Nevadaville bears the distinction of being one of Colorado’s oldest mining towns. Established in 1859, it was founded as a result of the famous “Pikes Peak or Bust” gold rush enthusiasm. With the initial discovery of gold in Central City’s Gregory Mine on May 6, 1859, the “59ers” made their way up tributary gulches.
Nevada Gulch, just one mile further, proved very rich. On the south side of the gulch, Quartz Hill soon became dotted with prospector’s holes, while on the north, the miners established their camp. Nevadaville was settled primarily by persons of either Cornish or Irish heritage. Both were a hardworking, determined, and proud lot who lived at opposite ends of town and often brawled with fatal results.
The Cornish, also known as Cousin Jacks, brought not only their excellent knowledge of mining from the tin, lead, and copper mines of Cornwall, Great Britain, but also their knowledge of stonemasonry and brickwork. They soon constructed a town that clung stubbornly to the rocky mountainside. In 1861 Nevadaville boasted a population larger than Denver, and by 1864 the population reached 6,000. Hillsides of fir, pine, and spruce were sacrificed to timber the mines, stoke the smelters, and build the homes.
The landscape, in turn, became quite barren and forlorn. Ironically, the name given to Nevadaville by the government when petitioned for a post office was Bald Mountain. The inhabitants insisted on the original name, stalwart as they were, and it remains on the pages of history books as a tribute to the determined people who lived there. The town died in 1900 when gold and silver ran out. Today the main street has a few of the original buildings still standing.
Today, however, the town still boasts several original buildings, a few old gravesites and is surrounded by several old mines. The most elaborate building on the main street is the Nevadaville Masonic Lodge. The ground floor was once rented to shops and the lodge’s meeting rooms were on the 2nd floor. When the lodge was built in 1879, annual dues were $4.00 (about one month’s wages). This is the only ghost town lodge in Colorado and still holds regular meetings.
The building on a bottom picture was the earliest commercial building and housed the City Hall, Fire Department, and Jail. When it was built in 1872 it had a clapboard exterior and there used to be an adjacent bell tower.
Below you may see that the other saloon still standing. It was called the Bon Ton Saloon and was built in 1886. To the left there was once a frame saloon called the Silver Dollar Saloon. Nevadaville was the working class town where many of the district’s miners lived. The town thrived into the 1890s but declined dramatically after 1900. The town’s abandoned mining shacks and equipment can still be seen.