Wonderful books written by Philip Varney about ghost and mining towns in the West were my inspiration for a 3000 mile photo journey in June 2017. This journey included visits to Goldfield and Virginia City in Nevada and Wallace, Idaho. These three areas produced over $8 billion in silver and gold with the Wallace, Idaho area still producing over $40,000,000 in silver each year. In June 2014 I traveled to the ghost/mining town of Mogollon, NM and you will see some photos I took on that trip along with some interesting history of this old mining town.
Virginia City, Nevada
During the period of 1860-1878 Virginia City produced over $300,000,000 in silver and some gold. It was from the Comstock Lode and over the next 62 years this area produced another $100,000,000 in silver and gold. The population in 1875 was around 75,000 and Virginia City had 5 newspapers, 4 banks, over 100 saloons and 6 churches. The great fire of 1875 destroyed most of the town and it was rebuilt but it never returned to its previous glory. Ten percent of the population was Chinese who worked in the mines and restaurants in the area. Today Virginia City is a very busy place in the summer related primarily to tourism. However, at 6200 feet in elevation the winters can be brutal; especially since the town is in a narrow valley and has very steep streets. (BTW the photo of my CRV is parked in front my my cabin which was built in 1875 and many of the original walls and iron window shutters are still present)
In June 2014 I visited Mogollon, New Mexico. A year before that a devastating flood wiped out the only road into town along with many remaining buildings. The last mile was a real challenge as my 4WD vehicle bounced over large boulders and rocks on my journey to the town. I met a gentleman who still lived there and he said the total number of people still living there was around 50. As you can see from the photos I took the main street was still basically a stream bed and water was running along the edge of the dirt road. Mogollon, New Mexico had many natural disasters during its history and was nearly destroyed by fires or floods in 1894, 1896, 1899, 1904, 1910, 1915, 1942 and 2013. In its heyday Mogollon had a population of between 3000 and 6000 people and produced over twenty million dollars in silver and gold during the period from 1880 and the early 1970s. In 1913 mines around Mogollon such as the Little Fanny, Champion, McKinley and Deadwood produced 40% of all precious metals being mined in New Mexico. I found the remaining homes and commercial buildings which were survivors or were rebuilt after the floods and fires to be beautiful examples of how Mogollon was an important part of mining history in New Mexico.
During the period of 1903-1918 the Goldfield area produced over $80 million in gold and in 1907 was the largest city in Nevada. In 1908 the 154 room 4 story Goldfield Hotel was completed at a cost of $500,000 and featured mahogany in the lobby and served oysters and lobster in the dining room. Today Goldfield is not a ghost town but no longer produces gold and the population can be counted in the dozens. It is about 120 miles NW of Las Vegas and during its heyday suffered thru major fires and floods but was rebuilt until the flood of 1913. During its peak Goldfield was served by 4 railroads, a stock exchange, numerous bordellos and dozens of saloons.
Wallace, Idaho is not a ghost town and mines in the area continue to produce over $40,000,000 in silver each year. From the period of 1883 to 1968 mines in the Wallace area produced over 47% of all silver mined in the U.S. When the silver crash of 1893 hit the United States Wallace survived due to the enormous amount of silver being produced from its mines. To date the Wallace area has supplied over 1.3 billion ounces of silver or over $7,000,000,000 in silver, which includes gold and other valuable minerals. As with many mining towns Wallace also was nearly destroyed by fires. The one in 1890 basically destroyed all but 3 major buildings. (The Jameson Hotel, Sweets Hotel, and the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot--which was moved when I90 was built and is now a museum) Today Wallace, Idaho has a population around 2000 and offers numerous tours, and events throughout the year. It was my favorite town on the journey to photograph due to the many wonderful buildings--many of which were designed by well known architects and have been protected as National Historic Landmarks or places. (BTW bordellos continued to be in operation until 1988 in Wallace.)