It’s a wonder that Wonder existed as long as it did.
The mining camp known as Wonder traces its roots to 1906, when prospectors from the nearby Fairview mining district, which was peaking around that time, discovered promising silver and gold ore in the hills to the east of Fairview Valley.
According to Hugh A. Shamberger, who wrote about Wonder as part of his excellent “Historic Mining Camps of Nevada” series in the 1970s, a miner named Tom J. Stroud made the initial discovery in March of 1906.
Within a short time, several others were working claims in the area, which became known as Wonder (although Shamberger says no one is quite certain who coined the name). In late May, word spread about a big strike at Wonder and soon a small camp cropped up atop one of the hills, which, of course, became known as Wonder Mountain.
According to reports from the time, within a few days of the rush to Wonder (mostly miners from Fairview), a mining district had been organized and a town site had been laid out.
By July 1906, the Nevada State Journal reported that some 75 to 100 tents (mostly housing the miners) had been erected in the settlement and a month later Wonder gained its own newspaper, “Wonder Mining News.”
Wonder blossomed during the following year, with two competing newspapers appearing, and a handful of businesses opening in the community, including a drug store, several general stores, five saloons, a couple of assay offices, surveyor and broker offices, a school, two lodging houses, three restaurants, a laundry, a butcher shop, a stage line, and a real estate office.
A post office opened in September and a telephone line to Fallon was completed in November.
In October, the Journal humorously proclaimed, “Wonder is now a real Nevada mining town. The only thing needed to make Wonder a mining camp with all that term implies was achieved last night, when $1,200 was spent at the opening of a new building, for champagne.”
Probably the biggest impediment to Wonder’s early development was the scarcity of water. While the precious liquid was brought in from Fairview and other areas in the early days, a few months after the town was established work began on a pipeline to carry water from a creek located about six miles away.
Like most Nevada mining towns, Wonder’s heyday was short. In May 1907 — when the town was only a year old — its population reached its peak of about 600 people. But a lack of available financing, largely as a result of the San Francisco earthquake in April 1906, caused many of the mines to begin to close.
The slump was exacerbated by the discovery in 1908 that Wonder’s silver and gold deposits weren’t particularly deep. One company, the Nevada Wonder Mining Company, continued working its claims during the next three years, apparently believing that ore was still to be found at greater depths and in 1911 the large Nevada Wonder Mill was constructed to help process those reserves.
For the next eight years, the mill employed about 150 men and it has been estimated that Wonder maintained a fairly stable population of about 500 during that time.
Wonder’s demise came swiftly. In 1919, the Nevada Wonder Mill closed (as did the school) and the remaining population quickly drifted off to more lucrative mining districts. In August 1920, the post office closed and Wonder began to fade back into the surrounding desert.
A visitor to the site, which is located 14 miles north of U.S. 50 at a point about 39 miles east of Fallon (there is an historic marker about Wonder on the dirt road that leads to the site), will find a few foundations, some collapsed wooden buildings now melting into the sagebrush, and a few locust trees to mark the location.