Friday, November 21, 2008

Searching for Pine Grove


While it once boasted its own newspaper and stagecoach line, the northeastern Nevada mining camp of Pine Grove, near Yerington, is mostly a forgotten historical footnote these days.

Pine Grove is located about 26 miles south of Yerington. To reach it, head 11 miles south on State Route 208, then turn onto an unmarked but well maintained dirt road. Follow the dirt road for 11 miles, then turn right on Pine Grove Mine Road (it’s marked). Continue west for four miles to the remains of Pine Grove.

The town is located in Pine Grove Canyon, a heavily wooded, ruggedly beautiful slash in the eastern slopes of the Pine Grove Hills. The journey up into the canyon passes through scenic, craggy cliffs and gullies.

William Wilson originally discovered gold in the canyon in 1866. A second mine, called the Wheeler Mine, was started soon after and within two years there were two large mills in operation, a post office, a weekly newspaper and a population of about 300.

Additionally, a stage and freight line was established, which connected the mining camp to nearby Wellington in the Smith Valley. By the early 1870s, the town claimed some 600 people and a variety of businesses, ranging from saloons and hotels to a school and blacksmith shop.

By 1893, the Wilson mine had produced more than $5 million, while the Wheeler generated some $3 million, both largely in gold ore with traces of silver. The mines began to decline just before that time although there was activity in 1900 and again in 1910.

While smaller mining operators continued to work the old tailing piles for a number of years, most significant activity ended by 1918. The dirt road leading to the town was built in 1904 during one of the later mining revivals.

Today, Pine Grove is only a shadow of its former glory, but still claims enough to make it interesting. At the east end of the town, visitors will find an informative historic marker adjacent to the stone remains of a former building.

A little farther up the canyon you can find the remains of a leaching operation from the 1960s. Fortunately, the more modern mining work did not destroy a fine wooden and rusted iron stamp mill, still standing on a hill, or the horizontal mining shafts that reach deep into the mountainside.

One hole was particularly interesting because of an intricate stone wall that had been constructed near the entrance (perhaps once part of a building at the opening of the mine).

Of course, as with any abandoned shaft, it's safe to look at from a distance, but never enter the mine. Additionally, the shafts and stamp mill are located on marked, private property.

About a quarter-of-a-mile from the mining area are the best remains of Pine Grove. Here, you will still find two fairly well preserved wooden structures, one apparently an old boarding house or hotel, while the other appears to have been a garage or storage building. Again, look, but don't touch.

If you wander through the high sagebrush around the town's remains, it's also still possible to find the remnants of other buildings, such as partial walls and stone foundations.

Directly east of the center of the former town, you'll also pass the ruins of a more recent placer operation (they appear to be from the 1960s mining efforts). Here, the rusting remains of various mechanical processing machines have become the newest ghostly remains at Pine Grove.

A good map showing how to reach the Pine Grove area can be found in Stanley Paher’s Illustrated Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps Atlas available at Nevada bookstores or from Nevada Publications, 1-775-747-0800.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The first time I was in Pine Grove was around 1969 with a Boy Scout post. There was an old man and his wife living there in the summer. He gave us a tour of his hard rock mine. He had a single room cabin that they were living in. The last time, a few years later, he was gone and his cabin was all shot up.

He gave us good advice. Never drive off of a road. The mountin was littered with mine shafts in all directions, but he claimed that they never mined under the town streets.

Doug 775 said...

I think I may know of this man. Did he have a beard and look like a mountain man. Maybe the name Steve rings a bell?