Some mining towns in the western United States went through their boom and bust cycle rather quickly but very few were as spectacular as Rhyolite, NV, in both the size of the boom or the tempo of the bust. In a scant 20 years the Rhyolite town site went from nothing more than rock and scrub brush through a booming metropolis to a ghost city, leaving some spectacular ruins behind.
What would quickly become the city of Rhyolite started with a population of two on Aug 9, 1904. Prospectors Shorty Harris and his partner Ed Cross discovered gold just south of what would become the Rhyolite town site. The ore they found assayed as extremely rich, word of the discovery spread like wildfire and in just days a tent and shanty town sprang to life.
Within weeks, the population of the area was in the hundreds and more than 2000 mining claims covering more than 30 square miles had been filed by gold seekers and speculators alike. The population of the area swelled to approximately 1,500 in the six months following the discovery. As an indication that Rhyolite had “arrived,” a post office opened in 1905 in a small tent with 18-year old Anna Moore serving as postmaster.
But it was after the February 1906 sale of the biggest and most productive mine in the area, the Montgomery Shoshone, to industrialist Charles M. Schwab of Bethlehem Steel fame, that a fully-developed, fully functioning city seemed to fall from the sky, landing just north of the mine.
Schwab expanded mining operations dramatically, hiring more workers. He built a huge mill and expanded the tunnels and drifts of the mine. And, while doing all of this, he took on development of the town. All the modern utilities and municipal services were there including police and fire departments. Railroads linked Rhyolite to the outside world. The city had both telegraph and telephone service. Banks, businesses and churches flourished. Rhyolite had all of the ‘normal things’ expected of a fully functioning city and there were some not-so-normal features including a public swimming pool, a public bath house, an opera house and ball fields. There was even a baseball team to play on the baseball field.
A rudimentary but functioning city government keeping things on track, appropriating public money for the benefit of the city and its residents.