4WD or high clearance desired
  Bernice (aka Caskett, Casket)

39° 45' 13"N, 117° 45' 58"W - BERNICE CANYON quad

VISITED 3/17/01, 9/23/01, 7/3/2004, and 4/26/2015
Our Breakfast: Top Gun in Fallon
Our Dinner: Jimmy's Bar & Grill in Fallon
DIRECTIONS Highway 50E from Fallon 40 miles; Turn N on Dixie Valley Road (121) for about 27 miles*; Take Settlement Rod through Dixie Valley for 6.8 miles; take dirt road generally NE for 11.6 miles; take dirt rd 3.2 miles east to mouth of Bernice Canyon. From Fallon: 88.6 miles

*Thanks NVGeezer!

Antimony and silver mines. It's said the old-timers pronounced it BUR' niss. Some of the early Rand McNally maps show Bernice west of the Carson Sink. Oops.

In 1881, Wallace Goodall (or James Wardell, nobody seems to be sure, but Goodall's name features prominently in Bernice history) discovered a coffin-shaped deposit of quartz he found rather interesting, and called his camp Casket. After working it for two years he leased it to George Bothwell. Bothwell managed to construct a mill during that time.

1882 July 10
Bernice District,, Churchill county, twenty-file miles north of Clan Alpine, is doing well with prospects of soon having a mill-- the ore assaying up into the thousands.
-Reno Evening Gazette

1883 July 24
A Good Outlook
C.W. Gilbert, who left Bernice a few days ago, informs the Silver State that the Bothwell mill is very nearly completed, and will be ready to crush in a few days. The roasters will not be completed for a week or two, but it is likely the mill will start on free ore before that time. Heretofore they have been shipping ore from the district henceforth they will ship bullion.
-Reno Evening Gazette

1883 August 29
G.W. Bothwell, owner of the new mill at Bernice, arrived at Lovelock Sunday, on his way to San Francisco. He said the mill had started up on ore from the Goodall mine, but had to shut down in consequence of the scarcity of water. A well has been sunk near the mill, and as soon as a pump can be put into position, the mill will resume operations.
-Reno Evening Gazette

One thing we noticed about Bernice is the names of the mines seem to change at the drop of a hat. The main mine, which we are referring to as the Golden Crown, is also referred to as the Bernice Mine, the Williams Mine, and probably other names as well. There are several references to the Wild Goose mine but we can't find any listings of a mine by that name in Churchill county. One would probably have to check the county records to see which one it is. The Solomon Mine and the King Solomon Mine and the I.H.X. Mine seem to have been used interchangebly. Obviously it was nearby, since they sent ore to the mill at Bernice. Although the Marguarite Mine is shown on most maps, there don't seem to be any references to it by that name.

1883 November 7
Bernice District
The Austin Reveille of the 5th says: A Gentleman just in from this promising camp tells us that the Wild Goose, owned by Healy, Jordan, and others, has just had 14 tons of ore crushed at Bothwell's mill. They now have six men at work, and have a valuable property.
-Reno Evening Gazette

Apparently mining wasn't as successful as he had hoped-- Bothwell turned the claim back over to Goodall, who then sold 3/4 of his claim to the Williams brothers, Warren and George.

1884 August 7
Bernice District
Bernice, August 1
Editor, Gazette:-- The Bothwell mill started up on July 15th, under the general management of W.W. Willliams, on ore from the Golden Crown mine. The ore is entirely free from bases, and is milled by the ordinary process to 90 per cent of the assay value. They have now on hand ready for shipment four large bars of bullions worth $4,768, and taking into consideration the fact that there are but a few men working in the mine and mill, it is a good showing. Henry Remsdorh has charge of the mill and is considered as good a mill man as there is in the state. The mill is running nicely and will turn out a good shipment this month. The Golden Crown is owned by Wallace Goodall and W.W. and G.B. Williams. There are other claims in the district that are showing well, and all that is wanted is a little capital to make Bernice one of the regular bullion producing camps of the state. Yours, Miner.
-Reno Evening Gazette

Some time around 1883, Williams renamed the camp Bernice. There is a story that it was named after his daughter, who met her untimely death after being run over by a wagon. While Warren's daughter was run over and killed by a wagon, her name was Elizabeth [actually, it was probably Lizzie Beth], and the tragedy took place in 1887, well after the camp was already named Bernice. Bernice was now upshifting into its peak period of activity.

