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Nevada a Mining State

Nevada is pre-eminently a mining State. Her fame and her early prosperity as well as her present prominence, have been due almost wholly to her mineral treasures, although in the years following the first mining rush, stock-raising and farming were developed to some extent and in recent years the latter has received additional impulse from the inauguration of important irrigation projects by the Government and by private means. So dependent has the Nevada of the past been on her mines, that the population of the State has gone up or down with the prosperity or decline of the mining industry. Twenty years following the discovery of the Comstock Lode was a period of great prosperity for the mines and the census of 1860 showed a population of 6,857, that of 1870 showed a population of 42,491, and of 1880, 62,266. There came a period of twenty years in which the mines of the State languished, and in 1890 the population had fallen to 45,761, while the census of 1900 showed a further decline to 42,335, which was less than the population had been thirty years before. Then, in 1901, came the new gold discoveries at Tonopah, and in 1902 the still more sensational finds at Goldfield, the wonderful richness and apparently great extent of which again centered the attention of the country on Nevada. Miners again flocked to the State, capitalists from the East as well as from the West became interested, scores of other new mineral discoveries were made, and new camps located, while old and decadent or abandoned camps were rejuvenated. And to augment all this, came the new and enormous copper development of the Ely District and copper discoveries elsewhere that hold forth great promise of future achievement. In response, the population again rose, and the number of persons residing in the State was estimated by the Governor in November, 1908, to be 132,000.

The Nevada of today is a different, a more stable and permanent community than the Nevada of the early days. There are several causes contributing to this result, among them being the greater number and extent of the known mineralized areas, the improved methods of ore reduction that permit the handling of vast tonnages of low-grade ore, the copper development at Ely, Yerington and other places, and the impetus given to agriculture and horticulture by irrigation. In the past five years the gold production of Nevada has increased enormously. In 1906, it was $9,278,000; in 1907, $15,411,000; in 1908 over twenty millions and it is believed the production for 1909 will reach thirty millions. Goldfield, Tonopah and the Bullfrog districts are the largest producers. The output of the mines at Goldfield alone is now running at the rate of about $15,000,000 annually, while that at Tonopah is very large, and in Bullfrog District many recent strikes seemingly assure an enormous production as soon as a sufficient stage of development has been reached. The same is true in less degree of many other gold districts of the State and new finds are constantly being made at intervals. The latest new find and one that presents every surface indication of being the equal of any other in the State is that at Salisbury wash, or Ellendale, about forty miles east of Tonopah, the discovery of which became known about the 1st of June. Nevada will easily lead all the States of the Union in gold production in 1909.

The silver production of Nevada is also rapidly increasing. In 1906 the value of the silver produced was $3,450,000; in 1907, $5,465,000, and since then the production has been largely increased. The lead production is relatively small, the amount reported for 1908 being 3700 tons.

Copper is a new and important mineral product of Nevada and one that perhaps contains more assurance of permanence than either gold or silver. The copper product of the State in 1907 was 1,998,000 pounds, and in 1908 it rose to 12,241,000 pounds. At this time (July 1st, 1909) the Steptoe Valley Smelting Company, at McGill, in the Ely District, White Pine County, a new concern, is turning out copper from the ores of that district at the rate of 75,000,000 pounds per year, which will be largely increased in another year, when the new works are fully completed and in full swing. The present demonstrated resources in the Ely District are sufficient to maintain this annual output for thirty years, and large areas of known copper territory yet remain to be explored. There is every indication that the copper product of Ely will exceed in value the more than $300,000,000 record of the Comstock Lode. This copper is now being produced at a cost of eight cents per pound, which, it is believed, will be reduced to seven cents as soon as the mines and reduction works are gotten down to smooth running order. Much of this copper ore is mined with steam shovels in open cuts. There are other important copper deposits in the State, notably at Yerington, where a large amount of development work has been done, and where large reduction works will be built in the near future.

