Goodsprings remains little changed by modern times
Tucked away in the folds of the Spring Mountains of southern Nevada is the former mining town of Goodsprings, which has largely managed to escape the rapid growth and vast changes that have occurred in the region in recent decades.
Only eight miles north of the resort community of Jean — with its giant casinos and acres of neon — Goodsprings seems more a part of the early 20th century than of the 21st century.
The story of this half-forgotten hamlet can be traced to the late 1860s with the discovery of silver and lead in the area. A mining district named Yellow Pine was started but then abandoned after a few less-than-productive years.
In the 1880s, cattleman Joe Good watered his herd at a spring in the area (hence the town’s name). By the 1890s, a number of gold strikes around Goodsprings had attracted several hundred miners.
In 1901, the Yellow Pine Mining Company was formed, which consolidated ownership of most of the regional mines. In 1905, the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad built a line through nearby Jean.
To serve Goodsprings’ mines, a narrow-gauge railroad was built to Jean and operated between 1911 and 1930.
Mining thrived for the next eight years. During that time, the town grew to 800 residents and had a post office, school, hospital, churches, saloons, a newspaper (the “Goodsprings Gazette”) and several stores. In 1917, the impressive two-story, 20-room Fayle hotel was built.
But the boom was soon over. Mining production had slumped by 1920 and the mines were closed. The district experienced several brief revivals over the next decades but none proved lasting.
During the 20th century, however, Goodsprings’ mines were successfully revived and produced more than $30 million in ore, making it the most lucrative mining district in Southern Nevada.
Among the more well-known people linked to Goodsprings is former California Governor Goodwin Knight, whose father was president of the Yellow Pine Mining Company in the late 1920s.
Today, Goodsprings remains an interesting reminder of the region’s past. Wandering its dusty, unpaved streets, you can still imagine what Southern Nevada was like before the glitzy hotels and traffic jams replaced the sand and sage-covered valleys.
The Pioneer Saloon, built in 1913, is the unofficial focus of the community. This historic tavern is constructed of elaborate stamped metal— the owners claim it is the oldest and largest building of its type in the country.
The exterior metal walls were made to resemble bricks and the building even appeared in a “Cheech and Chong” movie several years ago.
Inside, the cherry wood bar and back bar have been there since the place opened but are actually older, having been built in the 1860s. They were built in Brunswick, Maine and shipped around South America to San Francisco before ending up in Goodsprings.
An old pot-belly stove in the saloon, which is still used, is said to date to the Civil War.
Additionally, atop the stove is a melted chunk of aluminum recovered from the site of a tragic airplane crash that claimed the lives of actress Carole Lombard, her mother and dozens of others in January 1942.
According to accounts from the time, the TWA airliner slammed into nearby Mount Potasi. Authorities have never been able to say the exact cause of the crash.
Lombard’s husband, actor Clark Gable, reportedly sat in the Pioneer for days awaiting word from search crews.
A few other structures have survived the harsh desert years in Goodsprings. For example, adjacent to the Pioneer is another, smaller stamped metal structure — perhaps once a store.
Across the highway are a small collection of aged, dilapidated wood, stone and metal shacks. The field around the buildings is littered with rusted metal scraps, an abandoned car and other garbage.
The hillside above is covered with old tailing piles and foundations of former mills and mining processing facilities. The large concrete foundations directly across from the Pioneer Saloon are the remains of the Fayle (later called the Goodsprings) Hotel, which burned in 1966.
The quaint, stucco Goodsprings School, up the road, dates to 1913. Newer dwellings, including trailers and a few homes can be found interspersed between older wooden barns and houses.
Goodsprings is located 34 miles southwest of Las Vegas via I-15 to Jean, then State Route 161. For more information, go to http://www.pioneersaloon.info/.
Rich Moreno covers the history of Nevada.