George Wingfield's Signature
George Wingfield When George Wingfield came to Northern Nevada in the late 1800's no one knew what impact he would eventually have on this western state. Born in Arkansas in 1876, by 1906 Wingfield had become a prominent (and rich) businessman not only in Nevada but also throughout the U.S. As owner of the Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company, George became a multi-millionaire by age 30 and for a time owned every bank in the state. One of George's favorite pastimes was to bring his favorite hunting dogs and his best friends (such as Herbert Hoover, Bernard Baruch and others) to his "Nevada Oasis", the Spanish Springs Valley Ranch that is now Wingfield Springs. For almost a quarter of a century he devoted his efforts to improving his ranch, extending ponds, building a first class facility for his prize-winning quarterhorses and Labrador retrievers and enjoying the area's natural beauty from the original ranch house in the old cottonwood grove that remains today. George Wingfield Owner & Operator of Nevada George Wingfield has been a major figure in Nevada history at least since 1912, when he turned down an appointment to the United States Senate. A political and economic titan, he made a tremendous fortune in the gold fields of central Nevada in the early twentieth century, and went on to own a chain of banks, numerous ranches, and several Reno hotels. Active in political party circles in the 1920's, he became the reputed boss of both Democratic and Republican parties. George Wingfield's power was legendary in his own time, and was publicly demonstrated when the collapse of his twelve banks in 1932 almost led to the economic ruin of the state. During his lifetime, there were at least two offers to make a Hollywood movie based on his experiences. For a period of years early in the 20th century, Wingfield could be described without exaggeration as the "Owner and Operator of Nevada." His legacy to the state has been controversial. Some have revered him as Nevada's benevolent "friend in need." Others have condemned him as a "sagebrush caesar," a man who dominated the state politically "as arbitrarily as the czar ruled Russia." Born in Arkansas in 1876, he died in Reno in 1959 after a quintessential rags-to-riches career. From a ranch boyhood in southeastern Oregon through an early career as a saloon keeper and a professional gambler, Wingfield emerged as a daring capitalist with the 1906 formation of Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company, in partnership with U.S. Senator George S. Nixon. This mine made both men multi-millionaires. George Wingfield's financial acumen was great and his fortune legendary. National newspapers celebrated him as "Nevada's Napoleon." A friend to prominent men, including Bernard Baruch and Herbert Hoover, Wingfield became a significant power in the state of Nevada because he remained in the state with all of his money, instead of leaving us as other mining barons had. His power became controversial, however, as his political activities gradually remade the state in his own image. Fiscally conservative, but socially liberal, George Wingfield supported horse racing, liberalized divorce, and open gambling in Nevada. Many others did not, but his investments gave him tremendous influence in a sparsely populated state. His lifelong opposition to labor unions, for instance, was surely implicated in the suppression of the miners' union in Goldfield in 1908. By the 1930s, when his banks had difficulty, Wingfield was so bitterly resented that all attempts to reorganize and reopen his banks failed. In 1935, defeated and shorn of all political power, Wingfield declared personal bankruptcy. Although a second fabulous gold mine, the Getchell, brought him another fortune in the 1940s and 50s, he never recovered the political authority he had enjoyed at the height of his power in the 1920s. When he died in 1959, however, he had the satisfaction of seeing around him a flourishing economy based on the gambling-and-divorce related tourism he had worked so hard to promote. During his later years, one of Wingfield's favorite places was the property northeast of Reno that he called Spanish Springs Ranch. He bought the land in August 1935, from the estate of the colorful Reno mayor E.E. Roberts, who had used it as a duck preserve. Wingfield owned it until his death in 1959, when he left it to his wife, Roxy Thoma Wingfield. For almost a quarter-century he devoted his efforts to improving it, extending the ponds to attract waterfowl, building hunting blinds, and inviting numerous friends to shoot ducks and grouse, which was his recreational passion. At Spanish Springs Ranch he also bred prize-winning quarterhorses and labrador dogs. He gave the latter to friends throughout the country. The ranch was his constant weekend retreat, and he probably would have lived there year round if his wife had permitted it. The modest house at the center of the old grove provided a beautiful view of the mountains at sunset, and a vista across the entire valley that he had done so much to shape. Wingfield Springs Significant Dates in History
