Tuscarora, destined to be one of the lengendary towns of Nevada, had humble beginnings and took almost 10 years to become a populus town. While many versions exist about the initial placer discoveries of Tuscarora, particularly as to who, it is generally accepted a prospecting party set out from Austin and found gold placer deposits in July, 1967. Members of the party were Steve and John Beard, Hamilton McCann, Jacob Maderia, William Heath, A.M. Berry, John Hovenden, Charles Gardner, and Charles Benson. There is some dispute as to whether John Beard was actually in the party. The initial placer discovery was made along a creek christened McCann Creek, after Hamilton McCann. On July 10, 1867, the prospecting party had a meeting at McCann Creek and Charles Benson suggested naming the new mining district Tuscarora after the United States gunboat of the same name that he had served on. There was unanimous approval.
The Beard brothers built an adobe fort for protection against feared Indian attacks that never materialized. Roy Roseberry, however, recalls a battle with the Indians a few miles north of Tuscarora in 1871. To provide water for continuous placering, construction was begun on two ditches, one to Gardiner Gulch from McCann Creek, and another from Three Mile Creek, which was later extended to Six Mile Creek. Despite all of the efforts, no one became rich from placering. Only a small camp of prospectors formed around the Beard's fort and adobe home, call the Adobes. Efforts concentrated on placer mining. Only the Beard brothers investigated some lode deposits. During the summer of 1868, they brought to the Beard ledge a five stamp mill but it wasn't very successful.
During 1869, the attraction of the placer mining attracted the first Chinese to the area. Many were now out of work with the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad. By the end of the year, more than 200 Chinese miners had arrived and formed a Chinatown adjacent to the camp of Tuscarora. The Chinese were much more efficient at placer mining. They purchased a large block of claims, organized into companies, and proceeded with a high volume placer operation. The 20 or 30 whites in the district greatly resented the success the Chinese had on the very claims they had sold. However, the whites didn't want to admit that they weren't willing to work as hard as the Chi nese miners did. In 1870, Tuscarora had a population of 119; 104 Chinese and 15 whites.
But Tuscarora was going to be enduring major changes during the early 1870s. The frustrated white miners branched out from the placer sites and began prospecting the s urrounding hills. In 1871, W.O. Weed discovered silver ore on the slopes of Mount Blitzen, located about two miles north. He called his mine the Young America and it was located at the future site of the new town of Tuscarora. However, the big boom at Cornucopia drained most of the area's miners and little more was done during the next couple of years. Most miners simply weren't interested in silver but were rather looking for gold. Weed was forced to do placer mining to finance his exploration work at the Young America.
A post office opened at the old camp of Tuscarora on July 18, 1871 but closed again on October, 1872. It reopened again on April 16, 1873, and John Beard served as postmaster.
The first killing in Tuscarora took place on September 28, 1873 . One of the discoverers of the Tuscarora placers, Hamilton McCann, who had turned to ranching, was shot four times and killed by Thomas Jones, a local farmer. There had been bad blood between the two for years. Jones was gathering horses that were trespassing on McCann's property. McCann tried to stop him and was shot to death.
Weed continued to plug away at the Young America Mine. The thin vein of silver began to grow larger the further the shaft went down. He bought the Beard brothers old stamp mill and installed it at his mine. In July, 1875, Colonel W.R. DeFrees, who was on his way to prospect at Cornucopia, stopped in Tuscarora and discovered a vein that was even richer than the Young America. He named his find the Oroide Mine and bought the Young America Mill, which he moved to Taylor Canyon, where a better source of water power was located. In August, the Grand Deposit Mine was discovered by Tom Hanoum. By luck, a new discovery in July, 1876, would prove to be a true bonanza. A large three-foot vein of silver ore was discovered by J. Woods near the Young America Mine and was named the Grand Prize: "A rich strike is reported in this mine (the Grand Prize), which is situated on the Virginia ground, an old location made in May, 1875. But we understand that no litigation is likely to grow out of that fact, owing to the existence of a spirit of compromise among the respective claimants. Some eighteen or twenty tons of rich ore from the new bonanza have been forwarded to the Leopard Mill at Cornucopia for reduction, but the result of the workings has not yet been made public."
