Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ghosts of Star City

While not much goes on in Star City today, for a short time it was one of the largest communities in North-Central Nevada.

Star City—or rather the site of the mining town—is located in Star Canyon, one of several scenic ravines found on the east-side of the Humboldt Range.

While little has been written about Star City, historical records indicate that significant silver deposits were discovered there in about 1861. Within a relatively short period of time a small community was established around the mines and by 1862 a post office had opened.

Star City’s growth was remarkably rapid. In 1863, the town had swelled to an estimated 1,200 residents and, according to Nevada historian Stanley Paher, the town was the largest in Humboldt County.

Additionally, according to Paher, within two years of the town’s founding it had gained a couple of hotels, several saloons and stores, a school, a telegraph office and a Wells Fargo branch.

Star City’s most successful years were between 1864 and 1865, when seven mining companies operated in the canyon and one mine, the Queen of Sheba, produced an estimated $5 million between 1862 and 1868.

For a time, the Sheba Mining Company also operated a ten-stamp mill, open 24-hours a day, to crush and process the ore.

Paher notes that during this time, Star City was even home of a literary society known as the Gander Club.

Unfortunately, the Sheba Mine quickly ran out of ore (by 1868) and the population soon moved on to more productive places. The 1870 census reported only 78 residents in the town (an amazing population decrease of nearly 1600 percent in about three years!). The town’s post office closed in September 1868.

No one has lived in Star City for more than a century. While apparently there has been some sporadic mining activity in Star City, it has largely remained a nearly forgotten, old Nevada mining town.

The former site of Star City can be reached by driving east of Reno on Interstate 80 to the Mill City exit (about 45 miles east of Lovelock). Head south on State Route 400 for about 10 miles, then turn left onto a dirt road that leads to the site (there is an historic marker there), which is five miles west.

The four-wheel drive road crosses a stretch of sage-covered desert before it begins to climb into the mouth of the canyon, parallel to a small stream (Star Creek).

The town site is located in a wide spot where the road more or less ends (it’s wide enough to turn around). To the immediate west is one of the area’s most picturesque spots, where you’ll see the rocky cliffs of Star Canyon and the wooden head-frame of the Queen of Sheba Mine.

Not much remains of Star City except for about three or four rock foundations and crumbling stone walls, which can be seen scattered about the hillside, peeking out of the sagebrush and tall grass.

Adjacent to the town’s ruins is Star Creek, a pleasant brook lined by lush vegetation and a handful of poplar trees that flows out of the mountains. As you wander closer to the Queen of Sheba head-frame, you’ll find the site of the old mill (only a few rock foundations remain) as well as an abandoned but wide, open mine shaft (it’s not very deep, looking as if it had caved in some time ago).

After you’re done exploring Star City, you can head back to State Route 400 and it’s only a short 10-mile drive south to Unionville. There, you’ll find the ruins of another former mining town, where Mark Twain spent some time, as well as a classy bed and breakfast known as the Old Pioneer Garden Country Inn (for information, call 775-538-7585).

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