Tuscarora had a rather unique beginning. Unique in the sense that it took almost ten years after the first gold discoveries were made before the town began to grow. Gold was discovered in 1867, but nothing much happened until 1869 when the first Chinese move into the area. By the end of the year more than 200 Chinese miners had arrived and formed a Chinatown adjacent to the Tuscarora camp.
In 1870, Tuscarora had a population of 119 of which 104 were Chinese and 15 were white. During the early 1870s, the frustrated white miners left and began prospecting the nearby hills. Silver was discovered and Tuscarora became a silver mining town. Suddenly Tuscarora became the place to be.
At the peak of Tuscarora’s prosperity, it had about 3300 inhabitants, 1800 of which were on the payrolls of the mines. There were two large boarding houses in the place, two good-sized hotels, several general stores, saloons, a drug store, a jewelry store, a gun shop, and enough houses to comfortably care for the population. There were enough mills to take care of the ore mined, the largest of which was the Union Mill built in 1883, and which, because wood was scarce, used sage brush for fuel to fire its huge boilers and develop steam and power. And they had plenty of sage brush!
The two most productive years were 1878 and 1879. In each of those years, Tuscarora’s mines yielded more than $1 million worth of bullion. But fires that had spared the town during the first few years of its existence began to plague to town.
During the mid-1880s, the big mines began to play out and the population slipped to less than 1,000. The town continued to suffer and many businesses closed their doors. The stage coaches were full leaving town and empty upon their return. It’s estimated that the mines of Tuscarora produced about $40 million in bullion.
Today, Tuscarora is classified as a ghost town although there are a few unique minded people still living there. Artists, photographers and those just seeking solitude live here among the ruins, chasing away the ghosts from this old Nevada boomtown. For the life of me I can’t figure out why. Tuscarora is a strange, odd creepy dilapidated town snack in the middle of nowhere with a few stairs that lead to nowhere and nothing but sagebrush and cattle for miles and miles.
I enjoyed a memorable scenic drive full of sharp turns over a mountain pass with the added bonus of dodging cattle. Today I had a unique adventure!