A mineral strike in January 1867 resulted in the "White Pine Excitement" and
the founding of Treasure City (originally Tesora) perched on Treasure Hill.
Silver ore assayed at as much as $15,000 per ton. The astounding figure was
over three times greater than some of the best ore from the Comstock Lode,
which was slumping into a depression in the late 1860s. A rush to the region
depleted the population in other mining towns including Virginia City and
Several communities came into existence in answer to the influx of fortune
seekers, but Hamilton, founded in 1868, was the most significant. The
well-situated town acted as a commercial hub for the mining district. By 1869,
estimates placed its population as high as ten thousand people. That year,
engineers completed an ambitious water project designed to serve fifty
thousand people and costing almost $400,000.
Because of the region's sudden growth, the state legislature created White
Pine County in 1869, designating Hamilton as the seat of government. By the
following year, the town had a $55,000 courthouse. Treasure City at a colder,
higher elevation was not as well placed to function as an entrepreneurial focal
point. Nevertheless, this center of mining became home to several thousand
as reports of mineral wealth spread throughout the West. Together with
many smaller settlements scattered about the expansive mining district, both
communities thrived with businesses, mills, and excavations.
Unfortunately, miners quickly depleted the region's rich but limited ore bodies.
Mines were failing by 1870, and people left for better prospects. That year,
Treasure City shrank to fewer than five hundred people. Hamilton's population
was less than four thousand, a figure that diminished to five hundred three
years later. By the end of the 1870s, Hamilton's economy depended almost
entirely on county government. Only a few people remained in Treasure City.
An 1880 rush to Cherry Creek, northeast of Hamilton, resulted in a rival
community's prosperity. Cherry Creek residents began calling for a shift in the
seat of county government. Hamilton fended off the move largely because
there were several contenders vying for the honor. Their dissension left
Hamilton in a tenuous position of power. In 1885, however, Hamilton's
courthouse burned. With no reason to invest in public architecture in a
community so poorly located, the commissioners eventually moved their
government to Ely, selected partly because of its central location.
Deprived of its last industry, Hamilton declined into oblivion. A limited revival in
the 1920s brought Treasure Hill back to life, but it declined once again within a
few years. For decades Hamilton was one of Nevada's finest ghost towns. But
in the 1960s and 70s, vandals and thieves stripped the old county seat of its
buildings and artifacts, leaving little to remind visitors of the town's short-lived
Hamilton and Treasure Hill Today
Hamilton and Treasure Hill
from Online Nevada
Hamilton was seat of the White Pine County government in the nineteenth
century. Its mines failed and fire burned its courthouse in 1885.
Scavengers have removed nearly everything that remained of the historic
Photograph by S. Martin Shelton, courtesy of the Nevada State Historic
WELCOME TO . . .