Belmont Courthouse is located on the southeast slope of the Toquima Range at an elevation of about 8,000 feet. It derives its name from the French “Beaumont” or “beautiful mountain.” Located in central Nevada, about 45 miles north of Tonopah and surrounded by true frontier country, Belmont became another product of the western mining boom.
|FACILITIES & AMENITIES
Belmont Courthouse State Historic Site
Rich, high-grade surface deposits of silver ore were originally discovered by an unknown Native American. Shortly afterwards in October 1865, an official mining (?) claim was filed by Antoine Borquez, a Mexican prospector. Word of the strike was out and miners, merchants, bankers, saloon keepers, hotel owners and other participants of the “American mining frontier” rushed from Ione and Austin to a district called at various times the Silver Bend, the Philadelphia, the Transylvania and finally Belmont.
Tents went up first, as people were anxious to see if the strike would last. Buildings of wood and brick followed as the mine began to show signs of permanency. Belmont was said to be a “handsomely laid out town” with a bank, a school, two churches, telegraph service, post office, general store and competing Silver Bend Reporter and Mountain Champion newspapers. A Mining Journal reports that of the 50 buildings in Belmont, 20 of them were whiskey shops. By 1867 the population reached 2,000, second only to that of Virginia City.
Ranchers and farmers also hurried to the area and were pleased to find numerous springs. The first agricultural settlement near Belmont was that of the Steinnger brothers who settled in Monitor Valley in 1866. Soon afterwards others moved into the area, growing corn, wheat, alfalfa, rye, apples, peaches, apricots and berries. Though ranchers in the area supplied Belmont with livestock and poultry, they could only provide a limited amount. In 1867-68 a regular trade was established between the Belmont merchants and the nearby Mormon ranchers who exchanged their agricultural goods for dry goods, hardware, cookery, cutlery and other supplies.
Merchants who came to Belmont had their stock shipped from San Francisco and Sacramento to Austin, the nearest town, 90 hard miles away. Prices for goods were not high considering the remoteness and the freight rates of the time. Fast freight from Austin was 4 1/2 cents per pound and slow freight was 3 cents per pound. Lumber sold for $140.00 per 1,000 board feet. Hay was $75.00 a ton, while eggs sold for $1.25 per dozen and tea was $1.50 per pound.
One of the first most successful miners arriving in Belmont was Colonel David Buel who, in 1868, bought the first claim without sampling the ore. During the summer Buel hired miners to open and expose a twenty-foot trench along the claim while he moved a small 10-stamp mill from Austin to process the ore. Even the better ore from the mine was sent to Austin. The mill produced $12,000 in silver in two weeks.
Buel created (?) the Combination Silver Mining Company of New York. He convinced stockholders to invest thousands of dollars in the exploration of ore and in the construction of the 40-stamp mill. Machinery and equipment for the mill came from California hauled by 14 freight teams, 10 mules each. With the mines working around the clock, the camp produced over $1.5 million by 1868, which was immediately absorbed by the high construction costs.
In the meantime, Buel had sold his original claims to a new organization, the Belmont Company, remaining as manager and using his original 10-stamp mill to work company rock. When mining began to decline in 1869, Buel sold his property holding in Belmont only to move on to the next boom, that of Eureka.
Coinciding with and due to Belmont’s mining bonanza in 1867, the Nevada Legislature passed a bill transferring the county seat of Nye County from Ione to Belmont. The citizens of Ione appealed to the State Supreme Court to issue a restraining order, but Ione was fading and Belmont showed promising signs of permanency. In February 1867, Belmont was awarded the honor of the county seat, and a wooden structure to serve as a temporary courthouse was built a few months later.
In September 1868, a brick building on Main Street was purchased for $5,750 to serve as the Nye County Courthouse. The building was remodeled for county needs; however, space for the Sheriff and jail had to be rented elsewhere. The Reporter reported that Nye County was without a single public edifice: “no place for officers and no place of safety for valuable archive records which we owe to posterity.” It recommended the taxpayer not tolerate this condition any longer and that the Commission support a resolution to erect a building for county affairs.
THE NEW COURTHOUSE
Finally, in 1875, eight years after the act was passed moving the county seat to Belmont, the commissioners supported an act to erect a county courthouse. They considered the plans submitted by seven architects and finally decided on a set drawn up by J.K. Winchell, a Carson City architect, for $350. His plan called for the building to be made of kiln-dried brick on a stone foundation, two stories in height and fifty- by sixty-feet in size. The roof was enhanced with a cupola and six chimneys for heating stoves. Most of the building was designed to accommodate county offices. Upstairs was the courtroom along with the jury room and judge’s chambers.
Much of the political and social life of Belmont evolved around the courthouse. On July 4th Belmont’s Independence Ball was held in the courthouse, and on July 9th Reverend Allen spoke at a public meeting on the necessity of guarding the public schools from religious influences. This was the public meeting held in the courthouse. The editor of the Courier commented that this “supplied the omission of the laying of the cornerstone.”
As often happened in mining towns, the completion of the courthouse coincided with a drop in the mining production. In 1876, the year the $34,000 county building was completed, mineral production dropped to $11,000. Mining boomed for a bit during 1883 and 1885 but was at a standstill between 1886 and 1889. The majority of the 150 population left in Belmont were people involved in the county duties. In 1903 many miners moved to Tonopah, the latest bonanza in mining, and in 1905 Tonopah won the county seat. The Belmont post office was abandoned in 1911. In 1914 new interest came to Belmont with the building of a 10-stamp, 100-ton flotation mill — it failed in two years. For years Belmont had occasional outbursts of activity, but mostly it had become and remained a ghost town.
Belmont had a life span of approximately 20 years. Within that time it became the county seat and produced $15,000,000 in mineral production. The courthouse operated only for 10 of those 20 years and remains erect and tall as if it should be in use today.
In 1974 Nye County deeded the courthouse to the Nevada Division of State Parks for the enjoyment and benefit of future generations. Since that time the Division of State Parks has replaced the roof, stabilized the structure with interior bracing and sealed the building from the weather.
There are no public park facilities at Belmont. The Courthouse is open to the public. Contact Southern Region Headquarters office at (702) 486-5125 for information.
The nearest public camping is at the U. S. Forest Service Pine Creek Campground in the Monitor Valley, located 20 miles north of Belmont via Nevada Highway 82.
There are no tourist services available in Belmont and gasoline is not available. Note: There is a bed and breakfast.
- Please remember that all buildings in and about Belmont, occupied or not, are private property.
- County, state and federal antiquities laws protect historic structures, ruins, artifacts and cemeteries. Please respect and help to preserve these reminders of the colorful past on the western frontier.