1885 January
Good Returns.— Silver State, Jan. 16: W. Williams arrived in town yesterday from Bernice bringing with him nine splendid bars of silver bullion, which was valued at $10,500, and were shipped to San Francisco. This bullion was the result of 27 days' work of the Golden Crown Mining company's mill. The company make regular monthly shipments of bullion. Mr. Williams informs us that his company employs at the present time 50 men; and he has room for the employment of six more persons in cutting wood for the mill. The mill is one that they have at the present time on lease; is of five stamps, and the ore which is now being worked goes from 860 to $100 per ton. In the spring they will put up a new ten-stamp mill , and will have a great plenty of ore to keep it running steadily. Their mine at the present time is looking far better than it has ever heretofore. Last week they made a new and important strike, and reached ore, in a large quantity, the vein being four feet in width, and paying $100 per ton. Their bullion goes over .900 fine, and he says they have shipped bullion that ran up to .985 fine. The bullion contains but a small per cent of gold, however. He informs us that he worked 25 tons of ore from the Wild Goose mine in that district that produced $100 per ton, and that Mr. Healey has plenty of ore that will pay $125 per ton, but it is impossible to get it worked, as the mill cannot reduce the ore that is extracted from the Golden Crown mine. He says there are also many other mining properties there that contain immense bodies of ore, and that it will be but a short time when great activity will prevail all through that section of country.
-Mining and Scientific Press

1885, February 2
An Interesting Letter from Prosperous Camp
WADSWORTH February 1
Editor Gazette--
As Bernice Mining District is creating a stir in this part of the country, by the promising developments being made there, we accepted the kind invitation of Mr. William Warren to pay a visit to that camp. Bernice is 70 miles to the southeast of Lovelock and is reached only by private conveyance. The camp is young is appearance containing only a boarding and lodging house, saloon, and mill. Arriving on the grounds we were taken in hand by the proprietors of the Crown Prince, Messers Williams and Goodall, and shown over their property. the Crown Prince contains three tunnels at a distance of 100 feet from each other up the hill, and averaging 400 feet in length. In those tunnels are 500 tons of fine ore ready to be taken out without deadwork, and an estimate of how much more lies behind it cannot be made. We were shown the assaying receipt of Peterson & Co., San Francisco for eight bars of bullion; they run from 902 to 961 fine. As 900 fine is mint coinage, we can form an idea of what kind of bullion Bernice produces. The assayers claim it to be the finest silver shipped from Nevada. the five stamp mill now on the ground is running night and day, and the prospects warrant the owners erecting a ten stamp in the Spring. The Crown Prince employs a work force of 70 men at present, and as this force can easily keep the machinery in motion, we would not advise any person seeking employment to go there for it. Our genial hosts, Williams and Goodall, are whole-souled good fellows and they entertained us royally; they are energetic and bernice will be lively as long as these men are at the helm. The manner in which they treat their employees cannot help but command the respect and friendship of all who come in contact with them. Should Bernice prove a second bonanza, it could not fall into better hands.
-Reno Evening Gazette

1885 March 16
Persistent Prospecting Developing a Very Fine District
Bernice, March 11
Editor Reno Gazette:-- Mr. Williams, superintendent of the Golden Crown Mine and mill, stared for Lovelock this morning with nine bars of fine bullion of the value of $10,320, the result of 25 days working of the mill on ores from the Golden Crown mine. The WIlliams, or lower tunnel, has been run 110 feet during the past month, and on this level was found the best body of ore that has yet to be found in this district. Wood is delivered at the mill for $4 per cord and salt for $10 per ton. A winze has been started in the lower tunnel to connect with a tunnel that is to cut the ledge at 500 feet in depth. On the Wild Goose mine four men are at work taking out ore: 175 tons of ore worked at the mill from this mine, yielded $130 per ton. The manager and half owner of the Wild Goose mine, Al Healy, died on the 19th of february. His death was a sad loss to this district.
-Reno Evening Gazette

1887, July 4
The Golden Crown mine at Bernice, Churchill county, has a vein eighteen inches wide alleged to assay at $100 per ton. A force of thirty men is employed at the mine and mill. Another mine in the district employs fifteen men. Miner's wages in the district are $3 per day. -- [Tuscarora Times Review]
-Daily Alta California

1887 15 October
A Sad Accident
A private letter from Bernice, Nevada, informs us that Elizabeth, the six year old daughter of Warren W. Williams, met with an accident which caused her death on the 10th instant. the child attempted to climb upon a moving wood wagon, when she fell beneath the wheels, which passed over her bowels. Death resulted in a few hours. The father and mother are inconsolable, as Lizzie was a sweet child and loved by all.

