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Goldfield, an unincorporated community which is often identified on the internet as a ghost town, is in fact the county seat of Esmeralda Countymarker, Nevadamarker, United Statesmarker, with a resident population of 440 at the 2000 census. It is located about southeast of Carson Citymarker, 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 1924, 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.


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 over 20,000 people.

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..

Goldfield Hotel, under renovation, October 2009.
See panoramic view link below to 1909 town view and hotel interior tour
Another prominent resident from 1908 was George Wingfield, one of Nevada's entrepeneurs, who build the Goldfield Hotel (photo left) at a cost of $500,000 In collaboration with his partner George S. Nixon (who was to become a US Senator in 1904), Wingfield started in Belmont, Nevadamarker in 1901 and then saw the potential of Goldfield after mining at Tonopahmarker, only a few miles north, took off. It was Wingfield who made his fortune in Goldfield by forming the Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company. Between 1903 and 1918, mining in two towns was to grown from $2.8 million to $48.6 million.

Virgil Earp was hired as a deputy sheriff in Goldfield in January 1905; Virgil died there, in bed with pneumonia in October 1905, and Wyatt Earp left Goldfield shortly thereafter.

Goldfield reached a peak population of about 30,000 people in 1906 and hosted a lightweight boxing championship match between Joe Gans and Oscar "Battling" Nelson.
Commemorative marker for championship boxing match between Gans and Nelson
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. By 1912, ore production had dropped to $5 million and the largest mining company left town in 1919. In 1923 a fire destroyed most of the town's flammable buildings; some brick and stone buildings from before the fire remain including the old hotel and the high school.


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.

Labor relations during the boom years

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 a series of more or less serious differences, and there were several set 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 thereupon (December 4) ordered General Frederick Funston, commanding the Division of Californiamarker, at San Franciscomarker, 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.

Present-day attractions

The rundown schoolhouse building, October 2009
The unoccupied buildings of the ghost 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.

The 1906-08 schoolhouse, which survived the fire of 1923/24,is in poor condition, but the Goldfield Historical Society has received a matching grant of $296,000 from the National Parks Service under the "Save America's Treasures Grant Program".

Goldfield is home to a small but eclectic population of artists and independent thinkers. One resident, now deceased, maintained an art car park on Highway 95, but some of his cars are still there and are for sale.

Goldfield Hotel then and now

The town's four-story Goldfield Hotel opened in 1908 and was reported to be the most spectacular hotel in Nevada at the time. At the opening of the hotel, champagne flowed down the front steps in the opening ceremony. The rooms were outfitted with pile carpets, many with private baths, and the lobby was trimmed in mahogany, with black leather upholstery and gilded columns. It also featured an elevator and crystal chandeliers.

The hotel ceased operations in 1946 but the abandoned building remains as of 2008. The building was used in the 1971 movieVanishing Point as the site of Super Soul's radio station, KOW. At the 2003 Goldfield Days auction, the Goldfield Hotel was sold to Red Roberts, a rancher and engineer from Carson City. Roberts has plans to refurbish the bottom two floors of the four-story hotel and open them to the public. As of October 2009, the hotel renovations remained uncompleted.

In 2006, Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin of the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures conducted an investigation in the hotel. Then in 2008, TAPS, of the popular paranormal TV show Ghost Hunters, investigated Goldfield Hotel for paranormal activity as well.

Notable residents

The town in film history

Parts of the cult-classic 1971 car chase movie, Vanishing Point, was filmed in Goldfield, and 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 .

See also


  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. On
  4. Thomson, David, In Nevada: The Land, The People, God, and Chance, pp. 127-129
  5. Notice by the GHS posted outside the building
  6. Locations of the film on Retrieved 10 September 2009
  7. Locations of the film on imdb.comRetrieved 10 September 2009
  8. Locations of the film on Retrieved 10 September 2009


  • Rinella, Heidi Knapp, Off The Beaten Path: Nevada, Guildford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2007 ISBN 15373304
  • Thomson, David, In Nevada: The Land, The People, God, and Chance, New York: Vintage Books, 2000. ISBN 067977758X

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