mines restarting, nothing much came of the many efforts. Ora Mae lived in the small house next to the small general store they operated.
The town was nearly a ghost town. The school had closed in 1943, reopened for 1946-48, and operated for the school years of 1951 and 1954. The post office, with Ora Mae at the helm, was in the Wiley's store, and provided a small income.
Ora Mae also began writing for newspapers after Harry's death. She wrote for the Tonopah Times-Bonanza and the Goldfield News from 1959 to 1962, keeping readers in those metropolises up to date about happenings in Gold Point. She was widely quoted by writers who found that the ghost town of Gold Point was not so completely ghost ridden. This was during the 1950s and 1960s, the early days of the ghost town boom.
The town had died a quiet death, you might think. But this was not the case. A few individuals found what Ora Mae and so many others must have found, a beautiful, quiet location. By the time of Ora Mae's death in 1980, a few other people lived in the town. In 1972, the Esmeralda County Commission ordered a resurvey of the town, which was recorded in the county records.
In 1993, the road to town was paved, and in 1994, the right of the town to exist was recognized by the County Commission. It seems the town had been laid out on unpatented mining claims, and this meant that the federal government might have been able to take back the land on which the town sat. By county ordinance, the town is a recognized legal subdivision.
It was in these latter years that our host for this clampout, Herb Robbins, became involved in the town. Visiting first in 1978, he began to buy lots in the town in 1979, speeding up his acquisitions after winning jackpots in Las Vegas in the late 1990s. He has worked hard, and now owns nearly half the town. He has instituted Wiley Days in Gold Point, and with a coterie of supporters, most notably his redoubtable widder Sandy Johnson, aka Red Dog Lil, show a great time to the visitor who is lucky enough to meet them.
Today, Gold Point is a destination for ghost town hunters and lovers of the desert southwest. It is a monument to the many who built it, worked in its mines, dreamed of its possibilities, and hung on during the slow times. Let all redshirts hoist the requisite beverage to the future of the fine community, and commend our red-shirted forebears and the quiet little town of the many names.
The following sources provide further information on the history of Lime Point/Hornsilver/Gold Point.
Gamett, James, and Paher, Stanley, Nevada Post Offices, An Illustrated History, Nevada Publications
Lincoln, Francis Church, Mining Districts and Mineral Resources of Nevada, Nevada Newsletter Publishing Company
Murbarger, Nell, Ghosts of the Glory Trail, Desert Magazine Press
Murbarger, Nell, Sovereigns of the Sage, Desert Magazine Press
Myrick, David, Railroads of Easter California and Nevada, Volume 2, The Southern Roads, University of Nevada Press
Patera, Alan H., Hornsilver / Gold Point Nevada; Silver turns to Gold, Western Places, Lake Grove, OR
Paher, Stanley, Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps, Nevada Publications
Map reproduced from Hornsilver/Gold Point, by Alan Patera. Queho Posse Clampsite is designated by the large X.
Map reproduced from Ghosts of the Glory Trail, by Nell Murbarger.
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