George Grayson immediately purchased the mine for $50,000 and organized the Grand Central Mining Company, which later was renamed the Grand Prize Mining Company. The first 100 tons of ore shipped to Cornucopia returned $33,400. While other mines and companies proved successful, the Grand Prize Mine was never challenged as the best in the district. As the word spread throughout the west, a rush to the new camp of Tuscarora began. Old Tuscarora, which was located about two miles below the new camp, quickly was emptied by the whites. The post office was relocated to the new town. The large Chinese contingent remained at "old" Tuscarora, steadily working the placers. Some of the buildings were moved to the new camp. The others left became the center for Chinatown. Tuscarora's Chinatown, at one point, was second only to San Francisco in size.
Even before the Grand Prize discovery, the new town already had a population of 150 and contained 20 houses, four saloons, two hotels, two stores, and a lodging house. A tri-weekly stage was running to Cornucopia. After the Grand Prize discovery, Tuscarora boomed. A big boost came in February, 1877, when the Windsor Mill was completed. The 20-stamp mill had been purchased by the Grand Prize company before it was completed. For the next year and a half, the mill averaged producing $2,500 a day. By the summer of 1877, Tuscarora had a population of 3,000 and was rivalling Elko as the biggest town in the county.
Although much of this population tended to be transient in nature, permanent residents still numbered about 1,500. Businesses and new mining companies sprang up left and right. Initially, in May, a separate town, called Linkton, began forming next to the Grand Prize Mill. The town was named for Samuel Linkton, superintendent of the mill. A townsite was platted in June but the huge expansion of Tuscarora during the summer gradually absorbed Linkton.
Saloons were extremely popular in the mining town and Tuscarora had plenty by the fall of 1877: Progressive (Mary Schafer), Silver Brick (P.T. Leonard), Pioneer (Tollman and Hutton), C.O.D. (Huck and Thompson), Young America (D.L. Davis), Idaho (Swaggart and Rinehart), Delta (Gronsky and DeYoung) , Empire (Key and Harris), Cabinet (A.J. Dallas), Palace (L.H. Blanger), Gem (V.C. Bartlett), and Grand Prize (John Woods). In addition, the Crystal Spring Brewery opened in the Bacon brothers store. Lodging was provided at the Star Lodging House (Thomas Cockbin), Howerton Lodging House (J.C. Howerton), Wilkins Hotel (J.F. Wilkins), and the Gem Hotel. One thing Tuscarora also had was an abundant supply of attorneys: James Dow, John Rand, Wines and Dorsey, Street and Windle, A.W. Fisk, Keeney and Bigelow, J. A . Savage, C.A. Kingston, and Charles Abbot.
Other businesses in Tuscarora included the Tuscarora Meat Market (Bacon brothers), Pioneer Restaurant (M.A. Cook), Virginia Chop House (Wilt Pierce), Tuscarora Blacksmith Shop (P. Campbell), Pioneer Boot and ShoeMaker (R. Luxinar), Dr. L.L. Davis, undertakers Darnes and Robbins, and G.M. Roberts and Company, auctioneers. Many different stagelines sprang up. Smith Van Dreillan operated a line from Elko to Tuscarora which continued on to Corucopia, White Rock, Mountain City, and Island Mountain. While this was the main line to Tuscarora, demand was so high that the boom town supported many other stage and freight lines. R. Barclay ran a fast freight line from Carlin. Wardop and Barring ran the Tuscarora Fast Freight and Accomodation Line to Elko. Charles Haines ran a stageline to Battle Mountain. Jack Gaston had a stageline running to Rock Creek. Tuscarora also served as the terminus for the Northern Stage Company (C.L. Aguirre) which ran to White Rock and Mountain City. A jail was built in 1877, although it wasn't used that much. Any serious criminals were always taken to Elko. For a town of its size, Tuscarora had a fairly lawful and peaceable citizenry.
Two newspapers began publication in 1877. The Tuscarora Times started on March 24 under the guidance of E.A. Littlefield, also publisher of the Elko Weekly Post. The weekly publication was issued on Saturdays at a cost of $5 per year. On May 23, C.C.S. Wright began publication of the Mining Review. The paper came out twice a week initially but later became a daily. The two papers enjoyed a friendly competition, so much so that the two papers merged on January 3, 1878, and the Tuscarora Times-Review was born. The new owners were Oscar Fairchild and John Dennis. The paper was a daily and was not published on Mondays.
