Several years before the eastern Nevada community of Ely was established (as a stage stop in the 1870s), Mineral City, later named Lane City, was the region’s first substantial settlement.
According to Shawn Hall’s excellent book, “Romancing Nevada’s Past: Ghost Towns and Historic Sites of Eureka, Lander and White Pine Counties,” a local Native American guided a prospecting party led by Thomas Robinson to promising silver deposits in late 1867.
The discovery led to the creation of the Robinson Mining District in March 1868 and within two years a small community had cropped up, which was named Mineral City.
To process all of the silver being mined in the district, a 10-stamp mill and a small smelter were built in city, which grew to nearly 600 residents in 1872-73. According to Hall, Mineral City also had a post office, six saloons, four boarding houses and a handful of shops and stores.
Despite a drop in silver production, beginning in 1874, Mineral City managed to survive for several years as a regional hub for mining operations in the county.
By 1880, however, it was clear that Mineral City’s boom had gone bust, and most of its residents began to wander off to more lucrative mining opportunities.
The district revived in 1896, when Charles D. Lane, a wealthy Eastern investor, purchased many of the local claims, reopened the stamp mill and constructed a power plant and water ditch. It was during this time that Mineral City’s name was changed to Lane City.
During the next decade and a half, the area’s mines and mining operations sporadically opened and closed, depending on whether enough ore could be found and processed.
The community’s prosperity proved to be short-lived and, by 1910, Lane City’s mines were largely shut down. The post office, which had reopened in 1902, closed again for good in 1911.
Because of the success of copper mining in nearby Ruth, Lane City, however, wasn’t completely abandoned as a number of miners continued to live in the community and work in the adjacent mines or in Ely.
Throughout the first part of the 20th century, Lane City boasted about a dozen homes and a fine brick schoolhouse, which, while long abandoned, remains standing.
Today, visitors to Lane City can find a handful of stone, frame and log buildings as well as some stone walls and foundations, all of which date to the early 20th century. It’s not believed that any of the original structures from the settlement’s earliest days (when it was still called Mineral City) still exist.
Lane City is located three miles northwest of Ely, on the east side of U.S. 50. The ruins are accessible via a dirt road. Be aware, however, that much of the area is private property and there are some open mine diggings.
One of the best ways to get a good look of the ruins of Lane City is to take a ride on the Nevada Northern Railway, which operates a regular excursion between its depot in East Ely and Ruth.
From the train, you can clearly see the dozen or so ruins as well as a few homes that appear to still be inhabited. The most impressive structure is the old Lake City School building, which is the large, white building that sits near the front of the community and almost looks like it could be reopened tomorrow.
For more information about Lane City, pick up a copy of Shawn Hall’s book, published by the University of Nevada Press, or go to June Shaputis’ informative web page at http://theusgenweb.org/nv/whitepine/Towns/lane_city.htm.
Richard Moreno has a passion for Nevada, its towns and people.