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2020 - Trip Report -Pioche Area Trip

Pioche Area Trip

June 9-12, 2020 • Meadow Valley Wash / Rainbow Canyon • By Glenn Shaw

Our first stop was at the site of the Old Spanish Trail related petroglyphs on the old Stuart Ranch that dates to the1870s located in Meadow Valley Wash. The wash extends from Panaca and drains into the Muddy River which empties into Lake Mead. Not far away the Old Spanish Trail crossed the Muddy River so evidently the Indians recorded on rock what they observed. Pack mule caravans from New Mexico carrying woolen goods to California traveled The Old Spanish Trail between between 1829 to 1848.

Next stop was the restored one room schoolhouse at Elgin built in the early 1900’s 

in Rainbow Canyon which is what the upper part of Meadow Valley Wash is called. Starting in the 1860s Rainbow Canyon was settled with cattle ranches and farms which supplied goods to the surrounding booming mining camps.

We stopped along the way at various rock art sites. Occupation of Rainbow Canyon dates back approximately 3,500 years by the earliest inhabitants known as the Desert Archaic People according to artifacts excavated at Etna Cave. A little over 1,000 years ago the canyon was occupied by three distinctive cultural groups known as the Anasazi, Fremont, and Southern Paiute. Most of the rock art was produced by these groups. By 1300 the Anasazi and Fremont had disappeared from the archaeological record leaving only small bands of Southern Paiutes.

The railroad through Meadow Valley Wash is now part of the Union Pacific’s main line from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. The original railroad called the San Pedro, LosAngeles & Salt Lake City RR began in the early 1900s by William S. Clark who Clark County, Nevada is named after. Clark also built the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad that tried and failed to compete with the Tonopah Tidewater RR. The track was originally located on the east side of the wash but a massive flood in 1910 completely destroyed the track and washed a train off the tracks into the wash, the track was relocated to the west side resulting in a system of ten tunnels and 24 bridges. Flooding is still a problem.

Panaca Area The three communities we passed through in this area are all in Lincoln County and are in very close proximity to one another, but with very different orgins. Caliente is a railroad town, Panaca is a Mormon farming community, and Pioche was a rip roaring mining camp. The large railroad depot in Caliente was built in 1922 and is now the City Hall. It was one of three built in the mission revival style, another one is the depot at Kelso in the Mojave Preserve. Panaca supplied produce in the late 1800s to Pioche and the now ghost town of Delamar. 

Pioche was once the county seat for Southern Nevada including the Las Vegas area until Clark County was created.

Deer Lodge was established around 1899 with the discovery of gold in the Eagle Valley mining district. Just a mile away richer deposits were located and the mining camp of Fay was created but was a ghost by 1914. I could not find any remains of this camp even though it boasted bars, brothels and a barber shop. The site of Deer Lodge later became a ranch which is now abandoned. A family graveyard plot can be found among the pine trees.

Rose Valley, Eagle Valley, and Spring Valley are all adjacent to one another and makeup an agricultural region of farm sand ranches, with two State Parks that offer various recreational opportunities such as fishing, boating, and camping.

Rose Valley Inscriptions are found on a cliff face of hardened clay located at what was once a major wagon crossroads. There are some very early inscriptions and unfortunately some current stuff that has obscured some of the older ones.

Ursine is a small, very old residential community dating to the1860’s. It has an 1895 abandoned derelict recreational hall at one end of town, it is partially hidden in bushes and very interesting to look at.

Pioche Area Pioche was at one time the richest most important mining camp in Southern Nevada and it was also notorious as the state’s most lawless community. Pioche has what is termed the million dollar courthouse, built in 1871 for $75,000 but through questionable financial manipulations it would eventually wind up costing nearly one million dollars by the time it was paid for in 1938 long after it was abandoned .

Jackrabbit dates to 1874 when silver ore was discovered on the east side of Bristol Mountain. Soon, a boarding house, store, restaurant, blacksmith shop, and saloon were opened and it was known as the “last whiskey stop before Pioche.” In 1891 a 15 mile narrow gauge railroad was built to the 

smelter at Pioche which had rail connection to the mainline tracks from Salt Lake to LA. Rich ore deposits were also discovered on the west side of Bristol Mountain and the town of Bristol sprang up, now privately owned. An aerial tramway was constructed to carry ore from Bristol over the mountain to Jackrabbit’s railroad, some of the wooden tram towers can still be seen.

