In the last two hundred years, Nevada has seen the birth and death of hundreds of mining towns. The talk of gold in the mountains and creeks attracted thousands of fortune seekers to Nevada. They congregated at places that were rumored to contain gold. After the gold rushes, it was silver that brought men to the Nevada desert.
Some managed to find gold and silver, and a few even made a fortune. But, after the source dried up and the earth had nothing more to offer, the dwellers abandoned the town and moved away. There are no records of some of the mining towns in Nevada. They just vanished without a trace.
The old buildings of Belmont Town still survive and here is the town’s rich history.
Belmont: Born with a Silver Spoon
Belmont took shape after the discovery of silver
in 1865. Not only silver; the place is also known for its reserves of gold, lead, and copper. The opportunity to get rich attracted many to the town. Within no time, the population of the town reached thousands, some claiming it to be as high as 15,000.
Soon Belmont acquired all the essentials of a busy town. After the discovery of the precious resources, the town saw a school, office, five restaurants, four mercantile stores, two newspapers, a brewery, a telegraph office, a bank, a post office, and a livery yard sprout in no time.
The rampant development improved Belmont’s stature. In 1867, Belmont dethroned another old mining town of Ione to become the seat of Nye County.In its heyday, all six mills in the town worked day and night and processed ores worth more than $15 million.
The Wilting of the Wealth in Belmont
Many factors including fluctuation in the price of precious metals contributed to the decline of the town. Several mines ceased operations and by the end of 1887, hardly any precious ore made it to the mill.
As wealth drained away, the town lost its sheen, and also the seat of Nye County, which went to Tonopah
In the 1890s, the loss of wealth also led to a rapid decrease in the population. The valuable timber of the dwellings was stripped off to be recycled and used elsewhere.
The famous Belmont Courthouse stood, but due to the lack of population, there were no new cases. The last case to be heard in the Belmont Courthouse was in 1905. The two-story courthouse, constructed in 1876, dealt with many interesting cases.
The courthouse, once the proud symbol of success in Belmont, was at the mercy of vandals and graffiti artists. For decades, extreme weather and vandals made the courthouse their target. The wear and tear was visible, with leaking roofs and broken doors and windows.
People visited the courthouse not to redress their grievances but to draw graffiti and scribble names and poems on the walls. One of the most famous visitors to the courthouse seems to be the mastermind of a series of murders in California in the 1960s. It’s believed the murderer Charles Manson craved an inscription on a door frame. The inscription on the door read, ‘Charlie Manson + Family’ and the year ‘1969’. The inscription also had a peace sign inside the letter ‘O’.
Belmont added to the List of Historical Places
Belmont was entered the National Registry of Historical Places in 1972. The courthouse building that was in ruins earned due respect. The county and the public recognized the courthouse as a vital part of the historical town.
In 1974, to restore the Belmont Courthouse building, the county handed over its control to the Nevada Division of State Parks. The parks authority invested a huge amount of money, more than $500,000, to restore the courthouse to its former glory. New doors, windows, and roof along with a retro look made the courthouse appear almost new.
The task of maintaining the Belmont Courthouse was shifted to Nye County due to financial constraints. At present, a non-profit group called Friends of Belmont Courthouse is preserving and maintaining the courthouse.
There are a few other buildings in Belmont built in the 19th Century that is still standing. The buildings that are under prevention and restoration include Belmont Courier Newspaper Office, the Old Mine and Mill Office, Monitor Belmont Mill, Monitor Inn, Belmont Inn and Saloon, and the Cosmopolitan Saloon. The county is on the lookout for volunteers to join in the efforts to preserve and restore these old buildings in Belmont.More about mining history in Nevada:
The Manhattan Mining District, Nevada
The Round Mountain Gold Mine
The Comstock Lode
Gold & Silver Mining at Tonopah, Nevada
Gold Prospecting near Las Vegas
Gold Prospecting in Elko, Humboldt, and Pershing County
The Rye Patch/Majuba Placers
Find Gold Prospecting Areas near Reno, Nevada
The Carlin Trend Gold Deposits in Nevada