Goldfield, Nevada

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Unincorporated community
Esmeralda County Courthouse in Goldfield
Esmeralda County Courthouse in Goldfield
Goldfield is located in Nevada
Goldfield is located in the Tonopah Basin of Nevada
Coordinates: 37°42′31″N 117°14′08″W / 37.70861°N 117.23556°W / 37.70861; -117.23556Coordinates: 37°42′31″N 117°14′08″W / 37.70861°N 117.23556°W / 37.70861; -117.23556
Country United States
State Nevada
County Esmeralda
Established 1902
Population (2010)
 • Total 268
Time zone Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 89013
A commemorative marker for the boxing championship match between Gans and Nelson.
The old Florence Hill Mines above Goldfield

Goldfield is a semi-abandoned ghost town and the county seat of Esmeralda County, Nevada, United States, with a resident population of 268 at the 2010 census. It is located about 240 miles (390 km) southeast of Carson City, along U.S. Route 95.

Goldfield was a boomtown in the first decade of the 20th century due to the discovery of gold — between 1903 and 1940, Goldfield's mines produced more than $86 million. Much of the town was destroyed by a fire in 1923, although several buildings survived and remain today, notably the Goldfield Hotel, the Consolidated Mines Building (the communications center of the town until 1963), and the schoolhouse. Gold exploration still continues in and around the town today.


Interior view of mine and miners in the Mohawk Mine, Goldfield, Nevada, ca.1900–1905

Gold was discovered at Goldfield in 1902, its year of inception. By 1904 the Goldfield district produced about 800 tons of ore, valued at $2,300,000, 30% of the state's production that year. This remarkable production caused Goldfield to grow rapidly, and it soon became the largest town in the state with about 20,000 people.[1]

One prominent, or notorious, early Goldfield resident was George Graham Rice, a former check forger, newspaperman, and racetrack tipster, turned mining stock promoter. The collapse of his Sullivan Trust Company and its associated mining stocks caused the failure of the Goldfield State Bank in 1907. Rice quickly left Goldfield, but continued to promote mining shares for another quarter-century.[2][3]

Another prominent resident from 1908 was George Wingfield, one of Nevada's entrepreneurs, who built the Goldfield Hotel. In collaboration with his partner George S. Nixon (who was to become a US Senator in 1904), Wingfield started in Belmont, Nevada in 1901 and then saw the potential of Goldfield after mining at Tonopah, only a few miles north, took off. George S. Nixon and Wingfield made huge fortunes in Goldfield by forming the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company. By 1906 they were worth $30 million.[4]

Wingfield moved to Reno soon after realizing his great wealth could be spread across northern Nevada and northern California.

Between 1903 and 1918, mining in two towns grew from $2.8 million to $48.6 million.[5]

Wyatt and Virgil Earp came to Goldfield in 1904. Virgil was hired as a Goldfield deputy sheriff in January 1905. In April, he contracted pneumonia and, after six months of illness, he died on October 18, 1905. Wyatt Earp left Goldfield shortly afterward.[6]

Goldfield reached a peak population of about 20,000 people in 1906 and hosted a lightweight boxing championship match between Joe Gans and Oscar "Battling" Nelson.[5] In addition to the mines, Goldfield was home to large reduction works. The gold output in 1907 was over $8.4 million, the year in which the town became the county seat; in 1908, output was about $4,880,000.

By the 1910 census, its population had declined to 4,838. Part of the problem was the increasing cost of pumping brine out of the diggings making them uneconomic. By 1912, ore production had dropped to $5 million and the largest mining company left town in 1919. In 1923, a fire caused by a moonshine still explosion destroyed most of the town's flammable buildings. Some brick and stone buildings from before the fire remain, including the hotel and the high school.

Labor relations during the boom years[edit]

Soon after mining on an extensive scale began, the miners organized themselves as a local branch of the Western Federation of Miners, and in this branch were included many laborers in Goldfield other than miners. Between this branch and the mine owners there arose serious differences, and there were several strikes in December 1906 and January 1907 for higher wages. In March and April 1907, because the owners refused to discharge carpenters who were members of the American Federation of Labor, but did not belong to the Western Federation of Miners or to the Industrial Workers of the World affiliated with it, this last organization was, as a result of the strike, forced out of Goldfield.

Beginning in August 1907, a rule was introduced at some of the mines requiring miners to change their clothing before entering and after leaving the mines — a rule made necessary, according to the operators, by the wholesale stealing (in miners’ parlance, "high-grading") of the very valuable ore (some of it valued at as high as $20 a pound). In November and December 1907, some of the owners adopted a system of paying in cashier's checks. Except for occasional attacks upon non-union workmen, or upon persons supposed not to be in sympathy with the miners’ union, there had been no serious disturbance in Goldfield; but in December 1907, Governor Sparks, at the insistence of the mine owners, appealed to President Theodore Roosevelt to send Federal troops to Goldfield, on the ground that the situation there was ominous, that destruction of life and property seemed probable, and that the state had no militia and would be powerless to maintain order.

