Kennedy Mining District—New Book by Alan Wallace

The story of the Kennedy mining district, Pershing County, Nevada: The people, mining, and economy
Author:
Alan R. Wallace
Year: 2016—just released!
Format: 306 pages, spiral-bound
Details / order here: http://pubs.nbmg.unr.edu/The-story-of-the-Kennedy-mining-district-p/aw1.htm

Mining was one of the state’s major industries in the first sixty years of Nevada’s history, and it continues to play a major role today. Over time, miners established more than five hundred mining districts in the state, and gold and silver were produced from many of them (Fig. 1-1; Tingley, 1992). Some districts, including the well-known mining centers at Virginia City, Tonopah, Goldfield, Eureka, and Pioche, produced enormous quantities of metals, and each was home to thousands of residents. They had impacts that extended far beyond Nevada’s borders, and their residents came from all corners of the country and the world. The great quantities of metals that came out of the districts produced instant fortunes for some, successful political careers for others, and, in the case of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, statehood for Nevada. Each major district has been the subject of extensive research and countless publications, and their rich and fascinating mining histories still draw tourists to relive that glorious past.

Take away that handful of truly spectacular mining districts, and one is left with hundreds of other mining camps that were much smaller, produced much less ore, and came and went in a matter of a few years to, at best, a decade (Fig. 1-1). As described by Allen Bragg, the early 1900s editor of the Silver State newspaper in Winnemucca, these smaller mining districts “came up like a wind storm and went down like a whirlwind” (Bragg, 1905). Little is known about most of them, and their “tourism” usually is limited to a few people in search of ghost towns. Yet, each mining camp was home to people and businesses for as long as the veins held out. Their impacts, rather than national or global, instead were more at the county scale, and the constant migration of people and money from one camp to another over the years was an essential part of life in rural Nevada through much of its early history. One might call these smaller districts unimportant, but they were very significant for both the people who were there and the surrounding communities that they supported.

This is a story about the Kennedy mining district, in what now is eastern Pershing County, which was one of those “typical” smaller mining districts (Fig. 1-2). You are not alone if you never heard of it. The Kennedy mining district began in 1891, boomed in the mid 1890s, and then went through a series of similar but increasingly smaller booms and busts until World War II. Its discovery and boom coincided with the Panic of 1893 and the nadir of Nevada’s mining industry and economy. Kennedy was a big deal for both Humboldt County and northern Nevada, and it gave hope to the five hundred people who were there in 1894. The money that came out of the district filtered into the Humboldt County and nearby economies and provided a much-needed boost that extended far beyond the confines of Kennedy.

Unraveling the history and details of Kennedy provides a snapshot of how these smaller districts functioned, from the mining to the stores to the people who came and went through the years. Kennedy was not unique, by any means, and the story in this remote mining camp probably repeated itself many times over at the hundreds of other similar districts throughout Nevada.

About the Author:
Alan Wallace was a research geologist in the Mineral Resources Program of the U.S. Geological Survey for 31 years. Much of his geologic work focused on the geology of old mining districts in Nevada, Colorado, and other parts of the West. He has turned his interests to the broader history of those mining districts and the related early history of rural northern Nevada. He lives in Reno, Nevada.

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