1887 October 31
A Good Body of Ore Tapped in the North Extension
Senator George E. Spencer and M. J. Murphy returned form their trip to Bernice last Saturday night. they spent a day looking at some mines, which they have had under prospect for dome years past, and were well satisfied with the looks of the property. Warren W. Williams sent the Reveille office a nice specimen from the new ledge that he has tapped by a tunnel. The Ore is found in the north extension of the Golden Crown. The Hoyt mine is turning out rich ore every day and some of the prospectors are getting out little dabs to be crushed in the mill. Five more stamps will be added to the battery in a few days to increase the crushing capacity. bernice has staying qualities that will make a good camp and the mines, as they are worked deeper have improved as bullion producers.
Reese River Reveille

Mr. Hoyt, owner of the Hoyt mine in nearby Hoyt Canyon, wasn't feeling very well...

1889 September 28
A sick man by the name of M.W. Hoyt was brought in this morning from bernice, Churchill County, and taken to St. Mary's Hospital, Virginia City. He is said to be very low with consumption.
-Reno Evening Gazette

And apparently, he didn't recover.

1891, August 29
In the District Court of the State of Nevada, in and for the County of Churchill.
In the matter of the estate of M.W.Hoyt, deceased-- Notice of Administrator's sale of real estate.
Notice is hereby given .. will sell at public auction, to the highest bidder for cash, in one parcel, in front of the courthouse door, in Stillwater, County of Churchill, State of Nevada... in and all those certain mines, mining claims and locations situated in the Bernice Mining District, Churchill County, Nevada, located and called the Silver Ridge No. 1 and the Silver Ridge No.2, also one boarding house, one stone house, one cooking stove and dishes, one hundred and fifty drills, twelve picks, two cars, six hand hammers and two sledge hammers.
-Reno Evening Gazette

After 1894, the post office closed and Bernice declined, although there was still mining being done and some minor revivals. The "promising camp" would soon be no more. Over the next decades, enterprising folks (aka 'thieves") would make off with buildings and mill parts to sell for scrap, particularly during the war years. However, Bernice refused to die entirely.

1913 December 15
Bernice in Churchill County is Encouraging
Churchill Eagle- One of Churchill country's old mining camps bids far to come back. Bernice, situated north of Wonder and on the east side of Dixie Valley, was a flourishing camp upwards of 20 years ago, and produced better than half a million dollars, and is again giving up her secrets. the information was given out this week by Hon. Warren W. Williams that he and his brother, George B. have cut the old ledge in the Golden Crown at a depth of 600 feet, after driving a tunnel 1200 feet. The ore is said to be high grade. They have been working along by easy stages of about 100 feet a year the past four years or so and so bid fair to reap a rich reward. For 20 years the camp has lain dormant and the old mill has been standing silent and alone. When asked about the matter yesterday, Mr. Williams said, "Bernice will make a camp."
-Reno Evening Gazette

Besides silver and gold, antimony was also an important mineral in the Bernice district. Antimony alloys and compounds are used in batteries, flame-proofing materials, paints, ceramic enamels, glass and pottery.

1916 April 15
The Bernice mining district... is served by freight team from Fallon, Nevada, a distance of 90 miles and a good day's drive by automobile. At present there are two producing mines: the Antimony King mine at Bernice, and the Lofthouse mine 5 miles southwest.
- Mining and Scientific Press

Three separate synopsii for Bernice, from 1940, 1947, and 1975:

The Williams (aka Gold Crown] mine at the head of Bernice Canyon comprises two patented and three unpatented claims owned by the Warren W. Williams estate. This property was discovered by James Wardell in the late seventies and was sold to Williams, who operated it from 1880 to 1890. A ten-stamp mill was erected below the mine in Bernice Canyon; silver produced is said to have amounted to $300,000. The ores contained considerable arsenic in the form of arsenopyrite, and the mill was equipped with two White-Howell roasters.

Bernice, the camp site, is near the head of Antimony Canyon 4 miles above its mouth at an elevation of about 5,550 feet. It is 3/4 of a mile above and 200 feet higher than the Bernice Mill. Mineral was first discovered at what is now the Bernice mine in 1886 by Wallace Goodell, who soon developed the prospect and Bernice became a flourishing camp. the principal property was next acquired by Bothwell, who built a 10 stamp mill for it. It later passed to ex-Senator J.P. Williams, who operated the mine and mill and shipped the resulting silver-gold bullion to the California Bank at San Francisco. The production, said to be more than half a million dollars in silver and gold, was mostly made between 1886 and 1890. Since then, the camp has been largely deserted, thought some development and a little mining has been done intermittently during some periods almost annually.