During 1877, mining continued to reign supreme. In June, a new strike was made in the Grand Prize Mine. The mine produced $152,000 in August alone. However, the Grand Prize was hit with a setback in September when the mine's hoisting works burned, at a loss of $30,000. A new company, the Tuscarora Consolidated, was organized and T.S. Brown was named superintendent. The company owned the Warsaw, Susan Jane, Occidental, May-be-so, and Revenue Mines. Other active mines included the Young America (later renamed the Independence), First West Extension, Moscow, Lida, DeFrees (formerly the Oroide), Navajo, and Emmett.
The Navajo sold in late 1877 for $17,000. In November, the 10-stamp Independence Mill was started and joined the 20-stamp Grand Prize and 10-stamp DeFrees Mills. Because of the huge demand for fuel created by the mills, and a lack of wood, sagebrush was used as the preferred fuel. Huge wagons were filled by sagebrush by crews and stockpiled next to the mills. For 1877, the Tuscarora mines produced $900,714, bringing total production to that point to $1.6 million.
To the delight of the citizenry, the Tuscarora City Baths opened in December. Service clubs also were active in Tuscarora. The Masons, Knights of Pythias, and Odd Fellows all had lodges. Music was a popular form of entertainment and groups like the Tuscarora Brass Band, Excelsior Brass Band, the Harmoney Club, and the Young Ladies Orchestra, were organized. A baseball team was also formed. It now seemed that the boom town had everything.
1878 and 1879 were the two biggest years in Tuscarora's history with more than $1 million produced each year. In January, 1878, $206,752 was mined leading to the all-time one year best total of $1.2 million. A new mine, the Belle Isle, was discovered in 1879 and began production. The town settled down to a permanent population of about 1,500. Because of the high volume of bullion being produced, Wells-Fargo opened an office in Tuscarora in 1878 with Mort Smith serving as the local agent. In 1879, the first water system was completed in Tuscarora. While woefully inadequate, it did provide a great service, when it was running.
An incident in 1879 brought about great interest because of its bizarre nature. A local woman was married but shortly afterward left her husband because she found that he was actually female. The husband, known as Sam Pollard, was believed to be male by his fellow miners. He, or she, took advantage and gave lectures, half dressed as a man and the other as a woman. Pollard, whose real name turned out to be Sarah, had devised the scheme to protect her from her father. The residents, while troubled by the disguise, generally accepted her.
By 1880, Tuscarora was well-established and offered many amenities. The school had 140 students and Hattie Edwards and Alice Smith were the teachers. In January, the Tuscarora Polytechnic Institute opened under the leadership of Professor J.F. Burner. The Tuscarora Jockey Club was organized by L.I. Hogle, formerly of Cornucopia. Admission to the racetrack, located below town, was 15 cents. Two new breweries were built to keep the beer flowing in the town's many saloons. The Tuscarora Brewery was built by Otto Trilling in Navajo Gulch. At the same time, Frank Curieux started the Tuscarora Brewing Company. As you can imagine, with two such similar names, there tended to be a lot of confusion. A new mill, the Lancaster, was completed and began working on Argenta Mine ore and a new mine, the North Belle Isle, was discovered. Production, while lower than the previous two years, was still about $450,000.
Tuscarora, which had escaped fires during the first few years of its existence, began to have its problems. With the huge conglomeration of wooden buildings, it was inevitable. On November 26, the Grand Prize Hotel, owned by T.M. Jones, was totally destroyed by fire but was quickly rebuilt and the new hotel opened just before Christmas. While the town's population was still 1,400 in 1880, including the residents of Chinatown, new discoveries in the Wood River region of Idaho started a small exodus from Tuscarora.
During 1881, the old Phariss building was reconstructed and converted into a new public school. By June, 417 students were attending in all grades. New businesses in town included the Tuscarora Meat Market (Gerber and Altube), Tuscarora Drugstore (John McNally), Cornucopia Drugstore (A.B. Waller), Pioneer Meat Market (Wilson Steinaker), Tuscarora Beer Hall (A.A. Ross), City Market (Boyton and Roberts), a nd Mero Fruits and General Produce (M.C. Mero). W.S. Hillman had an interesting combination of professions. He was the main undertaker in town but also was a furniture dealer and did house painting. Mine production slipped dramatically and only $151,000 was mined. It was a sign of Tuscarora's future. There were many periods of great production, followed by relative lulls. In fact, January, 1882, was the first month since mills had been built in Tuscarora, that no bullion was shipped. Despite this dramatic development, a new Tuscarora to Elko fast freight line was started by John Spence. A major fire hit the town in February. The express building, which housed the offices of Wells-Fargo, Western Union, and the United States Stage Company, burned. The fire spread and also destroyed the Tuscarora Meat Market building and William Hoar's restaurant. This led to the formation of two volunteer fire departments, the Neptune and Confidence Fire Companies.
