THE QUEST TO RESTORE & PRESERVE GOLD POINT GHOST TOWN
Gus and I would go gold mining on the weekends whenever we could. We started doing a lot of mining where his Dad mined 10 years earlier South of Colfax on Shirttail Creek. We would get gold every weekend. Starting out with just a couple of gold pans in the beginning we progressed over time to a sluice box before upgrading to a 1 ½ “ dredge. Over time we kept increasing the size of the dredge finally stopping at a huge 8 inch double engine dredge.
I was really into this new hobby even though we’d never see enough gold to pay for the dredges.
On the weekends that Gus or anyone else couldn’t go mining with me, I started to explore the old mines and mining camps all over the California Gold Country. I would buy old and new books to get information about them. I would buy antique mining maps to use with new maps to find the old mines and camps. My mining library today contains hundreds of books dating back to the middle 1800’s on California and Nevada mines and Mining in general.
From 1966 thru the early 1970’s, almost every weekend of the year I was out exploring somewhere. I would even go back time and time again to visit the same exciting places. Sometimes by myself and sometimes with friends to show them what I had found.
In the beginning I wasn’t taking any photos of these places. I would learn shortly that this was a big mistake. As I would take someone back to show them an old building, I found that sometimes the building was no longer there. It could be on the ground in pieces or be completely gone with no signs of ever having been a building there at all. It is amazing how many historical buildings I’ve seen lost to the elements or destroyed by humans.
This prompted me to buy a camera and start clicking away. From now on I would document with photos every place I went and everything thing I saw.
This is how my photo album has grown to over 8000 photos and 115 pounds and still growing. I figure it will weigh over 125 lbs. before they take that camera from my cold dead hands. Ha Ha.
Sometime in the early 1970’s, I heard about a great Nevada ghost town book by Stanley Paher called Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of Nevada. I checked it out from the library to read and thumb thru first. It wasn’t long before I bought a copy and read it cover to cover.
On my once a year vacations from managing McDonald’s, I would grab the book and pick an area in Nevada and explore all the ghost towns and mining camps I could find. I, of course, started out with Northern Nevada, being that it was closer than driving the extra time to Southern Nevada. I would try and stand in the very same spot that the camera man of yesteryear had stood when he took his photo of the future ghost town.
It was during one of these yearly trips that I finally made it to Southern Nevada and Gold Point for the first time.
It was October 1978 that Chuck and I set out for a Nevada Ghost Town exploration adventure that would change the course of my life.
Eight years earlier my future ex-wife and I had taken a three day weekend and had gone to Bodie, California. In my opinion, Bodie is the King and Queen of all ghost towns. After spending the night just outside the town limits we wanted to drive to Goldfield, Nevada. It was before I bought Stanley’s book on Nevada so I didn’t know much about Goldfield but had heard about it and wanted to visit it. We left Bodie and headed South past Lee Vining to Highway 120. I knew that this route would take us past Gold Point and if there was time we would try to see it. Unfortunately by the time we came to the turn off it was almost dark. We could see the buildings of Gold Point 8 miles in the distant but I knew the town would have to wait for another day.
Chuck and I finally reached Gold Point about half way through our 10 day trip. There wasn’t much daylight left so we decided to go in the back country to a ghost town called Stateline for the night. There we met an old miner living in an old cabin named Smitty. He said we could spend the night over “yonder”.
The next morning Chuck and I went back to Gold Point to explore and take photos. It was a nice quiet town with about 50 or so old buildings including historical outhouses. As we were driving around taking photos Chuck spotted an old timer out in the front of his home and wanted to ask him some questions. Chuck chatted for awhile asking him how he came there and how he acquired the lots he lived on. Chuck asked if I was interested in buying a couple of lots. I said sure why not. We then said our good bye’s and headed out to other ghost towns and finished our trip.
Chuck called me a couple months later to tell me he found some lots for sale in Gold Point and asked if I was still interested. After 10 years managing McDonald’s, including a break to manage some Wendy’s restaurants, I had recently made paperhanging my new profession, still my job today, so I said sure why not.
We drove up to purchase 3 lots for $500 a piece. He took one and I took two.
After exploring ghost towns and mining camps for 12 years I could finally say I own part of one. I would go up there on almost all the 3 day holidays with friends to just get away from the crazy world.
In 1981, Chuck, his brother Walt and I, purchased the old Post Office, General Store and Senator Harry Wiley and his wife, Ora Mae’s home. The price included all the antiques and furnishings. Now I had a place to stay other than in a tent or trailer when I visited Gold Point. Walt would become a partner in the future with me in other endeavors in Gold Point. Chuck just wanted to be in the side lines.
Here is where I’m going to shorten the story a little. Over the next ten years we would purchase any and all the buildings that were available no matter what their condition. In 1986 I purchased the cabin/home where I live now and plan to spend the rest of my life in.
People and friends would ask what our plans were for all the cabins. The basic plan was to save as many of the old buildings, cabins, outhouses etc. as possible. We were not going to let these buildings disappear like many others I have seen in my travels.
Apparently I had finally found my calling. After all the years of traveling around California and Nevada and seeing other ghost towns and mining camps lose their buildings, with help from Walt, I could finally do something to prevent the same from happening in Gold Point.
For over 20 years now Walt and I, with many thousands of dollars from our own money from working, have been purchasing building materials and working on all the different cabins and buildings. It takes thousands of dollars to rebuild and preserve even a small old miner’s cabin, and we have 12, not to mention the other bigger buildings, so it’s been a slow process. Each year we find the price of wood products continues to climb.
It takes a lot of different materials to save a cabin. The only thing we generally do to the outside is put on a roof. We try not to put on any new wood unless absolutely necessary. Rolled asphalt roofing is usually applied first. Then as we get the extra money we put on the cedar shingles.
Inside is a little more complex. These 100 year old cabins and buildings were built without any framing like we build today. The walls are only as thick as the 1 x 12 inch board and bats that were used. We go in and strip the walls down to the original walls and then build a 2 x 4 frame inside. This stabilizes the cabin tremendously. We can then install the electrical wires, insulation, sheet rock, paint and/or old newspapers or old fashioned wall paper, carpet, curtains and finally furniture.
Besides our own labor we are very grateful that we have what we call our Friends of Gold Point who occasionally come and donate their time helping us.
A few years ago we finally took the suggestions from different friends to let other ghost town enthusiasts stay in the old cabins we have fixed up and take donations from them to help purchase more building materials. Throughout the year we are constantly purchasing building materials with this money along with our own hard earned cash.
We are not doing this for the money as we know we will never get out what we will have put into them. We are not doing this for a real estate investment as we will never sell what we have spent putting a lifetime of labor and love into.
I would like to make it clear that even if we didn’t receive a penny from anyone, we are still committed to preserving these historical buildings. These buildings will be 100 years old in 2008. Each building we save we hope they will see another 100 years. This will be our legacy. This is what we wish to pass on to future generations to see and experience as we have over our lifetime.