The Nevada Traveler: The mining town of Ione was original seat of Nye County

While no longer open, the Ore House Saloon in the central Nevada mining town of Ione is one of the many historic buildings still found in the town.

While no longer open, the Ore House Saloon in the central Nevada mining town of Ione is one of the many historic buildings still found in the town.

There’s a sign at the entrance to the old mining town of Ione that proclaims it as “The Town That Refused to Die.” And it just might be true.
Ione, which claims to still have 41 residents, is one of the best examples of the mining industry’s cyclical nature.
In late 1863, silver was discovered by a miner named PA Havens on the edge of the Shoshone Mountains. Within a few months, a small settlement popped up and, by January 1864, Ione, then called Ione City, had more than 50 buildings.
There are a couple of versions of stories told regarding Ione’s unique name. One is that it was pinched from another similarly named mining district in California while the other is that it was named by a scholarly miner in honor of the heroine in a popular early 19th century novel, “The Last Days of Pompeii.”
Once the town was established, its residents were so certain it was going to be something big that they petitioned for the creation of a new county, Nye, with Ione as the seat. The territorial government granted the request and an official county government was created in April 1864.
By the end of 1864, some 600 people were living in Ione, which also boasted a post office, two newspapers and dozens of businesses including a stable, several stores and markets, restaurants, saloons, a drugstore and a stagecoach line linking the town to Austin.
Ione’s bright future began to dim in 1866-67, when new discoveries in the mining town of Belmont, located about 50 miles southeast, lured away many of the community’s prospectors. In February 1867, booming Belmont wrestled the Nye County seat away from Ione.
Ione’s decline accelerated with the loss of the county seat. By 1868, the population had dwindled to about 175 people. Despite additional silver discoveries in the 1870s, Ione never regained its prominence.
In 1880, Ione’s population further had slipped to 25 and the town’s heyday was over. Residents even changed the town’s name to Midas in 1882 in the hope that it might help create a more prosperous image for the community.
Ione never completely vanished despite a bad fire in 1887 that destroyed many of its remaining buildings. Mining continued into the late 1890s. After the turn of the century, however, most of the mines and mills had closed and the post office was shut down in 1903.
The town experienced a new mining revival, this time involving the production of mercury in 1912-14 and the post office was reopened, this time using the current name, Ione.
During the next half-century, Ione managed to hang around, surviving off periodic mining boomlets. The post office again closed in 1959.
Ione’s most recent revival occurred in the early 1980s, with the development of a large gold mining operation by Marshall Earth Resources, Inc. The company, which today owns most of the town and surrounding area, also restored several of the town’s original buildings.
As with previous booms, however, this one eventually ebbed and the town has lapsed into a semi-slumber.
Visitors will still find a few noteworthy places, however. For example, Ione boasts a quaint Victorian-style town park. Encircled with a white picket fence, the park has turn-of-the-century Victorian street lamps. With its large shade trees, the park is a pleasant place for a picnic or to enjoy Ione's quiet ambience.
The Ore House Saloon, a once-popular local restaurant-gas station-and bar is still standing and looks ready for business, but hasn’t been open since about 2005.
North of the park, you will find other remnants from old Ione, such as an aged, wooden corral fence, an old wooden barn-like building (rumored to have served as the original Nye County Courthouse), several stone cabins, as well as half-buried dirt and grass structures that were once used as miner's residences.
The nearby Ione Valley is also notable because historic evidence indicates it once was home to a large, Native American population, which dates more than 5,000 years.
To reach Ione, travel east on Highway 50 to Middle Gate, about 40 miles east of Fallon. Turn south on State Route 361 toward Gabbs. Just before reaching Gabbs, turn east on State Route 91, marked for the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. Continue for 12 miles, then turn north on the dirt road marked for Ione, which is just before reaching Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, a place also worthy of a visit.
A gravel road northeast of Ione passes over the Ione Summit, before dropping down into the Reese River Valley. From here, it is about 40 miles to Highway 50 and the town of Austin.
For more information about Ione, check out Shawn Hall’s excellent book, “Preserving the Glory Days: Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of Nye County, Nevada, or visit https://travelnevada.com/ghost-town/ione/.
Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.

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