A new newspaper tried to challenge the powerful and revered Tuscarora Times-Review. In 1881, that paper had been cut back to a weekly by owner Oscar Fairchild. The Daily Mining News made its first appearance in January, 1883. The paper was run by Harry Fontecilla and despite high hopes for success, it was never able to gain a footheld with the presence of the Times-Review. During the mid-1880s, the big mines of the 1870s began to play out. By 1883, Tuscarora's population slipped to less than 1,000 although there still were more than 200 students in the school system. From 1883 to 1887, while $1.5 million was mined, it was clear that Tuscarora had fallen into borasca. A small mill was built at a new mine, the Dexter, in 1885, but was a failure and was dismantled in 1886. The Independence Mine and Mill closed in 1886 after a production of $606,000. In May, the Grand Prize Mine and Mill closed. The town continued to suffer. Many businesses closed and only the Elko to Tuscarora stage line, now run by Wilson and McPheters, was left and the stages were full leaving town and empty on the return trip.
There were some boosts in late 1886. During October, the Nevada Queen Mine was incorporated with George Hickox as president. F.E. Coffin was superintendent of the mine , located in Squabble Gulch. The company offices were located in the Chapin building. Also, the Tornado Consolidated Mining Company was incorporated by Steve Beard and A. Leichter. The Grand Prize Mine was also reopened but the mill remained closed. In the town, the Tuscarora Drugstore closed. John "Dutch John" Brinkman bought the Tuscarora Brewery and made a new motto, "Patronize Home Industry." A new post office was completed and local grocer George Peltier was named postmaster. However, the town continued to shrink and only had 300 registered voters by the end of the year.
In March, 1887, the Nevada Queen was reincorporated as the Consolidated Mining Company. The company was the best producer of the district during the next four years and revived the flagging interest in Tuscarora. Plans were made to extend the Nevada Central Railroad from Battle Mountain, through Tuscarora, and to Idaho. However, the plans never materialized. In 1887, businesses in Tuscarora included: Tuscarora Variety Store (D.B. Williams), Capitol Saloon (W.N. McAllister), Gem Hotel and Restaurant (Bartlett and Ostreicher), Tuscarora Brewery (John Brinkman), Sideboard Saloon (Ed Todd), Cabinet Saloon (A.J. Dallas), A.B. Waller Drugstore, Pioneer Meat Market (Sayles and Bailey), Tuscarora Meat Market (Gerber and Altube), Palace Restaurant (C.A. McElroy), Gem Restaurant (T.C. and Will Plunkett), Nevada Saloon and Lodging House (Louis Engler), Bald Eagle Saloon (Eugene Way and C.G. Tibbetts), Primeaux and Engler Store, Chapman Lodging House , Speth Jewelry Store, George Peltier and Company store, Occidental Lodging House, Chris Steffen "The Practical Bootmaker," and Pacific Mutual Insurance Company (F.F. Chagron, agent). There also was a doctor (C.B. Luce), veterinarian (A.A. Smith), and photographer (James Crockwell).
Plunkett's Hall, which was formerly a two-story lodging house with 10 sleeping rooms, that had been converted by T.C. and Will Plunkett in 1886, was the social center of town and featured a roller skating rink in addition to a dance hall and large performing stage. During the summer of 1887, active mines were Belle Isle, North Belle Isle, Nevada queen, Navajo, Commonwealth, Grand Prize, Diana, and Found Treasure. For a while, R.M. Catlin, who would later build the Catlin Shale Plant in Elko, was superintendent of the Navajo Mine. In June, the Found Treasure was sold by Mrs. Eliza Graham for $40,000. A new company, the Pondere, was incorporated in August and Charles Fish named president. Two other companies entered the district soon after: the Seal of Nevada Mining Company and the East Grand Prize Silver Mining Company. In October, the Navajo-Independence and Grand Prize Mills were restarted after being idle for a couple of years. The Grand Prize Mill produced $50,000 in bullion in the first two weeks of operation. Three new mines began production: Young America South, Tuscarora Consolidated, and Pondere.
