Saturday, September 12, 2009

Humboldt City, Nevada

Here it is, the end of another beautiful summer. What better way to end the season but by spending a few days investigating a Nevada ghost town? Paula and I tossed around a few possibilites. We've been wanting to get out to Leadville, and Unionville sounded pretty good too, but in the end we settled on Humboldt City; and what a great choice it turned out to be.
Humboldt City is located some 33 miles east of Lovelock, Nevada. The town is situated in a spring fed canyon at the base of the Humboldt Range, nestled among old strands of cottonwood. Remnants of firepits, and adobe and stone buildings dot the landscape. It is a quiet oasis in the middle of the Nevada desert, and one is struck by the quietness of the place-during the day, that is.
The mining settlement of Humboldt City was founded in 1860. Within its short lifespan of 9 years, over a 1,000 silver discoveries were made in the Humboldt City area before its abandonment in 1869. Louis Barbeau was the first miner to settle in the area, having discovered valuable mineral traces. Others soon followed and during its heyday in 1863, Humboldt City had a population of around 500. An article published in the Humboldt Register, May 2, 1863, described the town as:

"...a picturesque and beautiful village containing some 200 well-built houses, some of which are handsome edifices, and many beautiful gardens that attest the taste and industry of the inhabitants. A beautiful, crystal stream of water diverted from its natural course runs, a little babbling stream, through every street...Humboldt City contains two hotels, kept in good style, one the Coulter House, by Mr. and Mrs. Bailey Nichols, the other, the Iowa House, by Mr. and Mrs. Wilson; two saloons, one by Messrs. Sylvester & Helmer, gentlemen ready to argue or fight for their politics, or deal out red-eye to their numerous thirsty customers, the other by Messrs. Wilson & Coulter; one blacksmith's shop, by Daniels & Cooper, who will at any moment stop shoeing a refractory horse to spin a yarn; two stores with large and well-selected stocks of goods; four families(five or six more are on the road for this place) and children, chickens, pigs, and dogs enough to give the place a lively appearance".

The weather was perfect as Paula and I headed east out of Reno on I-80. We stopped in Lovelock, Nevada for lunch. Lovelock is one of the small towns that dot the emigrant trail through Nevada. It is
one of the only towns along the I-80 corridor in Nevada that existed before the Transcontinental Railroad was built. The town served as the last stop for immigrants on the California trail before they traveled further west across the desolation of the Carson Sink. When I-80 replaced US-40 in the 1970s, old US-40 became the towns business loop, while I-80 completely bypassed the town. What might have seemed a solution to relieving heavy traffic through congested areas proved to be the beginning of the towns decline. Nowadays, Lovelock is endangered of becoming a ghost town itself. Still, there are small signs of growth and it proved to be a nice little lunch stopover; the Cowpoke Cafe served up a great burger and fries.
After lunch, we got back onto I-80 and to Humboldt City. After taking the 138 exit, we followed an unmaintained dirt road up into the canyon. Half way up, we noticed the remains of an old water line, probably the very same that diverted the stream spoken of in the newspaper article. We passed an old strand of cottonwood on our right and noticed a gravesite among the trees. Later, we would go back to discover it to be a recent grave of someone who probably thought Humboldt City to be the perfect final resting place. (He apparently didn't know about the crickets.)
This was our first ghost town excursion pulling Paula's little pop-up trailer she bought for the unbelievable price of $1. Camp set-up was done in no time at all; after which, we took a quick inventory of the town, and our equipment. It was then I realized that I had forgotten my camera and digital recorder at home. Thankful, G. was more than willing to make the drive out to our campsite. G. really is too good to me sometimes. While I visited with G., Paula got some spectacular shots of the setting sun against the red walls of the surrounding mountains (two of which I am shamelessly stealing for this blog entry). After sharing a cup of coffee, G. headed home and Paula and I took a short nap to prepare for the long night ahead. By now the crickets were out and beginning to chirp. I fell asleep to the sound of their songs.
At around 12 midnight we got up from our nap and began to ready ourselves for the investigation. By now the crickets were pretty loud. Once night fell, the canyon was incredibly dark.We could not see anything past the field of our flashlights. Since there was a quite a bit of debris around the ruined buildings, we decided to investigate the two closest to the main road; not wanting to risk a turned ankle or a fall. It struck us that there was a lot of crickets in the area, and they were making a lot of  racket. Normally I like the sound of crickets, they can be rather soothing, but this was ridiculous. After awhile, the sound began to grate on me, like nails on a chalkboard.

The first building we set up in was a small private residence, probably 12x30 feet. The roof was partially caved in, however the rest of the structure was intact. We set up one of the Sony camcorders at one end of the building and positioned ourselves in the middle. Paula held the other Sony camcorder, while I took pictures with my Sony Cybershot. We both had digital recorders on. Paula also set out a K2 meter to catch any electromagnetic impulses that might have occured. We spend about a half an hour in this building, asking questions, filming, and taking still photos. We both agreed we heard nothing except for my growling stomach and the cacophonous sounds of a thousand crickets. Paula stated she noticed some shadow movement outside of the building, near the road. Later on, we decided that it was a bat she saw. Bats were everywhere. Pretty much the same experience was had in the larger building up the road. Except the bats were inside the building with us; lured by the insects that were attracted to our lights. We called it a night at around 2:30 a.m.
The next morning we wandered around the canyon taking photos of the remains of buildings, and picking a few bags of elderberries. We did a little video work of ourselves talking about the investigation, then we packed it up and headed home. Upon reviewing the audio and visuals, we concluded that we found no paranormal activity in Humboldt City. Lots of crickets, though. And bats.


Anonymous said...

With this property, it was owned by my family back at that time and is still with in the family as far as I know it. The grave marker is for Larry Leyva, who ended up with the property through our great Uncle. It was 80 acres, that my Great Grandfather, "Indian Ike" had purchased with the gold he found. Late 1800's to early 1900's he had found the riches gold specimen in the state. There has been many of stories about him. He was murdered in 1915 just because of it, in the next canyon over, Imaly canyon, which was the government allotment land. With in doing the family history, Ike's father, George Robinson, "White Cloud" was a cousin to Sarah Winnemucca. Ike's last name was Winap, these were names given to them by the missionaries and settlers. Larry my second cousin, the grave site, was actually found murder, stabbed, and floating in the river down below. I am currently putting together all the stories I have collected by talking to the elders, from when I started the geneology when I was a kid. Humboldt and Imaly canyon has some very fond memories for our family. I did enjoy your story and brief history of it. Thanks, Dennis Castillo,

The Haunted West: said...

Thanks for your comment, it cleared up a lot of questions we had about that area and the grave site. It is a beautiful hidden Nevada oasis, and I can certain see why your great grandfather would have wanted to own it. Good luck with your genealogy. It is important work, every year sees the passing of another elder and with them goes another link to the past. We have talked about making another trip up into that area, we will be certain to be respectful.

Mark Rodriguez said...

Indian Ike was also my great grandfather...
Perhaps wiser one was his better second half...Lizzie,my great grandmother!...and there is much more to the story...

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic article and great photos too. I've also recently become interested in NV ghost towns and I would certainly love to visit this one. Do you need 4x4 to get there? Is it easily found or do you really need to know the area well? Are there any signs that lead you there? If you were so kind as to answer these questions, you could email me at
Thanks in advance and go on with your ghost town adventures!