Black Butte Extension Mining Company - Tonopah, Nevada

Black Butte Extension Mining Company - Tonopah, Nevada

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Black Butte Extension Mining Company - Tonopah, Nevada

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Beautifully engraved Certificate from the Black Butte Extension Mining Company - Tonopah, Nevada issued in 1906 - 1907. This historic document has an ornate border around it with with the company's name in bold fancy print. This item is hand signed by the company's officers and is over 93 years old. 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

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