The Weepah Mining Boom of 1927

Goldfield, Nevada, was arguably the last real US gold rush of the twentieth century - at least in terms of overall production, which was significant; however when limited production is considered in the context of “gold fever” (attracting one thousand or more people to a remote area) then the Weepah Hill rush of 1927 represents the last real "gold rush" in the lower forty-eight. This little-known area is located in Esmeralda County, Nevada. Weepah was about eighteen miles southwest of Tonopah, located in rugged high desert where the climate is almost unbearably hot in summer and freezing cold in winter. Weepah is particularly significant for researchers, as Weepah was the first real “gold auto camp” - where people lived and slept in their vehicles while searching for gold.

Weepah had been worked early in the 1900's on a limited basis and a stock certificate from this early  period is shown below; gold was rediscovered in this area by two young prospectors, Traynor and Horton, in 1927.

Like many Western tent camps, a tin tub served for bathing,  and a campfire sufficed for a kitchen. Real luxury in the Weepah of April 1927 would be to dine at the Weepah café, a crude tent / clapboard affair typical of Nevada boom camps. In other words, Weepah was crude living in the extreme, but nothing out of the ordinary for the pioneers of the day. However by 1927 it can be supposed that even gold-seekers were likely to be looking for creature comforts - and if production did not materialize the original excitement would rapidly fade.

 

Weepah seems to have been promoted by Los Angeles interests and as can be seen from the photo, there were newsreels produced by the International Newsreel Company of Los Angeles, although it is unknown if the relevant footage is still in existence today.  In addition, postcard promoters and photographers intended to publicize the find - accounting for the picture postcards you see here, Ned Johnson was one of the well-known photographers working the Weepah area at this  time.

Meanwhile the great boom camp promoter George Graham Rice - promoter of the Greenwater, Goldfield and Rawhide excitement - was busy with legal matters in the East at this time, namely his prosecution by the federal authorities for securities fraud.  It is reported that Rice had interests in promoting Weepah, but by the time Rice’s resident agent arrived the only real significant finds had already been worked out - and this was the crux of the matter.  A large, shallow deposit had been discovered by two young prospectors working the area - ostensibly searching for the lost Breyfogle mine. The problem was that this one single find was the only deposit of any real value in the area.  The geology of the Weepah district suggests that there may be other pockets of rich ore at varying depths, but the patchy nature of the deposits and the technology of the time did not allow the district to develop further.

Typical of the era, mining stock promotion was rampant and an example of a 1927 Weepah stock certificate is shown at the top of this page. [The stock shown above is one of two existing known examples of an issued Weepah Hill stock.] Stock speculation and the resultant financial depression was just one of several factors that caused the US government to peg gold at $35 an ounce from 1934 until 1973.  It is interesting that the US mining and oil stock booms carried on with their ups and downs over a period of at least sixty years from 1870 until 1929  while today's Internet stock boom - now gone bust - only lasted a few brief years; times have changed since 1900 and the players have changed, but the underlying principle of  'investor beware' has not! 

Another example of a Weepah gold mining company was the Electric Gold Mines Company, the certificate signed here by  Frank Horton as president - Horton was the father of one of the young prospectors that rediscovered Weepah.

An estimated 1500 people camped out in their cars in a remote area of the Nevada desert between April, 1927 and November, 1927  - all looking for their personal El Dorado - but only detritus remains.

 

  Weepah R.I.P. 1977 - 1980

Photos of Weepah buildings from 1977 to 1980 courtesy KD Radio archive

According to Steve Ricketts of KD Radio,  these pictures were taken during the period 1977 to 1980.  Within that time the Historic site of Weepah joined the long list of other vanished ghost towns of the West.  Since 1980 these remaining buildings were dismantled and the mine blasted shut, by government institutions such as the BLM that care little about the pioneers of the past..

It is interesting to try to match these photos to our earlier collector cards of the town. The building on the  left  appears to be one of the buildings that we can see in the collector cards.

Panic of 1907!