Not to be taken for granted: Grantsville
When it comes to historic mining camps in Central Nevada’s Shoshone Mountains, perhaps the most familiar names are Berlin and Ione.
But tucked into a canyon about five miles southeast of Berlin are the remains of Grantsville, a mining community that once boasted a population of nearly 1,000.
To reach the site of Grantsville, follow directions to Berlin-Icthyosaur State Park from the small town of Gabbs. Head north for about two miles on Nevada State Route 361, then turn east on State Route 844. Continue for 16 miles, then when you reach a fork in the road, turn right on a dirt road (NF-120) and continue for about 5 miles to reach the townsite.
Gold and silver were discovered in the Union Mining District, which included Ione, in the summer of 1863. As miners began to spread out across the range, the camp that would grow into Grantsville formed in the upper part of Grantsville Canyon.
The camp, however, was shortlived when most of its residents departed after hearing about a large mining discovery in White Pine County in 1868-69.
In 1877, a mining outfit called the Alexander Company began working the site and erected a 20-stamp mill. The population of Grantsville quickly swelled and by 1879, it boasted several dozen stores selling general merchandise, furniture, baked goods, and jewelry as well as a brewery, three saloons, barbershops, blacksmith shops, a laundry, a bank, a print shop publishing the weekly Sun newspaper, and a post office.
According to historian Stanley Paher, the stamp mill was doubled in size a year later and, while the Sun folded, another weekly paper, the Bonanza, took its place. There was sufficient commercial activity that Grantsville had stagecoach service to Austin (via Ione) as well as a second line to Eureka, via Belmont.
There was even talk of extending the Nevada Central Railway, which ran between Austin and Battle Mountain, south to the area.
But like most mining communities, the good times came to an end. By 1885, the mines started to fade and the exodus of residents began. A year later, the population had declined to less than 50 residents and, in 1887, the post office closed for good.
Historical records indicate that the community experienced several very brief, small-scale revivals during the years between 1907 and 1947, but none revived the town.
Yet despite the years of neglect and abandonment, enough of Grantsville remains today to make it worth a visit. More than a half dozen structures, including the substantial ruins of a stamp mill, can still be found.
Driving into Grantsville Canyon, one of the first things you see is the mill, to your left. To the right is a small wooden structure that appears to have been used by a mining company since the floor is covered with torn sacks once filled with rock and dirt.
Farther ahead are the ruins of other buildings made of adobe, wood, and stone. On a hillside overlooking them is the former Grantsville school house, a particularly well-constructed structure of brick and metal siding.
The ruins stretch out across the canyon’s flat expanse east of the mill and provide at least a hint of the size of the community, which truly has been left to the ghosts. Be careful while exploring, however, because the site also has several open mine shafts (fortunately, most are fenced).
In addition to the fairly extensive ruins, Grantsville also has a small cemetery. Not much remains of it except for a post and some collapsed fencing.
Good sources of information about Grantsville are Stanley Paher’s “Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps” and Shawn Hall’s, “Preserving the Glory Days: Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of Nye County, Nevada.”
Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.