The three counties showing the largest mineral output are Esmeralda, Nye and White Pine, the first including Goldfield, the second Tonopah and Rhyolite, and the third the Ely District. All these towns are rapidly becoming important cities. The monthly pay-roll of the mines at Goldfield is now about $200,000, and of the mines and smelters at Ely about $275,000. Every county in Nevada is mineralized and there are scores of other prosperous and promising mining districts which cannot be even enumerated here. The only important city of the State which is not almost wholly dependent on the mining industry is Reno, near which are located the immense shops of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Reno is also an important jobbing point, and the distributing center for a large territory.

Besides the metals, Nevada has extensive deposits of salt, borax, sulphur, soda and potash, while there are mountains of granite, marble, limestone, sandstone and slate. Some lignite coal has been mined in the hills along the upper Humboldt.

With the development of the mines comes a larger and better home market for the products of the farmer and stockman, so that the prosperity of the one tends to develop the other. The soil of nearly all the valleys of Nevada is very fertile, but the extreme aridity of the State restricts the dry farming area while the scarcity of surface water renders the area that can be successfully irrigated very small as compared with the vast extent of the State. In the valleys of the Humboldt and its tributaries, along the Carson and Truckee, and at other isolated parts in the State, farming and fruit raising, under irrigation, have been carried on with success for many years. One of the first irrigation projects undertaken by the Government under the Reclamation Act, was the Truckee-Carson, designed to irrigate about 350,000 acres along the lower Carson. The work is now approaching completion, and a portion of the land is already settled and under cultivation. Of the 350,000 acres, about 245,000 acres is desert land belonging to the Government and 105,000 acres was in private ownership before the project was undertaken. The plan followed was to divert the flood waters of the Truckee and store them in reservoirs on the Carson. The total storage capacity of these reservoirs is 1,375,000 acre feet, from which can be drawn annually, if needed, 830,000 acre feet. The farm unit is 40 or 80 acres. The Nevada farmer on irrigated lands can raise about the same variety and quantity of general farm products, vegetables and fruits that are produced under similar conditions in Utah and Idaho. As elsewhere in the West, alfalfa is the great forage crop, and nowhere is it more attractive in its vivid green and its luxuriant growth than amid the somber sage and sand and the dull-gray volcanic ash of these plains. The raising of alfalfa seed is very successful, and will in the near future develop into an important industry. Nevada wheat is of a superior quality, and the yield is heavy, the average production per acre for the State being over thirty bushels, more than double the average yield of the Mississippi Valley States. Yields of forty to sixty bushels are not uncommon. Potatoes and all vegetables yield abundantly, and are of excellent quality. In the valleys having the lowest altitude in the west central portion of the State, hops yield heavily, and corn, peas, beans and sweet potatoes do well. The southern end of Nevada is in the same latitude as southern Virginia and the Carolinas, and with its low elevation is almost semi-tropical in climate and productions. In the valley of the Muddy and Rio Virgin, cotton, tobacco, peanuts, figs, etc., come to maturity. Since the construction of the Salt Lake and Los Angeles Railroad, four years ago, there has developed in the Moapa section of the State a large industry in the growing of early vegetables, melons, etc., for the Utah and other Northern and Eastern markets. This section of the State promises to become famous as a melon-growing region.

Stock-raising is an important industry, the number of both cattle and sheep in the State being very large. The business has been very prosperous, especially in the central and northern parts of the State, where are to be found the immense ranges of several cattle and sheep companies that are among the largest in the country.

Nevada is crossed by two transcontinental lines of railroad, the Southern Pacific and the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake, and a third, the "Western Pacific, will be completed and in operation before the end of 1909. These roads and their numerous branches reach most of the important points in the State. There is also the Tonopah & Tidewater, extending from the main line of the Santa Fe in California to Goldfield and Tonopah, and two small independent lines in the western part of the State. A line across the south central portion of the State, from Goldfield to Ely, is projected, and will probably be built within the next year or two.

 

Index

Source: Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States, Utah, Idaho and Nevada, Published by The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909 

 

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