Delamar Nevada Ghost Town: A Journey Through the Widowmaker
Delamar, Nevada, also known as the “Widowmaker,” is a captivating ghost town in the state’s central-eastern part. This once-thriving mining town, with a tragic history, has become a fascinating destination for history buffs, ghost town enthusiasts, and adventure seekers.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the rich history of Delamar Nevada Ghost Town, its rise and fall, and the intriguing remnants that still stand today.
The Discovery of Gold and the Birth of Delamar
Gold Discovered in the Delamar Mountains
Prospectors John Ferguson and Joseph Sharp first discovered gold in the Delamar Mountains in 1889. This exciting discovery led to establishing a small mining camp named Helene, which initially consisted of just a few prospectors.
However, the discovery of pure, gold-laden quartzite, valued at $500 per ton, soon changed the fate of Helene and attracted hundreds of miners to the area.
Formation of the Delamar Townsite
In 1894, an entrepreneur named John De Lamar recognized the potential of the individual claims in Helene and acquired them. He combined these claims into the Delamar townsite and mining district, giving the town its name.
The town experienced rapid growth, and by 1897, Delamar had become the place to be, drawing thousands of residents from nearby agricultural communities and beyond.
The Booming Years of Delamar Nevada Ghost Town
A Flourishing Mining Town
At its peak, Delamar Nevada Ghost Town was home to more than 3,000 residents, who supported a hospital, opera house, churches, a school, and various shops, stores, and saloons. Most structures in the town were built from native rock, many of which still stand today.
The gold mines in Delamar produced $13.5 million between 1895 and 1900, which made it a proper boomtown that outproduced other famous gold mines of the time, such as Rhyolite and Manhattan.
The Perils of Mining in Delamar
Despite its prosperity, Delamar quickly became known as the “Widowmaker” due to the dangerous nature of its gold mine. When gold was crushed and processed, it produced a toxic silica dust. Miners working in the mines and mills inhaled this dust, which led to the development of silicosis, a deadly lung disease.
The high number of deaths from silicosis earned Delamar its chilling nickname, and local legend has it that over 400 widows lived in the town at one point.
Delamar’s Unique Contributions to Nevada’s History
The First Recorded Reference to a Slot Machine
Besides being one of Nevada’s most famous 19th-century gold mines, Delamar Ghost Town is also known for having the first recorded reference to a slot machine.
This gaming device debuted in a Delamar saloon, adding another intriguing piece of history to this southeastern Nevada ghost town.
Nevada’s Private Mint Controversy
In 1895, the Delamar Company found itself in hot water for minting its own coins. The US District Attorney eventually intervened, and the company agreed to withdraw the coins and substitute them with official US currency.
This fascinating incident further highlights the unique history of Delamar Nevada Ghost Town.
The Decline and Abandonment of Delamar
The Great Fire of 1900
Like many other Nevada ghost towns, Delamar was mostly destroyed by a fire in 1900.
De Lamar sold most of his mining claims, and although a new owner took over and resumed mining efforts, most profits had already been reaped, and most of the population moved on to more lucrative endeavors.
The Final Years of Mining
Just a few years after the fire, most mining efforts in Delamar were completely shut down and closed in 1909. The town experienced a brief revival between 1929 and 1934, during which the post office and school were reopened.
However, this resurgence was short-lived, and the town was ultimately abandoned for good.
Visiting Delamar Nevada Ghost Town Today
Exploring the Remnants of Delamar
A visit to Delamar Nevada Ghost Town today promises a fascinating journey through history. Countless stone structures have survived the test of time, offering a glimpse into the town’s past.
Visitors can explore these ruins, which include foundations and entire buildings made from native rock, as well as two historic cemeteries and mill sites.
Getting There and Tips for a Safe Visit
Delamar Ghost Town lies nearly 150 miles (or about 2.5 hours) northeast of Las Vegas, near the southeastern community of Caliente. To get there, follow the Great Basin Highway about 30 miles past Alamo until you reach a blue, Nevada-shaped historical marker detailing Delamar’s history.
Turn right onto the narrow dirt road and follow it for about 14 miles to reach Delamar’s ghost town.
When traveling to Nevada backroads, following the Dirt Road Code is essential. This includes traveling with a 4×4 vehicle, carrying spare tires, plenty of snacks and water, and informing someone of your plans.
Additionally, it’s crucial to practice Leave No Trace principles and avoid entering old mine shafts or adits, as these can be extremely dangerous.
Other Notable Nevada Ghost Towns
Berlin is another famous Nevada ghost town, established in 1897 after the opening of the Berlin Mine. Today, it is part of the Berlin-Ichthyosaur Nevada State Park, where visitors can explore the remnants of this once-bustling mining town.
Genoa, founded in 1851, is Nevada’s oldest settlement and another notable ghost town. Originally settled by Mormon pioneers, Genoa offers a fascinating look into the state’s early history and the challenges faced by its first inhabitants.
Belmont, established in 1865 following a silver strike, is yet another Nevada ghost town worth visiting. A few buildings still stand today, including the courthouse, the Cosmopolitan Saloon, and the Monitor-Belmont Mill, offering visitors a peek into the town’s rich history.
Creepy Places to Visit in Nevada
The Clown Motel
The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, is an eerie destination for thrill-seekers. With a collection of over 2,000 clowns from various eras and parts of the world, this motel offers a unique and terrifying experience.
The motel is also adjacent to a cemetery to add to the creepy atmosphere.
The State with the Most Ghost Towns
While Texas is often cited as the state with the most ghost towns (with 511 named ghost towns), Nevada is believed to have over 600 unofficial and undocumented ghost towns.
This makes Nevada a treasure trove for ghost town enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
Delamar Nevada Ghost Town: A Must-Visit Destination
For those who appreciate history, adventure, and the allure of abandoned places, Delamar Nevada Ghost Town is a must-visit destination. Its rich history, unique contributions to Nevada’s past, and well-preserved remnants make it an unforgettable trip.
As you explore the hauntingly beautiful ruins of Delamar, you’ll be transported back in time to an era of prosperity, tragedy, and resilience, making it an experience you won’t soon forget.
Useful Resources for Further Exploration
Nevada Ghost Towns
For more information on Nevada ghost towns, check out this comprehensive list.
Ghost Towns, Mining Camps, and More
For a deeper dive into the history and allure of ghost towns across the United States, visit Ghost Towns, Mining Camps, History & More.
Nevada Ghost Town Photo Gallery
For a visual journey through Nevada’s ghost towns, explore the Nevada Ghost Town Photo Gallery.