Sunday, July 04, 2010

Belleville's Brief, Colorful History

Belleville: "Beautiful City"

In 1877, it would have cost you seven bucks for a whole year’s subscription to the Belleville Times.

Unfortunately, the newspaper didn’t last a whole year.

That, in a nutshell, is the story of Belleville, a once thriving mining camp located about 53 miles southeast of Hawthorne. And like its newspaper, Belleville wasn’t particularly long-lived.

According to ghost town historian Stanley Paher, the community of Belleville was established in 1873 following construction of a stamp mill on the site to process ore from mines in nearby Candelaria.

In December 1874, a post office was opened in the settlement, which derived its name from the mill, owned by the Northern Belle Mining and Milling Company (Belleville is French for “beautiful city.”

A second mill was opened above the town in 1876. By then, Belleville had grown to house about 400 residents and had several hotels, restaurants and saloons as well as blacksmith shops and stables.

Paher also notes that the town, which became a kind of playground for Candelaria’s miners, had an amateur magicians’ club, a jockey club offering horse-racing, and a newsstand that sold papers from throughout the country.

In fact, because of its proximity to the booming mining town of Candelaria, located about six miles south, Belleville continued to grow, adding a couple hundred more people during the next two years. It was during this period that the Belleville Times began publishing.

In 1882, Belleville seemed well on its way to permanency when the Carson and Colorado Railroad reached the town, linking it by rail to other communities.

The town’s optimism, however, proved premature as later that year the Northern Belle Company built a 27-mile water pipeline from the White Mountains. The pipe meant that Candelaria could begin processing its ore closer to where it was mined, thereby eliminating the need for Belleville.

The end came rather quickly and by 1894, Belleville’s population had so dwindled that the post office was closed. Eventually, the mills were dismantled and Belleville was abandoned. There was a brief revival in the area between 1915-1918 (during that time the post office was reopened) but there has been no activity since.

Today, little remains of Belleville. To reach the site, travel about 40 miles south of Hawthorne on U.S. 95, then continue west on Nevada State Route 360 for 11 miles. An historic marker indicates the site of the community, which is south of the highway.

Wandering the site, which is adjacent to a dirt road that leads to Candelaria (now also abandoned), you can find plenty of rusted metal scraps, a few weathered pieces of wood and lots of field mice hiding in tufts of wild grass.

There are also large and impressive stone and brick foundations tucked into the hillsides, remnants of the mills that once operated in Belleville. Depressions in the ground indicate the former cellars of several homes and buildings that once stood in the area.

As for the Belleville Times, after it ceased publishing in June of 1878, it was sold to a man who relocated all of its press equipment to the mining camp of Aurora.
I guess that if you’d purchased that one-year subscription to the Belleville Times you would have had to move to keep getting your paper.

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