The mining revival had a positive effect on Tuscarora. Two new social organizations were formed in 1888. In January, the Mount Blitzen Boys Club began hosting dances and performing plays at Plunkett's Hall. A few months later, the Women's Christian Temperance Union was organized by Mrs. A.W. Brown. That organization, needless to say, was popular with the local saloons! In June, Fred Bowman opened the first bottling plant, the Tuscarora Bottling Factory, which operated out of the Sagebrush Saloon. Carrie Cady opened an ice cream parlor in the Masonic Hall. The prominent Tuscarora Guard was also organized. The baseball team, called the Tuscarora Clippers, was reformed and players were: W.B. Kink (catcher), F. Bierbricker (pitcher), Dan Williams (first base), J.E. Jack (second base), E.M. Chapin (third base), T.I. Irland (shortstop), Tom Francis (left field), E. Ross (center field), V.J. Tedley (right field), Will Plunkett (manager), and W.B. Kirk (captain). Later, a former resident, "Wheezer" Dell, became the first Nevadan to play professional baseball. For a couple of years during the teens, he played for the Dodgers.
In July , 1888, the Tuscarora Water Company was incorporated and began to upgrade and replace the antiquated town water system. P.C. Hyman was president and superintendent. Tuscarora was blessed because it had a plentiful amount of available water. The only problem was getting it efficiently to town. A 12-mile iron pipeline was installed. By 1889, every house or business that wanted it had running water. In addition, there were fire hydrants throughout the town which greatly aided the fire companies. The first official church in Tuscarora, the Methodist, was opened by Reverence E.F. Brown in August. In December, the new Union (or Commonwealth) Mill, a concentration facility, was completed. However, it proved unsuccessful and closed in August, 1889.
In early 1889, the water company built an ice house whose completion was warmly greeted by residents. One of the oldest stores in town, George Peltier's, was sold to the undertaker, W.S. Hillman, who renamed it to the Tuscarora Trading Company. Later, in October, the Elko and Tuscarora Trading companies merged and formed the Elko-Tuscarora Mercantile Company. The old Woodruff, Ennor, and Williams store was bought by the company. A new school was built by Gardner and Son of Elko at a cost of $4,100. A. Norcross was named principal. In November, plans for the railroad were revived. The Idaho, Nevada, and Colorado Railroad would have been based at Battle Mountain and run to Tuscarora, Delamar, Silver City, and ended at Boise. The plan also called for the expansion of the Ne vada Central Railroad to standard gauge and extention of the line to join the Carson and Colorado Railroad. The Nevada Central's superintendent, C.A. Hirchcliffe, made numerous trips to Tuscarora and the Tuscarora Times-Review flatly stated that it was a "done deal."However, the great plans disappeared as quickly as they came.
During 1890, Tuscarora experienced both highs and lows. The once great Grand Prize Mine closed for good after producing about $2.6 million. On the other hand, the district produced just under $700,000, the best year since the glory days of 1878 and 1879. A new mine, the Dexter, began production and would become the last prominent mine in the Tuscarora district. The stage line to Elko continued to operated and was reorganized as the Elko-Tuscarora Stage Company. The ice cream parlor, now run by Alice Decker and Annie Curiuex, closed in September.
However, despite the good production of 1890, the Tuscarora mines began to fade during the next couple of years and many people began to leave. The Young America Mine closed in 1890, Belle Isle in 1891, and the North Commonwealth in 1892. In March, 1891, there was considerable excitement in Tuscarora when the old Young America shaft, which ran under Weed Street, the main road in Tuscarora, began to collapse. gravel had to be hauled in to fill the large holes that developed. During July, the first electric lights were installed in some of the town's homes and businesses. By this time, the only mill still in operation consistently was the DeFree's Mill in Taylor Canyon. The Union and Grand Prize mills were only occasionally leased and used. All of the mines were in serious financial trouble and only the Coptis (formerly the Young America South) and Independence had cash on hand. By September, 1892, only the Commonwealth had a positive cash flow. The battle over the silver issue in Washington, D.C. didn't help matters. In April 1892, the Tuscarora Silver Club was formed to help promote silver as the base monetary unit. The club quickly had 320 members. In March, 1892, the Dexter Gold and Silver Mining Company was organized and W.J. Urton was president and superintendent. But fortunes continued to decline. The years 1894 to 1896 were the worst years to date for production and the impact weighed heavy on Tuscarora. In 1895, the Wells-Fargo office, with little bullion to ship, closed down. The Navajo Mine, after producing $1.7 million, closed for good.