Bristol Well and its charcoal ovens came into existence around 1872 with the construction of a furnace and smelter to treat the lead-silver ore from Bristol. The charcoal ovens were built in the1880’s to produce charcoal for the smelter. A new smelter was added in 1890 and with this increased activity the population swelled to about 400 and a post office was opened. Early inscriptions along with modern graffiti can be seen on one of the old stone cabin’s walls.

Comet Mine appears to have been a fairly large operation probably dating to the early 1900s. The amazing thing is that it still has intact steam engines and hoist. Unfortunately, I have not come across any information on this mine.

Mt. Irish Area Hiko was created when Indians showed prospectors some rich silver ore in 1865. Soon the rush was on and shortly the population swelled to over 200 people. Hiko was awarded the county seat for Lincoln County in 1867 but lost it to Pioche in 1871.The necessary capital for a mill and machinery was raised back East. The mill was then shipped up the Colorado River by steamboat to Callville then made the140 mile trek by oxen to Hiko. Hiko is an Indian term for “whiteman’s town.” Brick ruins of the mill site can be seen on the hillside.

Mt. Irish has some wonderful rock art that is worthy of a stop.

Logan City has the same origins as Hiko. Two prospectors were shown a rich silver ledge on the east side of Mt. Irish by an old Indian. Claims were made by a group of early arrivals. That being done, everyone went to Panaca for supplies and on their return to camp Indians attacked and chased everyone 

away. Peace was restored and in 1866 a permanent camp of 300 people developed. Ore was freighted down the mountain to Hiko where a new second mill was erected. Ore veins were shallow and Logan City became a ghost town after a few years.

The site of Cresent on the west side of Mt. Irish was born in the1860’s about the same time as Logan City on the east side. A large mill was erected and from it’s ruins a tall brick smokestack still stands along with some cabin ruins in the area.

The Charcoal Industry in Nevada and the Carbonari Charcoal Wars Eureka, Tybo, Ely and Bristol were the major lead-silver mining camps that relied on smelters to reduce and separate the minerals, a stamp mill could not be used for this process. Charcoal is made by carbonizing the wood in a kiln where air can be controlled while burning the wood. Traditionally kilns measured 23’ at the base and 20’ high. There is a charge door near the top of the back side for loading the wood in and a discharging door ground level in front for charcoal removal. A kiln holds 25 cords of wood with a burning time of 12 days. 38 to 48 bushels per cord of wood were produced.

There were three components of the charcoal industry. First was the bottom rung charcoal burners or carbonari, then the teamsters or the middleman, and then the smelters. The teamsters functioned as contractors that controlled the industry. They paid the carbonari a price per bushel for their charcoal, they then transported and sold the charcoal to the smelters thereby regulating retail prices and wages.

The teamsters were grossly underpaying the carbonari and also paying them in script good at only certain stores with inflated prices (kickbacks). The carbonari eventually rebelled and stormed the streets of Eureka, boycotting businesses and virtually shutting down the town. The situation got so bad the Governor called in the state militia. Things escalated to the point where a carbonari camp was attacked and the men shot and killed. 

Tybo Nevada experienced its own charcoal war though less bloody than Eureka, Chinese woodcutters were brought in as cheap labor and they were most unwelcome by the local population. Assembling on the side streets and in saloons small groups of miners then congregated into a roaring mob and stormed the sleeping charcoal camp. To the tune of cracking bullwhips, gunfire, and drunken curses they sent the orientals fleeing for their lives. Morning found the contractors scouring the hills for their scattered wood cutters. They were driven back to camp at gunpoint and ordered back to work.

By the late 1800’s the charcoal industry was dying because of coke which is a product of coal and a less labor-intensive product than charcoal. All the woodcutters and carbonari drifted to other jobs, especially the coalfields.    ~ Glenn