Gold discoveries here in 1872 revealed a belt of gold-bearing quartz that was reportedly 12 miles long by 7 miles wide. In 1873, placer gold was located in Dry Gulch, but its recovery was hampered by a lack of water. In 1890 water was brought in by digging long ditches and flumes to bring water from other locations in an attempt to get the gold from the 10-foot to 200-foot thick gravel beds. Problems with the leaky flumes and lack of snow melt resulted in abandonment of this after a period of time.
From a nice article in the Nevada State Journal in 1950:
The first strike of lode gold was made by Matterson and Heck in 1872. The first few years the gold bearing quartz was crushed in primitive shacks and otherwise. But soon more modern stamp mills were installed. The rush to Osceola did not begin, however, until 1877, when Johnny Verzan discovered placer deposits. By autumn that year the gulches were filled with miners washing the gravel in pans, rockers, and a variety of other devices, primitive and otherwise. Shacks sprang up everywhere and gradually more permanent buildings appeared. The extensive hydraulic operations began in 1880 and continued until the turn of the century. Tungsten was discovered in 1916, phosphate in 1918. The population during the height of the camp's prosperity was around 2,000. A fire in 1943 destroyed all the buildings in Osceola mining camp, with the exception of the Lee Marriot home. The camp buildings caught fire after a range blaze spread into town.
The only resident of the old town itself is Pete Bruener, who has lived here twenty years.
The most thrilling incident in the 78-year history of Osceola was probably the discovery of a nugget containing 25 pounds of gold. The newspapers tell of many large nuggets being found in Dry Gulch. in 1881 Dick Millick and F. Buchanan found one worth $1,012; Martin and Josh Trewella found one worth $1,080; Dick Connors, working for the Hydraulic Company, is credited for one worth $2,150; James Marriot, one valued at $500; Abe Shellenberger, $1,064; Boone Tilford, $51.50; some Chinamen, one worth $960. But the one found in 1877 by a man named Darling on the claim of Johnny Verzan was valued at $6,000 and would be worth $10,000 today. Darling had been working for Verzan only two hours when he drove his pick into the dirt and could not pull it out. He glanced around to see that no one was looking and then he began to dig in the gravel with his hands. Upon catching a glimpse of the great nugget, he immediately covered it again, working to loosen the pick and went on digging elsewhere. At the end of the day he drew his pay from Verzan and that night made off with the nugget. REMORSEFUL THIEF. A day or two later, Verzan met Darling on the streets of Ward, an old mining town near Ely. He invited Darling to have a drink and upon sitting down, Darling began to cry, confessing that he had stolen the Nugget. Verzan, feeling sympathetic, was about to promise forgiveness when Darling reached into his shirt and pulled out 14 bars of gold. He had had the record breaking nugget melted down by assayers in Ward.
The greatest project undertaken as Osceola was construction of 35 miles of ditch-- 18 on the Snake Valley side, 17 on the Spring Valley Side-- to bring water from the various streams on Mt. Wheeler for hydraulic mining in the deposits of gold-bearing gravel. Vast amounts of money and countless days of work were spent in building this ditch by hand nd by horse-drawn scraper, in and out of the hollows and canyons, always on the level, miles of ditch to carry water a short distance as the crow would fly. Osceola was one of the few places in Nevada where hydraulic mining was done. THe ditch and washed slopes seeming to have undergone a disastrous flood, are outstanding sights of the old camp.
-Nevada State Journal, September 17, 1950
Unless there were two fires-- which I suppose is a possibility-- I've seen some web sites say the final fire in the 1940's destroyed the town, and some say the 1950's. Seeing as how the above article was written in 1950, and actually gives a specific date, I'd go with "1943" as the date of the final destructive fire. Or, you could go with "1947" since that's when the Journal ran the story about the fire, which is below. Jimminy crickets, people make up your mind.
Osceola was famous for two things- the gold nuggets they kept finding, and the Osceola Ditches, which brought water for hydraulic mining. Not too many places in Nevada --if any-- mined hydraulically. Nuggets were news in Osceola, and there were several articles in the papers about them. Here are a few examples.
A gold nugget weighing 53 ounces besides the quartz, was recently found at Osceola. It is a small boulder and only polished a little, indicating it had not traveled far. Some years ago another nugget was found near the same place, of the value of $5,000.
-Reno Evening Gazette, August 3, 1891
The largest gold nugget ever found in Osceola is said to be worth $5000. [$138,434 in 2017 dollars) Abe Shallenberger, who is now residing in Ely, found one valued at $1,060, the Hydraulic company found one worth $2,800 or thereabouts, and some Chinamen dug up one worth $1,100.