During the same year, the Tuscarora Times-Review shrank to two pages and then shut down on October 5 . The Fairchild newspaper legacy was over. Oscar Fairchild, who had come to Tuscarora in 1877, died of heart failure in June, 1897, at the age of 67. Both he and his son, Tracy, had run the Tuscarora Times-Review from its inception. Besides running the paper, Oscar ran a dairy near town and served as postmaster for 10 years. Before coming to Tuscarora, Fairchild had run papers in Placerville, California; Virginia City; Pioche; and Belmont. He also had founded the Reese River Reveille in Austin. Tuscarora Times-Review had a reprieve and was revived on June 15, 1897. C.E. and E.L. Bingham began publishing the paper as a tri-weekly.
The paper was revived as a result of renewed mining activity that began in early 1897. Tuscarora was on the verge of entering its last period of good production although it never approached the volume of the 1870s boom and 1880s revival. The main source of this revival was the emergence of the Dexter Mine. At the same time, the Young America and Nevada Queen mines we reopened. In June, the A.W. Sewell and Company grocery store opened. This was significant because this single store eventually led to a huge chain of stores throughout northern Nevada, which was finally bought out by the Mayfair Market chain in the 1960 s. Some of the town's old businesses had managed to survive through the lean years and a few new ones opened. During 1897, businesses included: Pioneer Meat Market (C. Aguirre), Gear Saloon (Ed Todd), Speth Jewelry, Capitol Saloon (Tom Minor), Cottage Hote l (Dan Coll), Fred Wilson Livery, Antoine Primeaux Store (which had taken over the Elko-Tuscarora Mercantile Company), Tuscarora Beer Hall (A.H. Smith), Gem Restaurant (T.C. and Will Plunkett), Phil Snyder News Agency, J. Hungerberg Barber Shop, W.S. Hill man (undertaker and furniture dealer), Tuscarora Foundry (Dove and Jack), and the Chris Steffen Bootery.
During December, Joe, Tean, and Will Plunkett renovated Plunkett Hall. The floor space was now 80' x 22', with a 20' stage. A unique new addition was t hat the 60' auditorium was on three giant stringers which allowed the floor to be tilted as much as 28" for theater performances and then returned to a flat floor for dances and other functions. In July, 1897, the long idle Navajo Mill was restarted and worked Nevada Queen ore. The Young America Gold Mining Company was incorporated in October and W.B. Andrew was selected as president. The big boost came on February 1, 1898, when the new 40-stamp Dexter Mill was completed. The mill joined the smaller Kinkead Mill, which the company had built in 1894. Only enough power for 20 stamps was available from the power plant in Taylor Canyon. The entire project cost $100,000. The company employed 125 men and the mill was able to process 60 tons of ore a day. This provided a boost in production and warranted the reopening of the Wells-Fargo office in May. The Eira Mining Company completed a cyanide plant at the old Independence Mine dumps in June. The company also reopened the Eira Mine, which had been discovered in the 1880s by John Sutliff and George Smith, but only had small production. The company also bought the old Navajo Mill, refitted it, and started the mill in October. The company was reincorporated in February, 1899, as the Tuscarora Chief Mining Company. As a result of all of this activity, the Tuscarora Miners Union was organized in October.
In January, 1899, the second power plant for the Dexter Mill was completed at Jack Creek. For the first time, all 40 stamps were used. The extra power provided by the plant was used to electrify the town of Tuscarora. The Young America Mine was sold to Heinrich, Brown, and Dern in February for $60,000. The company purchased the old gallows frame at the North Belle Isle Mine and installed it at the Young America. Construction was begun on a 10-stamp mill. The mill, built by C.S. Ford, was completed in February, 1900. The mill was one of the first facilities to be run by gasoline and only cost $8 to run for 24 hours. But by March, 1901, the mill was idle.
