La Plata (La Platta City) - 2nd COUNTY SEAT We Visited: April 7, 2001; June 14, 2002
39 26' 57"N, 118 18' 39"W - LA PLATA CANYON quad

Directions: Take Highway 50 32 miles east to just before Rawhide turnoff; head north 8 miles until road comes to a "T"; head east (right) for about .6 mile; head generally north about 4 miles. Also reachable from Stillwater Rd via Mountain Well. (about 45 miles from Fallon one way)

From Fallon: 45 miles

What Was

First county seat of Churchill County that's actually still in Churchill County. At the junction of the road going up La Plata Canyon, at the town site, are the remains of a stone building. Some think it was a mill, others the courthouse. Interviews with local ranchers suggest there never was a mill at the La Plata site, and those who have studied courthouse transcripts say there wasn't a courthouse either. I'm thinking it was a Starbucks.

"The La Plata district, discovered in 1862, attained considerable prominence as a boom camp during the middle sixties, but there is little evidence to show that any appreciable amount of ore was produced. The town of La Plata, established about 1863, was the county seat of Churchill County from 1864 to 1868. In 1863 and several years afterward many claims were located, many of which were sold to eastern capitalists, who did considerable prospecting, but the general results were discouraging. The county seat was removed to Stillwater in 1868, and the following year most of the miners deserted the district for the White Pine boom in the eastern part of the State. In 1864 the Silver Wave Wining Co. erected a 10-stamp mill at La Plata at a cost of $150,000, but little evidence, such as tailings or extensive mine workings exists to indicate a large production. This mill was removed subsequently to the Ellsworth district in Nye County. Another mill was built in Eleven-Mile Canyon, several miles north of La Plata Canyon, about 1864, which likewise was unsuccessful, presumably for lack of ore." (Vanderburg, Reconnaissance of Mining Districts in Churchill County, Nevada)

"A plat of the townsite had been made. The City of La Plata seems to have been carefully planned by knowledgeable men the same day the district's first claim was filed and a townsite plat made. The town was in a horseshoe shape. Two canyons formed a "V" and at its base was a knoll, on which later sat the so-called "courthouse ruins." La Plata's main section extended up Silver Wave [running NW] and La Plata Canyons [running NE]. It was neatly divided into blocks and lots.

The Hon. George W. Stein, of Easton, Pennsylvania, President of the "Silver Wave Company," was sent out by that organization to examine their claims in the Mountain Wells District. The following is extracted from letters to the Company.

La Plata is the county seat of Churchill County. The climate is delightful, atmosphere pure, bracing, and wholesome, as, as our prospectus foreshadows, so healthful that epidemics are unknown. The situation is far preferable to Virginia [City, Nevada]. It is located in the shelter of a cañon, or rather, two, and with little expense can be made an eligible place for a large city. The town at present contains but a sparse population, although we have a court-house, two hotels, viz., Warren House and the La Plata Hotel and Pioneer Saloon, affording accommodations to all who may visit the place, provided the number is not too great, as I trust it may be in a short time to come. The buildings are not very capacious, and do not represent a remarkable appearance in an architectural point of view; nevertheless the initiative has been taken, and ere long this city may perhaps be able to boast of as fine buildings as are present to be seen at Virginia or elsewhere. The water, although not very abundant yet, owing mainly to the fact that no particular effort has been made to procure it, yet within the limits of our place we have three springs, which will not only furnish water enough for a ten stamp mill, with an abundant supply left to accommodate not only the citizens of this place, but also a neighborhood for many miles distant. In fact, teams come here almost daily from a distance to procure water for remote places, and the Overland Stage Company is compelled to haul water from here to Fairview Station, a distance of 7 1/2 miles, for their use. It must be taken into consideration that the district is not thickly populated, but I entertain the opinion that water enough can be found here to supply many mills and a large population. A few young men are engaged in running a tunnel in the heart of this place, and informed me that they had found a large spring, which interfered materially with their operations. Nature provides for all these deficiencies. In this connection, I will add that salt, which is so necessary for beneficiating silver ores, is found in large bodies. A gentleman from Silver Hill, who was bred in my neighborhood in Pennsylvania, owns a large bed 25 miles from this place, agreed to execute a lease by which he will bind himself to furnish the Silver Wave Company with salt, in all time to come, gratis, provided they first erect a mill here. Wood for steam and other purposes can be procured from our land in sufficient quantities to supply one hundred stamps for many years to come, although I do not wish to convey the idea that it can be used as timber in erecting the mill; it is principally mountain cedar, and well adapted for generating steam. It is adjacent to the mill and easily cut; the roads being in good condition, and down grade, the expense and labor for hauling will not be excessive. Building materials are found here in great abundance, such as stones, clay out of which good brick can be manufactured; lime can be procured, but clay is found here, which, by mixing with water, produces good mortar. Lime can be had within a limited distance, and although the experiment has not been made, I am inclined to think it can be manufactured here. The marble quarry is situated a short distance away from the Silver Wave ledge, and presents a very good appearance. It is easily quarried, and can be made available in the construction of the mill. Laborers can be procured without too much trouble. The price of ordinary laborers will be $4; but, in the opinion of most operators here, the tendency is downwards, and before the season fairly commences, they may be reduced to $3.
-Prospectus of the Nevada Silver Mining Company, Churchill County, Nevada, 1865, President James Ross Snowden

There were, of course, other points of view....

