The historic park covers more than 100 acres and is located on the site of the original mining claims that started the rush to Tonopah, making it “Queen of the Silver Camps”.
Jim Butler was camping around Tonopah Springs, the spring of 1900 when his burro wandered off. While chasing it, Jim picked up a rock to throw at it & discovered some promising looking ore.
He continued his journey and showed the samples to others, who showed little interest. After returning to his home in Belmont, Butler told a young attorney named Tasker Oddie about his discovery. Tasker had a friend who taught chemistry in Austin, and he enlisted the teacher’s help in assaying the sample. The ore valued at more than $200 a ton.
Jim’s wife, Belle urged him to travel once again to the site of the original find and filed eight claims and removed several tons of ore. For a one quarter share, Wilse Brougher hauled the ore by horse and wagon to Austin, then by rail to Salt Lake City for smelting.
That first shipment netted the partners $500.00, which was used to buy equipment needed for further development. As venture capital was difficult to obtain, Jim, Belle and their partners implemented the unusual concept of mine claim leasing by the foot.
These leases, which were sealed by a handshake, gave the lessor 75% of all profits from his claim and greatly speeded the development of the district. Many of the miners got rich under this arrangement. The practice then quickly spread to other mining districts.
The Butlers eventually sold their interests in the properties to a Philadelphia financier, who formed the Tonopah Mining Co. The assets of this new company exceeded one million dollars. Tasker Oddie subsequently formed the Tonopah Belmont Development Company with production between the two, totaling more than half of the precious metals from the mining district.
The mines in this district produced in excess of five million tons of ore. At today’s market the precious metals produced would be valued in excess of $1,200,000,000.
The parks rich history is brought to life through preserved and restored equipment and buildings, historic exhibits, video presentations and a self-guided tour, which is what I opted for. The Mizpah Mine, surrounded here by the red buildings, was staked out and named by Mrs. Butler. It turned out to be one of the richest producers in the area and was one of the first steel hoisting works built in the country.
Silver Top hoist works building.
Silver Top Grizzly – Built in 1905, it housed a hand-sorting crew for the silver ore.
Good ore went into bins and bad ore went into the waste pile.
Silver & Veiny
A 500ft deep mine stope.
Burro Tunnel – One of Jim Butler’s original discovery sites. Tonopah’s name was bestowed by its founder, Jim Butler, and was thought to be a Shoshone Indian word, pronounced “TOE-nuh-pah.” Although the town previously had a variety of names, including Butler City, Jim Butler’s name remained.
According to local history, the name is said to mean “hidden spring”. However, linguistically the name derives from either Shoshone to-nuv (greasewood), or Northern Paiute to-nav (greasewood), and pa, meaning water in both dialects.
The shop inside the Mizpah Mine Hoist House.
Howard Hughes played a large role in Tonopah’s history during the 1950s and 1960s. He even married his second wife, Jean Peters, here in 1957. Hughes owned most of Tonopah’s mining property for many years but never actually did any mining.
The Desert Queen mine head frame.
She sure is pretty.
Vertical shaft elevator. There’s over 100 miles of underground mining tunnels underneath the town of Tonopah.