President Roosevelt on 4 December 1907 ordered General Frederick Funston, commanding the Division of California, at San Francisco, to proceed with 300 Federal troops to Goldfield. The troops arrived in Goldfield on December 6, and immediately afterwards the mine-owners reduced wages and announced that no members of the Western Federation of Miners would thereafter be employed in the mines. Roosevelt, becoming convinced that conditions had not warranted Sparks’s appeal for assistance, but that the immediate withdrawal of the troops might lead to serious disorder, consented that they should remain for a short time on condition that the state should immediately organize an adequate militia or police force. Accordingly, a special meeting of the legislature was immediately called, a state police force was organized, and on March 7, 1908 the troops were withdrawn. Thereafter work was gradually resumed in the mines, the contest having been won by the mine owners.


Goldfield's climate is arid (Köppen climate classification 'BWk'), bordering on semi-arid.

There are an average of 35.9 days with maximum temperatures of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 146.1 days with minimum temperatures of 32 °F (0 °C). The record high temperature was 108 °F (42 °C) on July 20, 1906, and June 9, 1935. The record low temperature was −23 °F (−31 °C) on January 21, 1937.

The long-term average precipitation in Goldfield is 6.06 inches (154 mm). There are an average of 29 days with measurable precipitation. The wettest year was 1978 with 13.19 inches (335 mm) and the dryest year was 1934 with 1.47 inches (37 mm). The most precipitation in one month was 6.07 inches (154 mm) in August 1931. The most precipitation in 24 hours was 2.43 inches (62 mm) on June 19, 1918.

Average snowfall is 17.8 in (45 cm). The most snowfall in one year was 52.5 in (133 cm) in 1969, including the record monthly snowfall of 42.0 in (107 cm) in February 1969.[7]

Climate data for Goldfield, Nevada (1906–2009)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 67.0
Average high °F (°C) 42.2
Daily mean °F (°C) 20.3
Record low °F (°C) −23.0
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.63
Average snowfall inches (cm) 3.3
Source: [8]


The rundown Goldfield High School building in October 2009.
The Goldfield Hotel in 2009
Main Street, Goldfield, 1904

The decline continued throughout the 20th Century and, by 1950, Goldfield had a population of only 275.

The 2000 census shows that there were 440 people, 221 households, and 118 families residing in the Goldfield census county division. The racial makeup of the CCD was 93.2% White, 0.2% Black or African American, 2.0% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 1.4% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. 5.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Present-day attractions[edit]

While the unoccupied buildings of the town remain an attraction, they are not abandoned. Each building has an owner, many with plans to renovate the property. In addition, the Goldfield Days festival is held in August each year. The festival includes parades, booths, historical displays, and a land auction.

Among the buildings located within the Goldfield Historic District are:

Notable residents[edit]

In film[edit]

Parts of the cult-classic 1971 car chase movie, Vanishing Point, were filmed in Goldfield, and it was the site of the fictitious radio station "KOW", and the DJ "Super-Soul". Goldfield also served as the fictional town of "Glory Hole" in the 1987 film Cherry 2000, and as the fictional California town in the 1998 film Desert Blue.[13] The 2007 fictional film Ghosts of Goldfield is set in the Goldfield Hotel.

The town was featured in an episode of State Trooper, a TV series that aired from 1956–1959, in an episode titled "The Prettiest Girl In Goldfield", which aired on January 1, 1959. Many buildings and streets can be recognized in the show.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ plaque on the Southern Nevada Consolidated Telephone-Telegraph Company Building, used from 1906 to 1963
  2. ^ Dan Plazak, A Hole in the Ground with a Liar at the Top, Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-87480-840-7.
  3. ^ "George Graham Rice". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Moe, Al W. The Roots of Reno, The Roots of Reno, 2008, p.20
  5. ^ a b Thomson, David, In Nevada: The Land, The People, God, and Chance, pp. 127–129
  6. ^ "Frontier Lawman Virgil Earp". June 12, 2006. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Climate Of Goldfield, Nevada". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved November 12, 2014. 
  9. ^ Notice by the GHS posted outside the building.
  10. ^ "Tidbits - Did you know...". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Sep 10, 2004. p. 38. Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  11. ^ "U101 College Search". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  12. ^ "Mark Twain: A life" Ron Powers
  13. ^ sarahjeanaxo (18 June 1999). "Desert Blue (1998)". IMDb. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 


  • Rinella, Heidi Knapp, Off The Beaten Path: Nevada, Guildford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2007. ISSN 1537-3304
  • Thomson, David, In Nevada: The Land, The People, God, and Chance, New York: Vintage Books, 2000. ISBN 0-679-77758-X

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

External links[edit]