Important mineral discoveries at Goldpoint resulted in the founding of this camp which was known as Hornsilver until 1929, when its present name was adopted. A contemporary of such spectacular boom camps as Rhyolite, Bullfrog, Fairview and Wonder, this stubborn old settlement has continued to muddle through while the sites of her one-time rivals have reverted to desert.
That two world wars and other vicissitudes have left her hold on life rather shaky, is evidenced by the rows of dilapidated false-front buildings which flank her dusty streets. Almost without exception they are empty buildings. Many of the headframes visible on surrounding hillsides are standing over silent mine shafts and ghostly dumps.
The original strike in the area, had been made about 1866 by Thomas Shaw, following which the Gold Mountain mining district was organized in 1868. Little outside attention was centered on the area until 1871 when Shaw began development of his rich Oriental mine. By this time there were in production several other mines including the Stateline, Dusty Bob and Nova Zembla. By 1872, Gold Mountain was a lively camp with weekly pony express service from the nearest railway point, which was Battle Mountain, about 250 miles to the north. The rider, who handled the southern half of this route from Austin to Gold Mountain, stayed overnight twice weekly at the San Antone station.
Beginning about 1875, Gold Mountain received much newspaper publicity in which the Stateline mine was represented as one of the truly great mines of that day. Ore from the Oriental likewise was showing some fabulous assays. In Uncle Sam’s Seventh Annual Report of Mineral Resources West of the Rocky Mountains, published in 1875, it was stated that selected specimens from the Oriental showed a gold and silver content of $1370.79 per ton, while nine unselected samples from the same mine averaged $169.19 per ton in silver and $13.47 in gold. The same report credited the Nova Zembla with ore averaging $302.87 to the ton, and the Good Templar, $233.55. Samples from 50 different claims in the Gold Mountain district were said to average $150 to the ton.
In the earlier years of the camp, water was quite a problem, most of it being hauled from a spring at Old Camp and sold at seven cents a gallon. In the late’70’s the Gold Mountain Mining Company had started erecting a 40-stamp mill and steam hoist, and for water to operate it had laid 15 miles of pipeline from Mt. Magruder and Tule Canyon to Gold Mountain. The pipe first installed proved too light to withstand the pressure in the valley between the springs and the mill and had to be replaced; but with completion of the line in 1882 the town obtained its water from the mining company.
While pioneering conditions at Gold Mountain were not so rigorous as in some other parts of the West, life there was not easy. The nearest doctor was at Candelaria, 85 miles away; and not even at Candelaria was there a dentist. The Robinsons owned the town’s only pair of dental forceps and when the torture of a throbbing tooth at last exceeded the anticipated pain of its removal, the molar was extracted.
All material for the big mill, hoist, and water system, was hauled in from Wadsworth, near Reno, by “long line”, 12 to 16-horse teams. Freight rates were exorbitantly high. By 1881, a man named Cluggage was operating a stage line from Belmont to Gold Mountain by way of San Antone, Columbus, Silver Peak and Lida. About 1882, the Carson and Colorado railroad was extended to Candelaria, and mail and passengers arrived at Gold Mountain via twice-weekly stages from that point. Mail for Old Camp (Oriental) was dropped at Gold Mountain and transported to its destination by horseback courier.
The worst time they had at Gold Mountain was during the winter of 1889-90 when all the roads were blocked by snow and for four months no wagons or pack animals could make it through to the camp. The store was completely sold out of food. Greater hardship might have resulted but for the fact that many Indians in the vicinity were virtually starving and would haul flour over the mountains on hand sleds on a 50-50 basis—one sack for the hauler and one for the purchaser.
Relations between Indians and whites of that locality had not always been so amicable. In 1868 a couple of miners had been killed by Indians in Oriental Wash, two miles from Gold Mountain; and the area suffered periodic Indian scares. The first time an attack was threatened, every person in camp scurried for cover in one of the mine tunnels. When it was realized that this was not the most commendable safety measure—since one or two members of the attacking force could effectually block all escape from the tunnel until its inhabitants had succumbed to thirst or starvation—the camp built a stone fort around a nearby knoll.
The ore which was to be so rich didn’t hold up to assay figures. The stamp mill at Gold Mountain was as good as anyone knew how to build in those days but milling processes were crude and half the values were lost. On top of this, there was prolonged litigation. H. H. Robinson, who was postmaster and kept the store at Gold Mountain, was put in as receiver of the Stateline property from time to time between 1883 and 1886, and between 1886 and1890 had full charge of the mine and its workings.
During the eight-year period from1882 to 1890, the mill operated a total of only three years, with many starts and stops. In 1890 the property was sold. Finally the water pipeline was pulled and the camp abandoned.