Tuscarora's population was 669 in 1900 but many left during the next couple of years. The Plunkett family stayed, however. Tom and Will took over publication of the Tuscarora Times-Review in November, 1900. In November, the Dexter and Tuscarora companies consolidated and formed the Dexter-Tuscarora Consolidated Mining Company. However, despite all of the outward signs of activity, the mines were beginning to fade again. Since the peak of the revival in 1898, when more than $185,000 had been mined, production had been steadily slipping. The mining companies explored desperately, trying to find new deposits. Both the Commonwealth and Nevada Queen Mines closed for good in 1901. In October, 1901, the old Grand Prize Mine was sold and renamed the Phoenix. But unlike the famous bird, the mine never came back to life. A further sign of decline was the scrapping and dismantling of the Grand Prize and Union Mills in 1902. Due to the lack of good ore, the Dexter Mine and Mill closed in February, 1903. Although it was reopened in June, about half of Tuscarora's population left, seeing the writing on the wall. The revival from 1897 to 1902 had produced about $785,000.
During this period, more gold was produced than silver, a dramatic departure from Tuscarora's early days. As a comparison, from 1902 to 1930, when all mining essentially ceased for good, barely $447,000 was mined. Even the venerable Tuscarora Times-Review was in danger. Tom Plunkett retired in July, 1903. His son, Will, tried to keep it going, even reducing the paper to a weekly. In fact, the paper disappeared from October 20 to November 21. It appeared again with the following disclaimer: "With this issue the Times-Review, which has been temporarily suspended for a while, enters upon a new career. Seeing no encouragement in the present, gloomy outlook of our camp to justify us in continuing the publication of a tri-weekly, we had about determined to abandon the field, but have been prevailed upon to continue, and henceforth (or until times improve) this paper will be issued weekly. Saturday being our publication day. Owing to the fact that we have issued so irregularly since 15th of August, no charge will be made by use from that date to the present. The subscription price of this paper until further notice will be $4 per year in advance, six months $1.50, one month .50 cents. Thanking our patrons for their patronage during the past three years we hope to merit a continuance of the same. W.D. Plunkett, Editor and Publisher."
The paper only lasted one month longer, finally folding on December 26, without any mention that it was the last issue. The press and other equipment was taken back by W.D. Fairchild and stored for years at the family ranch. It was later "acquired" by Robert "Doby Doc" Caudill. Another valuable piece of Elko County's history disappeared forever. Will and Tean Plunkett purchased a store in Mountain City in 1904 and moved the house from Tuscarora and attached it to the store. The other Plunketts remained in Tuscarora for a few more years. Tom, an accomplished actor, spent his time performing Shakespeare to an empty house at Plunkett Hall. The old hall was later scrapped for wood. Tean was the only one who remained in Tuscarora, running the Gem Restaurant. He died in 1943 when the building caught fire and he attempted to rescue his dog.
When the Dexter Mine finally closed in 1903 after producing $1.2 million, it was the end of productive mining activity in Tuscarora. Water in the mine rose to within 20' of the top of the shaft. One of the main reaons of the mine's failure was that when the mill was built, the company manager and board of directors loaned money for the construction. They charged an extremely high interest rate which ate up all of the profits, leaving stock holders high and dry. With the death of the Dexter, serious activity was over. By this time, over 50 miles of shafts and tunnels criss-crossed underneath Tuscarora. Most of Tuscarora's remaining businesses closed or moved elsewhere. The brewery, a mainstay for 20 years, closed in 1905 because there wasn't any demand for the product.
During the summer of 1906, 80 men were employed in developing the Dexter and Commonwealth Mines in the hopes of finding more ore. This work culminated with the formation of the Tuscarora Nevada Mines Company in March, 1907. The company, with Arthur Brownley as president, controlled all of the mines in Tuscarora. Two million shares of stock were issued and the company announced plans to build a railroad to Elko. In July, interest was revived in the old placers at "Old" Tuscarora. The Nevada Hydraulic Mining and Milling Company hit a 10' vein in the old diggings. The claim was later leased by E.P. and P.C. Johnson, R.T. Noble, and W.D. Bray, and a hydraulic plant was built. The town of Tuscarora struggled to survive. Two short-lived newspapers tried to make a go of it in 1907 and 1908. The Tuscarora Mining News, a weekly, began publication on August 17, 1907. However, the paper was unsuccessful and folded in early 1908. Business Talks was published from September to November of 1908 but wasn't a regular paper but more of an occasionally published advertisement sheet for the Mail Order Printing Company of Tuscarora.