TONOPAH SPRANG TO LIFE IN 1900 following a silver discovery made by Jim Butler. Butler was an energetic and efficient miner, but he has been described as the laziest mining tycoon of all time because of his practice of giving leases to others to develop his properties. The leasers, working against deadlines, established Tonopah as a major mining bonanza by taking $4 million in ore from Butler's mines and building a substantial city. Coming as it did when the mining excitement at Nome, Alaska, was tailing off, the Tonopah strike drew a large number of sourdoughs, among them Tex Rickard, Wyatt Earp, and Key Pittman. The Tonopah boom also coincided with the last waning of the Comstock as the center of political and economic influence in Nevada. For more than a generation afterward Tonopah men managed much of the state's affairs. Key Pittman went to the U.S. Senate where he was known as "The Senator from Tonopah" because of his vigorous support of monetary legislation designed to assist the silver mining industry of the West. Tasker Oddie, Jim Butler's attorney, was both a U.S. senator and a Nevada governor. Earp made himself useful as a gambling dealer and "persuader" in local politics; even in his fifties he was not a man to fool with, though the dent he made in Tonopah history is nothing like his previous impact on Tombstone, Arizona. Two years after its establishment Tonopah was a sprawling city of 3,000 people served by stagecoaches, competing newspapers, more than 30 saloons, and a pair of churches. By 1905 it had captured the county seat from failing Belmont; by 1907 Tonopah was thriving with five banks, several theaters, numerous hotels, five newspapers, many of the most impressive residences in Nevada in its extensive residential neighborhoods, and the Big Casino, a dance-hall-and-brothel occupying a square city block in the middle of the sporting district. Like Austin forty years previously, Tonopah became the headquarters and fitting-out place for hundreds of prospectors prowling the brushy wilderness of central Nevada, and whose discoveries helped raise Nevada from the economic coma it had been suffering for 20 years. They also restored the state to its accustomed place on the front pages of the nation's newspapers. Tonopah peaked in the years leading up to World War I, when the mines averaged 38.5 million a year in production. From there it was a long, slow downhill slide. As the twenties gave way to the thirties, and the thirties to the forties, mining slowed and finally stopped. Ranching and the highway trade became the main economic resources. Population dwindled and for 50 years of hard times the increasingly shabby city clung to the barren swale between Mounts Oddie and Brougher, half awake and distracted. It was silver the old city wanted, with three shifts a day in the shafts and half a hundred hammering mills crushing rock all day and all night. And in 1979, after nearly 60 years of decline, Tonopah erupted in its second mining boom of the 20th century. Suddenly the Mizpah Annex Cafe was a crush of men in Air Force fatigues or the flannel shirts and blue jeans of construction workers and miners. Waitresses raced from table to table with pots of coffee and platters of flapjacks. Fleets of buses hauled the men out of town to work. Nine hundred of them were building the great new Anaconda molybdenum mine and mill, and hundreds more worked in a dozen gold and silver mines producing bullion at a furious rate. The Air Force was so busy at its missile test range beyond the mountains to the southeast that it had to lease whole motels in Tonopah to accommodate the troops. The population went from fewer than 2,500 to more than 4,000 in about a year. When school was out in June, 1980, there were 475 kids enrolled in school. When school opened again in September, there were more than 700 students to find classrooms and teachers for. At the only grocery store in town the clerks worked steadily to restock the shelves with almost 6 tons of groceries every day, and customers idled their cars in the street, waiting for spaces to open up in the parking lot. Every structure with a roof over it was rented. A temporary 300-space campground was built at the Anaconda worksite. Every vacant lot that could accommodate a trailer was put to use, giving the tangle of old streets an incongruous look: a flamingo-pink aluminum cube stuck between a swaybacked old cottage on one side and a fitted stone mansion on the other. On the northeast side of town Anaconda built a 500-acre subdivision of new homes, with a new school and a park so their permanent employees wouldn't have to live in their cars. The rattle of hammers and the snarl of saws was heard everywhere in town, and workers from Reno, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Sacramento stood in line at the pay phones after work every night to call home. Plans of every optimistic kind were announced one after another, and one Friday afternoon over coffee at Terry's Family Restaurant on Main Street I watched a man float from booth to booth around the room, keeping five separate deals going at once. And then one day the boom was over. The price of gold and silver slid and the mines closed down. The market for moly went so bad that even mighty Anaconda had to close down its operation and sit on its $240 million investment. The Air Force got enough of its base built to move the men inside, and then encouraged them to stay there. Tonopah slowed right down again. And although the dust has settled now, Tonopah will never be the same. The clearest symbol of this transformed city is the Mizpah Hotel at the center of the city. Built in 1907 and '08 on the site of one of Jim Butler's camping sites, the five story hotel was immediately the center of glamour and elegance in dusty, hard-working Tonopah. It had steam heat, electric lights and elevator service, and advertised itself earnestly as "The Finest Stone Hotel on the Desert." When a husky young roustabout named Jack Dempsey strode into the flourishing Mizpah six years later, Tonopah was at its peak. History from Wikipedia and OldCompanyResearch.com.