The 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode (the first major silver ore discovery in the U.S.) led to the birth of many Nevada towns with colorful and storied histories. The populations of these Silver State cities rose and fell over the years; today some are tiny Nevada towns with historically huge accomplishments.
The seven tiny Nevada towns highlighted below all have a population below 300 people (based on the 2010 U.S. Census). Read on. It’s going to be HUGE.
1. Goldfield, NV – Population 268
When it comes to tiny Nevada towns, Goldfield’s rise and fall is a tragic case of sizzle then fizzle. Gold was discovered there in 1902 and thus a boom town was born. Located 27 miles south of Tonopah, Goldfield produced nearly $90 million worth of gold from its mines in the early part of the 20th century.
At its peak, Goldfield was Nevada’s largest city with a population of more than 20,000. Among the town’s notable residents: Earp brothers Wyatt and Virgil (of “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” fame). Virgil was made sheriff in 1904, but died a year later.
By 1910, both the ore production and the population had dropped; fewer than 5,000 people, according to the U.S. Census. In 1923, a fire destroyed most of the town’s buildings. Today Goldfield is considered a ghost town:
VIDEO Films including “Vanishing Point” (1971), “Desert Blue” (1998), “Cherry Town” (2000) and “Ghosts of Goldfield” (2007) filmed scenes in Goldfield. The town was also featured on an episode of “State Trooper.”
2. Silver Peak – Population 107
One of Nevada’s oldest mining town and home to an extinct volcano, Silver Peak is located 30 miles from Tonopah.
Silver Peak peaked (in the news, at least) in 1999 when Enron allegedly kick-started California’s energy crisis by rerouting thousands of megawatts of its electricity to this tiny Nevada town. Enron was eventually fined $25,000 for the act, but allegedly earned $7 million.
Check out a tour of the town here:
In 2015, Tesla Motors announced it would build its first “Gigafactory” in Nevada, and draw from the state as a domestic lithium source for its battery-operated cars. Silver Peak is located next to the country’s only operating source of lithium, the Chemetall-Foote lithium mine.
3. Rachel – Population 54
Located along the Extraterrestrial Highway, Rachel has gained notoriety as the closest town to the infamous Area 51. Actually a former mining town with no real connection to UFOs, its alien-themed motel and restaurant the Little A’le’Inn attracts alien hunters from around the world.
Rachel is located near the Nellis Range Complex. In 1986, two Air Force F-16s collided mid-air while doing training exercises and one crashed by the playground in Rachel. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The pilot later sent a Christmas card to the town. In 2006, KFC claimed to have the first company logo visible from space when it created a giant version of its company logo out of snap-lock tiles in Rachel:
The KFC logo was removed in 2007.
Additionally, crew of the Hollywood film “Independence Day” buried a time capsule in Rachel.
4. Goodsprings – Population 229
Goodsprings was a productive mining district during the early 1900s. Lead, silver, copper, zinc, gold … you name it, Goodsprings mined it.
Goodsprings is home to one of Nevada’s oldest saloons, the “haunted” Pioneer Saloon:
The Pioneer Saloon is where legendary screen actor Clark Gable heartbreakingly awaited news of his beloved wife Carole Lombard, whose plane had crashed nearby. The blonde actress died in the crash.
5. Jarbidge – 51
The site of one of the Old West’s last gold rushes, Jarbidge is also where the last stagecoach robbery took place. In 1916, a two-horse driven mail wagon carrying $4,000 in bills and gold coins was ambushed and the driver was killed:
VIDEO Three suspects—Ben Kuhl, Ed Beck and William McGraw—were arrested, but the money was never recovered. Kuhl was the first murderer in U.S. history to be convicted based on palm print evidence.
The stolen money is believed to still be buried somewhere in Jarbidge Canyon (pictured above).
6. Austin – Population 192
Would you believe that one of these tiny Nevada towns was discovered by a horse? In 1862, a Pony Express horse accidentally revealed the town’s gold and silver supply by kicking up a rock—Austin produced $50 million in ore between its founding and 1880. At its peak the population was more than 10,000.
Although the Nevada Central Railroad was built to connect the town with the transcontinental railroad, the boom slowed down and the population declined. Here's a look at this beautifully preserved town:
The film “Vanishing Point” (1971) includes a police chase through Austin and part of Stephen King’s novel “Desperation” is set here.
7. Mina, NV – Population 269
Once a railroad town, Mina was founded in 1905. In 1921, a murder in Mina indirectly led to the development of the modern day gas chamber. Gee Jon was sentenced to death for murdering rival “Tong” member Tom Quong Kee, becoming the first person in the world to be executed by lethal gas in 1924. The execution took place at the Nevada State Prison in Carson City.
See, these tiny Nevada towns prove that bigger isn’t always better. Just as good things come in small packages, sometimes big things happen in small towns.