Sunday, January 13, 2008
Escape to Historic Unionville
Old Unionville School
If you’re looking to get away from it all, there aren’t too many places more remote than the historic town of Unionville, home of the Old Pioneer Garden Country Inn.
The Old Pioneer is a rustic two-story stone inn located in a former wagon maker’s home that was originally built in the mid-19th century when Unionville was a thriving mining camp.
The Old Pioneer Garden Country Inn, which also includes a separate, renovated guesthouse, is owned by Lew and Mitzi Jones, who relocated to Unionville from Monterey, California in 1972.
During the past three decades, the two have transformed the ruins of two historic homes into a quaint bed and breakfast complex that is one of rural Nevada’s best-kept secrets.
The main inn, known as the Hadley House, has six modern rooms, one with a private bath. The smaller Ross House, located at the entrance to town, offers two rooms.
All of the inn’s facilities are comfortable and private—recent visitors have included Hollywood celebrities—and the Jones’ prepare some wonderful meals using fruits from their orchard and vegetables from their garden.
Rates range from $75-95 per night. For reservations, call 775-538-7585 or write Old Pioneer Garden, 2805 Unionville Rd., Unionville, NV 89418.
The town of Unionville was founded in the spring of 1861 as a mining camp named Dixie (most of the original miners were Southern).
Within a short time, however, more people had arrived in the booming camp, including many that identified with the northern side in the Civil War (raging at the time). Soon, the town’s name was changed to Unionville to reflect the majority’s politics.
Among the earliest arrivals in Unionville was a young Mark Twain, who later wrote about his experiences as a would-be prospector in the town.
Twain noted that he discovered a shiny piece of rock that he knew just had to be gold. His “delirious revel” quickly turned to embarrassment when a more experienced prospector revealed that his discovery was only granite and glittery mica.
“So vanished my dream. So melted my wealth away. So toppled my airy castle to the earth and left me stricken and forlorn,” he noted. “Moralizing, I observed, then, that ‘all that glitters is not gold.’”
Another tale about Unionville is that even though it was the first seat of Humboldt County, it wasn’t really built to last. Writer Stanley Paher has written that lumber shipped to the town was so bad that one newspaper reported that when it rained the county clerk stacked his papers into one corner of his office “where the rain didn’t come any thicker than it did outside.”
Despite the travails, Unionville managed to grow during 1862-63. During that time, it had nearly 1,000 residents and numerous businesses including ten stores, six hotels, nine saloons, a brewery and a newspaper.
The town experienced brief spurts of mining activity during the next decade before losing the county seat to Winnemucca in 1873. By 1880, the good years were behind Unionville, which slowly slipped into obscurity.
Fortunately, Unionville never completely disappeared. After mining ceased, the local economy shifted to ranching and agriculture and, in recent years, tourism.
The ruins of old Unionville can be found sprinkled throughout beautiful Buena Vista Canyon. Stone foundations and walls, a few intact wooden houses, tall cottonwoods, old barns and the picturesque old Unionville school (not open to the public) are among the historic survivors.
A small creek, which runs down the canyon and through the town, enhances the general sense of peacefulness found here.
Unionville is located in Northern Nevada, about half way between Lovelock and Winnemucca. To reach the town, travel east of Lovelock on Interstate 80 to the Mill City exit. Head south on State Route 400 for 17 miles, then drive west for three miles on a good dirt road.