A new mill, built by John Pattison, began working the dumps at the Navajo Mine in July, 1909. By 1911, the Tuscarora Nevada company had enough ore that they reopened 20-stamps of the Dexter Mill. At the same time, the company also built a 100-ton cyanide plant to rework old tailings. Despite all of these improvements, only $28,000 was produced in 1911. The company ran into financial problems in 1912 and stopped work. Finally, in April, 1913, the company was forced into receivership and went bankrupt. All of the property, after many delays, was finally sold at a sheriff's auction in December, 1915. However, one of the potential assets was mysteriously missing. The Dexter Mill burned in December, 1914, a victim of arson. The loss was listed as $150,000 and given the circumstances, the timing seeming very odd. In August, 1913, the last wooden coach of the T uscarora-Elko stageline was retired. The limited amount of passengers and freight was now carried by truck or auto. The coach is on display at the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko.
Until the 1980s, only sporadic mining efforts were made around Tuscarora and the success was very limited. Most of the activity wasn't new mining but mostly reworking the old dumps. A 50-ton mill was built by the Holden Mining and Milling Company in July, 1919, and reworked tailings until it burned in 1920. In December, 1927, Dan Zucconi completed a 25-ton mill to rework tailings from the Independence Mine. Estimations of Tuscarora's total production range widely from $10 million to as high as $40 million. In 1918, the Mining and Scientific Press claimed that $50 million had been mined and $10 million in dividends paid. Realistically, it appears that the figure is $15 to $20 million. Early production figures are most likely lower than reported because the companies tried to manipulate numbers to avoid the bullion tax. About $1 million of the total was from the placer deposits, most of that being mined by the Chinese from 1870 to 1900.
Over the years, many of Tuscarora's empty buildings were either moved or torn down. Since the 1920s, the town's population has remained below 50. The town was struck by a devastating fire in July, 1948. It started in the home of Lovella Pendergast. The old express office and the Confidence fire station were destroyed along with seven other buildings along Weed Street, creating large gaps along the street. Only the timely arrival of the Spanish Ranch fire truck save many other buildings. In June, 1966, Dennis Parks and his wife, Julie, came to Tuscarora and established the Tuscarora Pottery School. Students now come from all over the world to train under Parks' guidance. The school is still active and growing today.
During the last 15 years, there has been some renewed mining at Tuscarora. A group, called Tuscarora Associates, reworked 400,000 tons of old tailings from 1979 to 1982. Microscopic gold provided moderate success for Horizon Gold beginning in 1987. A large open pit mine was started just below Tuscarora at the Dexter Mine site. Tuscarora received national attention when the open pit operation threatened the existence of the town. The residents protested and the edge of the pit stopped at the very end of town. However, the company could still proceed in the future and a legal battle is still being waged. Low gold prices and poor ore value forced Horizon to close down and remove its equipment. Hopefully, the closure is permanent, for the sake of what is left of Tuscarora. Unless the case is awarded to the residents, a rise in gold prices could see the town threatened again.
Today, Tuscarora is classified as a ghost town even though there are still about 20 people living there. Some of the old buildings are occupied. There are other empty buildings amid newer buildings and trailers. Della Phillips ran a museum in Tuscarora for years which offered an unparalled collection of artifacts and photographs. It is closed now. The post office is still in operation. There also is much to see on the outskirts of town. The ruins of the Independence Mill are just west of Tuscarora. Many other mining ruins are scattered around the hills. A lot of the remnants have been destroyed over the years by subsequent mining. Just to the east of town is one of the most interesting cemeteries in the county. Many wood headboards remain and some restoration has slowly been done. A large number of unmarked or unknown graves are in the cemetery. Many of the complete graves have beautiful and intricate headstones. At the old Chinatown, and the original Tuscarora townsite, little remains except some old cellars and easily visible placer workings. The last resident of Chinatown was Yan Tin, who died in 1927. In 1934, a group of boys from Tuscarora found $1,200 worth of gold dust and nuggets in the front yard of his cabin.
At their peak, as many as 500 Chinese were reported to be in Tuscarora. Once the big boom hit in the mid-1870s, the Chinese went from being a majority to a despised minority. In fact, an anti-Chinese society was formed in Tuscarora. Many of the Chinese were forced into illegal enterprises to make a living. Opium dens were popular with the Celestials and whites . A couple of these dens are still visible, located in the sides of the hills. Tuscarora has always been the most recognizable mining town in Elko County and today it remains the Queen of the county's ghost towns. An enjoyable visit is a guarantee with Tuscarora.