Deposits of silver ore were discovered in the late 1870's and accounted for much of the $156,000 recorded production of the 1880's. Antimony deposits were discovered in the 1880's, but production values over the years have not been recorded. Some antimony was produced in the 1890's, the early 1900's, during World War I, World War II, and the mid 1960's. Antimony production prior to 1963 equaled several hundred tons of metal. The Bernice mine, located on the south side of the ridge between Bernice and Hoyt Canyons, has several adits exploring different levels, This mine has produced silver ore. The Antimony King mine, located 2 1/4 road miles up Bernice Canyon, is developed by several adits. It has been the principal producer of antimony and was being worked in 1967.

According to the Hon. Merton Domonoske's detailed book on Bernice, Bernice: The Largest Town in Churchill County, Nevada, 1885, at one time Bernice had a hotel and a boarding house, an assay office, two stores, saloons, a livery stable, a blacksmith shop and stables, and of course a Post office. About 60 people were living here.

It should be noted that there was a sizable Chinese contigent in Bernice as well. In his book Historic Site Studies in Chuchill County, Nevada, Dr. William Davis notes

Once one is in the canyon, there are a number of mines, tunnels, pits, and prospects to be seen, among other features. Early on, the adpt observer may see a nicely constructed, massiv fireplace facade barely visible on the hillside. A timberless drift has a large quantity of chemicals and explosive type materials stashed inside. These are in an advanced state of decomposition. (Danger!) One and possibly two Chinese camps are located here. One informant related to me how the Chinese were actually employed as woodcutters for the mines but also mined on their own during the era of Warren W. Williams, which she stated was in the 1870's.
-Dr. William Davis


POST OFFICE June 7, 1882 - January 8, 1883 as Casket
July 5, 1883 - June 6, 1894 as Bernice

Bernice is interesting in that it covers a lot of area, and a lot of time. As you travel the three or so miles up the canyon, you pass by mines, ruins and equipment from many different eras. It took us two trips, once in trucks and the second time in ATV's, which was a lot less nerve-wracking, to take it all in, and we still need to return.

Bernice canyon has a lot of mines, and they're all extremely dangerous. Some of the rock in the area is very loose; you can pull it apart with your fingers. The timbers (when they used timber) used to shore up the mines are old, decrepit, and failing.

This is one of the oldest sites in Churchill County and, interestingly enough, also shows some of the most recent work. There are the remains of a mill foundation and a well before you even start up the canyon; these are believed to have been constructed in the latter half of the 1900's. Several large mines are passed before reaching the actual townsite above the second mill site, three miles distant. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the remains of three cabins which are probably from the latter half of the twentieth century. A several trucks and truck beds from the 1940's and 1950's punctuate the landscape. A road grader sits forlornly at the side of the road, which is unfortunate, because it could be put to good use on that crummy road. On the west side of the road, in the shadows of the pines, is an old cabin dug into the hillside. At the Blue Eagle mine, a circa 1920 compressor sits outside the mine on a rusty trailer.

The town site itself is unremarkable, sitting on a small sloping plain. Upon close examination, one can see the small pits and diggings that may have made up the foundations and dumps, along with the scattered bits of wood, metal, cans, ceramic, and glass laying on the ground. With the possible exception of the stone cabin, nothing from the original era remains standing, or even crumbled, for that matter.

This is one of the few sites we visited where the mines themselves have been worked fairly recently. In many, we could see shelves, barrels, clothing, and in one there were sacks of bentonite, which is used for drilling. As tantalizing as these items are to explore further, we caution you that all mines are extremely dangerous, could collapse without warning, and belong to someone else.

Be advised that you will not need 4WD as much as you will need ground clearance and a good approach/departure angle on whatever you're driving. Road is washed out in a lot of areas.

On 3 July Mr Petr Suchomel and I visited Bernice once again, after having supper with Dr. William Davis and discussing the things we might visit at the site. On our trip we learned several new things, among them (a) a Ford Escape cannot make it up the road without a great deal of effort, due to the fact that AWD does not equal 4WD, (b) the mouse in the stone cabin is now a rat the size of a puppy, and (3) at the remains of the three cabins together, the central cabin has finally collapsed. We also finally got to the cabin at the end of the road, although the famed ore chute remains elusive.

UPDATE 2015: We visited again on a fine April day in 2015. Made it up to the ore chute at the Williams Mine this time.
UPDATE 2016: NVGeezer reports washed out roads and generally lousy road conditions, so be prepared.


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