THE MOUNTAIN-WELL DISTRICT A very dry and sparsely timbered region, without any arable land or pasturage, other than scattered bunch grass growing in the mountains. The scarcity of water is a serious drawback to the prospects of this district, as it is to those numerous other localities in Nevada. In the whole country, there is hardly a town worse off, in this particular, than La Plata, the principal place in the Mountain Well District, and county seat of Churchill County. Upon two or three small springs is devolved the office of furnishing the inhabitants with water-- a rather onerous task, seeing as how they have nowhere else to look for supplies-- the Fairview Station, seven miles below, also coming here for all the water needed for their stock, hauling it the whole distance. But these and other minor evils are compensated for by the presence, here, of very rich silver ores, found generally in spurs and detached masses of vein rock; and in some instances, also, in what seems regular and defined ledges. The trouble, however, has thus far been, that the lodes in this district, though rich in spots, are irregular and disjointed; and not until a good depth is reached can their character for continuity and permanancy be settled. La Plata is a small place, not particularly rich in architectural excellence, having been built up under adverse circumstances. But the inhabitants deserve praise for the energy and perseverance they have shown in their efforts to improve the place and develop their mines. The population of the district, nearly all residing in the town, is about 200; being scarcely so large now as it was twelve months ago.
-American Mining Gazette and Geological Magazine, Volume II, January 1 to December 31, 1865, "The New State of Nevada"

"There was, for a time, a fairly brisk traffic in lots. Eighty in all were platted, about thirty sold. Some were bought and sold on speculation since prices were reasonable, ranging around fifty dollars." (Childers, Magee Station and the Churchill Chronicles)

The Silver Wave Mining Company, working the vein of the same name, have built a mill running ten stamps, in the town of La Plata, at a cost of probably $120,000. It is not at present in operation, being another illustration of the folloy of erecting reductions works before mines which are to supply the ores have been thoroughly prospected and proved of value. Parties who invest in a costly mill naturally expect it to pay dividends; and if it fails to do so, are apt to feel distrustful of the enterprise, when at the same time, all that may be necessary to convert apparently failure into success is the development of the mine, so as to enable a sufficient number of men to work on it to supply the mill with ore. The erection of a mill on an undeveloped property is almost certain to result in detriment to any district unfortunate enough to be so situated.
-Report of the State Mineralologist for 1866, published 1867

"It's [La Plata] courthouse was a dwelling acquired on October 15, 1864 for $700 from Anton Kaufman. By 1867 La Plata's mining boom declined and support for moving the county seat gained momentum. In a special election held on October 22, 1867, the electorate cast thirty-three votes for re-locating the county government to Stillwater, only seventeen voted for a move to Big Adobe, a small way station west

"When the Churchill Co. Seat moved to Stillwater in December 1868, officials dismantled the house-turned-courthouse in La Plata and reassembled it in the new location. Eventually, finding the one room wooden structure unsuitable, they finished construction on a more permanent two story courthouse in 1870." (James, Temples of Justice- County Court Houses of Nevada).

There is a dispute whether or not there was ever a mill at La Plata.

"The thing that first catches one's eye when approaching La Plata is the sight of the remaining stone walls of a large building on a small hill where the road/canyon forks. As stated earlier, there have been numerous questions posed as to whether this was teh courthouse or if the courthouse had been a wooden structure which was torn down and moved. It is my understanding that Shamberger asked I.H. Kent, who has operated a large cattle ranch in the canyon for many years, about the function of this prominent stone building. He said that Mr. Kent stated emphatically that "the building in question had been the courthouse during the period that La Plata had been the county seat. Kent said he first saw La Plata in 1919 and at that time the building was in good condition; the roof was on and the doors and windows were in place. Although some speculated that this large stone ruin had been a mill used for the processing of ore, Mr. Kent had stated that 'he knew for a fact' that no mill was ever situated in or near La Plata! He said ore was originally hauled to a smelter in bernice, about thirty-five miles away, and that when a mill was built at Black knob, about three miles away, then the La Plata ore was hauled there for treatment."
Historic Site Studies in Churchill County, Nevada, Dr. William C. Davis. PhD.

Post Office: Apr 1865 - Nov 1867
Newspaper: None

What is

The roads going up to La Plata are in such good shape we expected to see the blade smoothing them out around every bend. There are rock ruins at the intersection of the two roads, and looks like it as an imposing building in its day. Some say it was a mill- others maintain it was the courthouse. The road to the right passes the remains of what appears to be a ranch, which may be more recent. The concrete watering trough remains as does a collapsed building. Further up, there is much mine activity including an exceedingly dangerous mine on the side of the road which drops down at about a 45 degree angle. The west fork of the road, which continues to Mountain Well, goes past more rock ruins.

UPDATE 2-14-2010: Forgotten Nevada field agents report that some a-hole stole the plaque.


A cold day at the La Plata "Court House" (looking south)
Plaque placed at La Plata site by
Dr. William C. Davis, PhD
who was nice enough to buy me coffee one morning and tell me how to find La Plata. Since stolen by some inbred hillbilly.
Major-league rock shaping
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