Beautifully engraved certificate from the North Belle Isle Mining Company issued
in 1891. This historic document has an
ornate border around it. This item is hand signed by the Company’s President ( e. Scott ) and Secretary and is
over 111 years old. The North Belle Isle Mining Company was located in the Tuscarora District in Elko County, Nevada.
Tuscarora, destined to be one of the lengendary towns of Nevada, had humble beginnings and took almost 10 years to become a populus town. While many versions exist about the initial placer discoveries of Tuscarora, particularly as to who, it is generally accepted a prospecting party set out from Austin and found gold placer deposits in July, 1967. Members of the party were Steve and John Beard, Hamilton McCann, Jacob Maderia, William Heath, A.M. Berry, John Hovenden, Charles Gardner, and Charles Benson. There is some dispute as to whether John Beard was actually in the party. The initial placer discovery was made along a creek christened McCann Creek, after Hamilton McCann. On July 10, 1867, the prospecting party had a meeting at McCann Creek and Charles Benson suggested naming the new mining district Tuscarora after the United States gunboat of the same name that he had served on. There was unanimous approval.
By 1880, Tuscarora was well-established and offered many amenities. The school had 140 students and Hattie Edwards and Alice Smith were the teachers. In January, the Tuscarora Polytechnic Institute opened under the leadership of Professor J.F. Burner. The Tuscarora Jockey Club was organized by L.I. Hogle, formerly of Cornucopia. Admission to the racetrack, located below town, was 15 cents. Two new breweries were built to keep the beer flowing in the town's many saloons. The Tuscarora Brewery was built by Otto Trilling in Navajo Gulch. At the same time, Frank Curieux started the Tuscarora Brewing Company. As you can imagine, with two such similar names, there tended to be a lot of confusion. A new mill, the Lancaster, was completed and began working on Argenta Mine ore and a new mine, the North Belle Isle, was discovered. Production, while lower than the previous two years, was still about $450,000.
During the summer of 1887, active mines were Belle Isle, North Belle Isle, Nevada queen, Navajo, Commonwealth, Grand Prize, Diana, and Found Treasure.
However, despite the good production of 1890, the Tuscarora mines began to fade during the next couple of years and many people began to leave. The Young America Mine closed in 1890, Belle Isle in 1891, and the North Commonwealth in 1892. In March, 1891, there was considerable excitement in Tuscarora when the old Young America shaft, which ran under Weed Street, the main road in Tuscarora, began to collapse. gravel had to be hauled in to fill the large holes that developed. During July, the first electric lights were installed in some of the town's homes and businesses. By this time, the only mill still in operation consistently was the DeFree's Mill in Taylor Canyon. The Union and Grand Prize mills were only occasionally leased and used. All of the mines were in serious financial trouble and only the Coptis (formerly the Young America South) and Independence had cash on hand. By September, 1892, only the Commonwealth had a positive cash flow. The battle over the silver issue in Washington, D.C. didn't help matters. In April 1892, the Tuscarora Silver Club was formed to help promote silver as the base monetary unit. The club quickly had 320 members. In March, 1892, the Dexter Gold and Silver Mining Company was organized and W.J. Urton was president and superintendent. But fortunes continued to decline. The years 1894 to 1896 were the worst years to date for production and the impact weighed heavy on Tuscarora. In 1895, the Wells-Fargo office, with little bullion to ship, closed down. The Navajo Mine, after producing $1.7 million, closed for good.
In January, 1899, the second power plant for the Dexter Mill was completed at Jack Creek. For the first time, all 40 stamps were used. The extra power provided by the plant was used to electrify the town of Tuscarora. The Young America Mine was sold to Heinrich, Brown, and Dern in February for $60,000. The company purchased the old gallows frame at the North Belle Isle Mine and installed it at the Young America. Construction was begun on a 10-stamp mill. The mill, built by C.S. Ford, was completed in February, 1900. The mill was one of the first facilities to be run by gasoline and only cost $8 to run for 24 hours. But by March, 1901, the mill was idle.
Today, Tuscarora is classified as a ghost town even though there are still about 20 people living there. Some of the old buildings are occupied. There are other empty buildings amid newer buildings and trailers. Della Phillips ran a museum in Tuscarora for years which offered an unparalled collection of artifacts and photographs. It is closed now. The post office is still in operation. There also is much to see on the outskirts of town. The ruins of the Independence Mill are just west of Tuscarora. Many other mining ruins are scattered around the hills. A lot of the remnants have been destroyed over the years by subsequent mining. Just to the east of town is one of the most interesting cemeteries in the county. Many wood headboards remain and some restoration has slowly been done. A large number of unmarked or unknown graves are in the cemetery. Many of the complete graves have beautiful and intricate headstones. At the old Chinatown, and the original Tuscarora townsite, little remains except some old cellars and easily visible placer workings. The last resident of Chinatown was Yan Tin, who died in 1927. In 1934, a group of boys from Tuscarora found $1,200 worth of gold dust and nuggets in the front yard of his cabin.
At their peak, as many as 500 Chinese were reported to be in Tuscarora. Once the big boom hit in the mid-1870s, the Chinese went from being a majority to a despised minority. In fact, an anti-Chinese society was formed in Tuscarora. Many of the Chinese were forced into illegal enterprises to make a living. Opium dens were popular with the Celestials and whites . A couple of these dens are still visible, located in the sides of the hills. Tuscarora has always been the most recognizable mining town in Elko County and today it remains the Queen of the county's ghost towns. An enjoyable visit is a guarantee with Tuscarora.
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