For this weeks Map Adventure I took my historic Nevada map and set out for the town of Nightingale.
People are always asking me how I choose locations I choose my locations. Truth is it’s usually by accident, something I notice while researching a spot on a map I've already been to. Drawing a complete blank this week as to where I wanted to go I turned to my trusty California-Nevada Ghost Towns Atlas for ideas. First off, this is by far the best book ever! I picked it up a couple of years ago at a used bookstore Grassroots here in Reno. Let me tell you this book is the beez neez, it's chalked full of historic place names with fun little tid bits and rudimentary hand-drawn maps. Bad News, it was printed in 1967 and is currently out of print. Good News, used copies can still found online.
Location chosen (check)
Map to said location (kind of)
As you can see we have a we have a rough map with a road but there’s not much else to go on. What to do (enter excited face) break out my historical Nevada maps in search of a way to get to Nightingale. This task turned out not be as easy as originally thought.
You have a location, you have a bunch of maps should be a cake walk... Right? Wrong! First you have to find a map that actually HAS the nightingale mountain range.
I started with the official 1866 Nevada State map. This map, while awesome, tends to be missing significant landscape data, where the Nightingale mountain exists the only thing depicted is the word desert. So it's safe to say this map is out of the running.
In the 1870's Nevada saw a slew new of people with gold in there eyes and silver in their heart. Everyone wanted to be the one to find the new Comstock Load. This saw a need for more detailed state maps showing all the mountains and valleys where fortune could be hiding. As shown on the the 1874 map of Nevada & California. We now have our mountains listed as Nache Range, but with no roads in and no roads out. Making this map out of the running.
A few years later the 1879 map calls it the Truckee Range. Keeping consistency with the 1874 map no adjoining roads, wagon routes, walking trails or beaming portals coming in or out of the mountain can be seen.
Inexplicitly the 1880 State map takes note from the 1866 map and fails to show the mountains at all. In fact it also fails to name pyramid lake or show Lake Tahoe in any form, but manages to list the super small town pop up town of Washington.
This same pattern of inconsistency continued map after map until I found what I was looking for. The answer came in a 1956 Shell Highway map of Nevada. Although I usually like to use older maps, the fact that the mountains, the town and the roads are listed was too good to pass up. So with my 1956 Shell Highway map in hand I set out on my journey in search for the ghost town of Nightingale, Nevada.
The road in:
We took the conveniently named Nightingale exit off of I80 from there we traveled on a (not too bad) road with the official name FRCH03 (Front Road Churchill #3). I have also seen it listed as Sage Hen Wash on other maps. Due to new mining activity the road into the Nightingale Mountains is decently maintained. I didn’t see any remnants of station stops or toll houses which suggests this town I am seeking must not have produced any large amount of riches or high population numbers.
This beautiful mountains range is named after Alanson W. Nightingill (not nightingale). Mr. Nightingill was a Captain in the 1860's Pyramid Lake War (which explains the name change on the 1880's maps). The current name of Nightingale, changed from Nightingil, is the product of folk etymology (The accidental practice of replacing of an unfamiliar word with a more familiar one). Topographically the mountain range is long and skinny, 20 miles in length and only 2.4 miles in width. There is a beautiful calm about them. That quiet peacefulness that only the desert landscape can provide.
Nightingale; what it is, what it isn’t, and what will never be again.
We reached our location in just a little under hour. Nightingale is right off the road and impossible to miss. With more ruins than I had thought there would be, many foundations, a couple of falling down or fallen down cabins, lead piping, lots of old tin cans, glass bottles, pottery shards etc. The structures seem to be very well plotted, with clear pathways and the civil layout still able to be seen. Up on the hill there’s a large water tank, there was no water inside but loads of beer bottles. Nightingale has all of the makings of a decent little town out in the middle of the desert.
What it wasn't
In 1917 tungsten was discovered in the Nightingale Mountains, I know I was thinking gold or silver too I mean this is Nevada after all. A small mine was built and a little bit of tungsten ore was shipped to the nearby Toulon for processing between 1917 & 1918. In 1929 the mine claims were purchased by the Tungsten Production Co. which was a large company with mining operations all a crossed the west coast. They immediately began work on laying down a mine camp for their employees. Wait! Did you say 1929? And did you say camp?That's right, this wasn't a town at all. These were the ruins of a well lined out mining camp. Finding information about Nightingale was difficult at best. Many rely on the tiny bit of misinformation out there. The ruins are that of the 1929 camp not a 1917 town.
What it was
The mining camp of Nightingale followed the tried and true laid out pattern of Tungsten Production Co. other claims which included...
Boardinghouse: A large residential structure greater than 20 by 25 feet complete with a bunk house.
Privy (out house): less than 5 feet in diameter.
Cabins: private residence for management less than 20 by 25 feet in area. (Workers built cabins were allowed but do not fall under company responsibility)
Cistern: required at residential complex and mill sites
Corral/stables: to house horses needed for transportation and mining purposes.
Dump: located on a downslope or a distance from a residential feature. Allowed items food-related and other domestic artifacts, food cans, bottles, tableware and personal articles.
Road: must accommodate traffic being at least 8 feet wide.
Tungsten Production Co was operating the mining camp and a small mill until their reforming when they Became the Gold, Silver, & Tungsten Company in 1932. Under the new company (with the price of Tungsten on the rise) work on a mill began immediately as shown in their water rights application to build a well. The new mill had a 100-ton concentrator on site but sadly the necessary amounts of ore were not being produced and it only operated 4 times. During the 10 year 1929 - 1939 only 1 year was profitable. 1932 turned a profit of $9,000. (the year they began work on the mill). The 1938/1939 year was especially hard when out of 3500 tons of ore mined only 18 tons were of any value. This caused a suspension of operations and the closing of the mine camp.
At it's height the mine included a change house complete with steel lockers, blacksmith shop,
3 adits, 4 shallow shafts, multiple open cuts and pits, a 100-ton concentrator adjacent to the mines.
The Road Home:
We took the slightly better known Coyote Canyon road home. For this we chose the 1924 State map of Nevada.
Coyote Canyon is a breathtakingly beautiful drive that I highly recommend. It is a little rougher than Sage Hen Wash and does require 4 wheel drive with higher clearance in just a couple of spots. After a serene drive through the Nightingale Mountains the road end up coming down the side of the (now dry) Lake Winnemucca. If you look closely ruins of the old China town that once sat on its shores can be seen. Then the road ends at Nixon and its smooth sailing home from there.
I hope you enjoyed this weeks Map Adventure. Stay tuned for next week when I venture out into the unknown with my trusty map in hand.
For more information on Nightingale…