Travels in the American Southwest
Goldfield
GPS - N37 42.475 W117 13.961
US 95, 18 miles north of Scotty's Junction
Road factor/Accessability - Two lane paved
~189 miles from Las Vegas

Goldfield Court HouseGold was discovered in December 1902 by Harry Stimler and Billy March, grub stake prospectors and true sons of the state of Nevada. From there, newborn Goldfield grew like a weed in wet weather between '04 and '18. It became Nevada's largest city with over 30,000 inhabitants in 1906. Called "Queen of the Mining Camps" for its luxury and availability of saloons and other forms of (ahem) entertainment. At its peak in 1907, $10,000 a day in ore was mined. A total of $86,765,044 worth of metal were mined from '03 - '40. As late as 1997, Goldfield mines were still producing; 1,376 oz. of gold and 435 oz. of silver.

Today, Goldfield has around 360 residents, but back in its heyday with a population of over 35,000, some of the choice building lots sold for $45,000. During this time the railroad connected Las Vegas and Goldfield and the town boasted three newspapers, five banks and a mining stock exchange. One bar, the Northern owned by Tex Rickard, needed eighty bartenders to serve drinks; It was that long! In 1906, Goldfield was chosen as the site of the Gans - Nelson Lightweight Championship of the World. Tex Rickard was the promoter and as the "Battle of the Century" began on that Monday September 3rd, over 100,000 people watched. The fight went 42 rounds, earning a listing in Guinness Book of World Records for longest boxing match under Queensbury rules, ending when Oscar Nelson was disqualified for a "vicious foul". Joe Gans' career continued, finishing with a 120-8-9 record with 89KO's! A fanciful legend in Nevada's history was born on that September 3rd. A harmless old coot walked around the crowd claiming that he was Teddy Rooservelt. This was met with polite laughter and the rolling of eyes by the assembled as they were not fooled by the imposter. Unfortunately, as time goes on and first-hand memories fade, tall tales and legends emerge as fact. I've read a number of sources that claim that Teddy Rooservelt made a speech that day from the balcony of the Goldfield Hotel after the boxing match. He didn't.

Goldfield was a major railroad junction. The following lines served the town during the early 20th century: Silver Peak RR Co. (1906-1908), Tonopah & Goldfield RR (1905-1947), Bullfrog - Goldfield RR (1905-1928),  Las Vegas - Tonopah RR (1905-1918) and the Tonopah & Tidewater RR (1905-1914). A small outdoor museum displays railroad track and equipment and some antique motor vehicles. Also on the grounds is an elaborate United States government radiation monitoring station. Why? The underground testing of nuclear devices in the past. There is now concern that radiation from the many underground tests is slowly percolating to the surface. Located adjacent to the museum is the Goldfield Public school housed in a small building once used by the railroads.

Santa Fe SaloonA flash flood on September 13, 1913 followed by a fire in 1923 reduced Goldfield to what is seen today. The flood dislodged and washed away gold nuggets which had been squirreled away in miner's hiding spots as well as destroyed one half of the town. For decades, prospectors crisscrossing west of Goldfield would find a "previously dug" nugget or perhaps a gold coin or other valuable amid the detritus. The flood spared the Santa Fe Saloon. Built in 1905, it still stands with its false front, western wood sidewalks and rough floor planking. A Brunswick Bar, transported cross country from Brunswick, Maine dominates the Santa Fe's back wall. Have a frosty with Wyatt Earp, or at least a mannequin dressed like the late gun slinging marshall as you view the memorabilia lined walls. Despite the many claims you'll hear about famous figures of the past having visited such-and-such hotel or saloon, most of the claims are idle boasts designed more for the tourist trade than any historical accuracy. This appears not to be the case regarding Wyatt Earp and the Santa Fe Saloon. Wyatt's brother, Virgil, lived in Goldfield and was visited by his brother and his wife, the final time in late 1905 when Virgil died. Don't bother looking for Virgil's grave in the Goldfield cemetary; He's buried in Portland, Oregon.

Inside the Santa Fe Saloon   Inside the Santa Fe Saloon

Inside the Santa Fe Saloon

If you're visiting downtown Las Vegas, stop in at Binion's Horseshoe. You'll see the safe which was once owned by Tex Rickard. The safe, most recently owned by Ted Binion, was found open and empty after Ted's murder.

Safe

More Photographs of Goldfield

August 18, 2002 article on Goldfield from the Las Vegas Review-Journal
 
 

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