The Hardscrabble district was first mined in the 1870s but it was short-lived and little was produced. During the 1880s, a small camp called Garfield, named after the recently assassinated President James Garfield, formed five miles south of the future location of Gilbert. The camp was located next to the Alto Divide mine at Cook Spring. A small mill operated there for many years. The first serious mining in the northern part of the district began in June 1896 when Herman Gilbert and Homer Thompson, searching for a rich lode Charles Lampson had found earlier but then lost the location of, located a new lode they named the Carrie mine. The partners moved a house from Candelaria to the mine. The mine proved most promising but in May 1900, the boom began at Tonopah and the two men headed there to seek their fortune leasing mines. Sadly, both died in 1905 before having the chance to return to work the Carrie mine.
Gilberts sons, Fred and Logan, returned in 1916 and leased the Carrie mine from the company formed to manage their fathers and Thompsons estate. But in 1918, the brothers sold the mine and went to the booming Divide district, just south of Tonopah. Charles Lampson returned to the area in 1922 and after a couple of years, found an old marker he had placed on his discovery in the 1890s. He proclaimed the mine the Last Hope and showed the Gilbert brothers its location. The mine was officially located on September 10, 1924 but the public didnt find out about the new strike until October 30. Within days, prospectors came out to comb the hillsides in the district. Within a few weeks, Richard Raycraft discovered the Mammoth mine which had initial assays as high as $22,000 per ton.
The new camp of Gilbert soon began to form, five miles north of the old camp of Garfield, which continued to survive and was renamed South Gilbert. A rivalry began between the two towns. By 1925, the boom was on at both towns. New discoveries at South Gilbert helped swell its population to 200. The Mohawk and Betty mines were run by the Big League Mining Company, so named because the famous major league pitcher Walter Johnson of Reno was involved. Other new mines were the South Gilbert, discovered by George Hanna, and the Kelly, discovered by Hamp Williams. In March, South Gilbert suffered its first death when William Curtis was killed in a mine accident. In May, the South Gilbert Gold Mines Company platted the South Gilbert town site and offered free lots. A flurry of activity ensued.
Meanwhile up north at Gilbert, things were even busier. A $50,000 outcropping of gold was found at the Last Hope. A newspaper, the Gilbert Record, began publication on February 21. Frank Garside, owner of the Tonopah Daily Times, published the paper. Businesses advertising in the paper in February included: the Northern Club (C.D. Presburg), M & M Cash Store (Frank Carroll), Gilbert Hotel and Restaurant (Warren Draper), Gilbert Lumber Company (Martin Chiatovich), Gilbert-Tonopah Farris Auto Stage ($5 round trip to Tonopah), Gilbert Club (I.I. Feathers), E. Succetti Grocery, Mammoth Fuel and Lumber Company (Howe and McCrosky) and the Homestake Café (W.R. Adams). By spring, Gilbert had a population of 400 and its streets were lit by electric lights. The town was home to more than 40 businesses including a dance hall, gambling hall, electric power company and a water company. During the summer, numerous buildings were moved to Gilbert from Goldfield and Divide. A post office opened on April 9.
During this peak period of 1925 and 1926, active mining companies included: Big Swede, Gilbert Desert, Gilbert Leasing & Development, Midas Exploration, Gilbert Gold Mines, Gilbert Midas Mines Exploration, Gilbert Western, Gilbert Monte Cristo, Gilbert-Clifford Gold Mines, Original Gilbert, Gilbert Mammoth, Tonopah-Gilbert, Gilbert Mohawk, Gilbert International Mines, Gilbert High Ore, Gilbert Excelsior and Homestake Monte Cristo. In December 1925, the Homestake Monte Cristo was the first company to issue dividends to its investors. By May 1926, 150 tons of ore a week was being shipped by the Gilbert mines to the Tonopah Mining Companys mill at Millers. At the time, 150 men were employed in the mines at Gilbert. Despite this seemingly rosy outlook for the mines, the Gilbert Record ceased publication on May 8, 1926.
However, by 1927, a big problem began to cloud the future of Gilbert and South Gilbert. The sometime rich gold deposits only occurred in relatively small pockets and those were getting harder and harder to find. One by one, the mines at both towns closed and people began to leave. By 1929, population had dropped to 60. During 1930, only the Gilbert Mammoth Gold Mines Company and the Reorganized Carrie Silver-Lead Mines Company were active. For the most part, the primary activity was being conducted by leasers.
A new strike on the Green Gold property in 1931 led to the formation of the Esmeralda Gold Mines Corporation by Charles Wilkinson. The Gilbert brothers continued to be the main operators of Gilbert. In 1933 they started up a new 20-ton mill, the Norman, to treat ore from the Mammoth and Last Hope mines. The mill was located near Cook Spring at the now abandoned town of South Gilbert. One limiting factor was that the spring only produced enough water to run the mill for five to eight hours a day. The brothers continued working the mines and running the mill until the early 1940s. In 1940, the Gilbert Homestake, Gilbert Mammoth Last Hope Mines and Gilbert Standard Mining Company were active. However, despite the continued activity through the 1930s, production was quite limited.
With the arrival of World War II, the remaining active mines were forced to close because they didnt produce strategic minerals. The Gilbert post office finally closed on November 14, 1942. Postmasters over the 17 years included Fannie Johnson, William Snidow and Chris Hansen. Not to be deterred, Fred Gilbert was determined to keep mining and organized the Strategic Minerals, Inc. in 1943 to work the Castle Rock Mercury mine. The mine had initially been discovered by Charles Hendel in 1928. However, Gilbert wasnt able to make a profit and once Albert Eason stopped working the Green Gold property in the mid-1940s, little more activity took place. The last company was the Aztec Stone Company, which was mining building stone, which closed down in 1947. In the 1980s, a small open pit mine produced around 10,000 ounces of gold before that ore pocket vanished. Total production for the district is around $500,000.
Today, I feel that Gilbert is a fantastic place to visit and explore. One day was not enough and I ended up spending two full days to fully enjoy everything the district has to offer. Entering from the north, there are a couple of very interesting mines to the east of the road just before arriving at the Gilbert town site. At Gilbert, there are a couple of cabins struggling to stand amid half a dozen that have already collapsed. By wandering the town site, it is easy to see how large the town once was. The interesting remnants of the Last Hope mine are located just south of the town site. From Gilbert, two roads diverge to the south. The left road goes for two miles, ending at the Carrie mine. A large ore chute and other ruins are left. On the right road, which continues on to South Gilbert, the Mammoth and Monte Cristo mines are about one mile south. These are very interesting mines to visit. Another mile south, on the east side of the road, are the remnants of the Gilbert Gold Mining Company property. In this little swale are a number of large ore bins, a couple of cabins and numerous other mining remnants. Take your time here and walk around the whole area, many nice surprises are there! On the west side of the road is the open pit mine. The ruins at South Gilbert are also very rewarding. The mill is still relatively complete although the stamps have been removed. There are a number of ruins and foundations around the area. The old Alto Divide mine is located directly across the road from the mill. All in all, I rank Gilbert as one of my favorite Esmeralda County ghost towns well worth the time.