-Nevada State Journal, January 9, 1906
BIG NUGGET FOUND IN OSCEOLA GRAVEL
A gold nugget, weighing 7.84 ounces and worth $250, was discovered recently by George Grabe Jr. in the placer fields of the Osceola district. Grave was watching a belt which conveys placer gravel to the plant when he found the nugget. The specimen was named the Easter Egg because of its shape and because of its discovery on Easter Sunday.
-Nevada State Journal, May 9, 1938
BIG NUGGET FOUND
A 23-ounce nugget, valued at $700, was discovered by Albert Grabe in the Osceola district recently. The nuggets is one of the largest ever found in the district. The nuggets was found on the Pete Bruener property in Dry Gulch. It is the third nugget to be uncovered this summer with a value of more than $300.
-Nevada State Journal, September 26, 1938
The National Park Service was kind enough to provide this information on the Ditch, which I am stealing since I paid for it with my tax money:
Though unimaginable wealth lay buried in the gravel of Dry Gulch, too little water made large scale operations impossible. 1884 to 1885, the Osceola Gravel Mining Company constructed a 16 mile ditch, known as the West Ditch, to carry the water from six creeks on the west side of the Snake Range to their placer operations. It did not meet the company's needs, however, and on September 12, 1885, the White Pine News reported that the hydraulic mines were "running very slow at present on account of the scarcity of water, only averaging about 2 hours a day". The Osceola Gravel Mining Company began surveys in 1885 for a second waterway on the east side to be called the East Ditch. In September 1889, construction began on this 18 mile ditch to collect water from Lehman Creek and its tributaries on the east side of the range. Water rights were purchased from Absalom Lehman, who had recently discovered Lehman Cave. Several hundred men, using hand tools, wagons, horses, and mules, worked for ten months to complete the ditch. Local sawmills produced lumber for 2.2 miles of wooden flumes and the support beams for the 633 foot long tunnel, which was blasted through a ridge near Strawberry Creek. The Osceola Ditch was completed on July 4, 1890 at a cost of $108,223, an expensive gamble in a business where profitable yields were not guaranteed. In 1891, both ditches were being used in operations, and by June 17, the mine was running 24 hours a day. The early success of the ditches did not last long, however, and gold production did not meet expectations. The gross yield of the Osceola Mining Company in 1890 was only $16,191, and in 1891 only $20,223. Beginning in 1892, placer mining was further hampered by water shortages caused by mild, dry winters. Water theft, leaky wood flumes, and the legal battles over water rights reduced the water supply even more. Over the next few years, mining activity fluctuated and finally, by 1905, mining activity at Osceola came to a virtual standstill.
-National Park Service
So, in a nutshell, discovered in 1872; placer fields discovered in 1877; 1878 brought a mill, a tent camp of about 500 people, a restaurant, feed corral and stockade stable, and a post office. It peaked around 1881 with the addition of two stores, a hotel, a school for 30 kids, restaurant, livery stable, and a blacksmith. The Osceola Mining Company built and electric plant, office buildings and homes, and even telephone service. Work on the ditch took place in 1884-85, and the second ditch in 1889-90. That's when the downturn began. The Osceola Mining Company folded in 1900, and 100 people were still there when they lost the Post Office in 1920. The Nicholson Mining Company spurred a small revival from 1925-1932, with activity continuing through the 1940's and 1950's. There is still small scale mining going on.
Here is some history from 1908, so, obviously, nothing about what happened after that year...
In 1877 work was begun on the placer deposits of Dry Gulch. A few quartz locations were made prior to that time. It is reported that 300 to 400 miners were working on the placers during 1877 to 1880 and during the latter year 400 placer and lode locations were on record. The important placer properties in Dry Gulch became the property of the Osceola Gravel Mining COmpany, subsequently known as the Osceola Placer Mining Company, in the early eighties. Prior to 1890 this company had constructed two ditches approximately 34 miles in length, at a cost of about $200,000. The operations of this company and of individuals continued until about 1900, when on account of light snowfall and the loss in efficiency of the ditch from leaky flumes and other causes, work was discontinued.The alluvial fan which spreads out from the mouth of Mary Ann Canyon is locally known as Hogum. Here pay gravel was found several years after the discoveries in Dry Gulch and the deposits have been worked intermittently since that time. Several attempts have been made to work the gold-quartz properties on a small scale. Three mills of 5, 10, and 20 stamps have been erected and operated, but none of them has been commercially successful. It is admitted that more than 50 per cent of the values went down the gulch with the tailings. Since field work was completed the 20-stamp mill has been partly repaired and a run of several hundred tons of pre from the Cumberland mine has been made. The results are not known.
-Weeks, F. B. Geology and Mineral Resources of the Osceola Mining District, White Pine County, 1908
But the paper claims things are all going down hill. Hmmmm.
Hamilton, Ward,and Osceola, in White Pine County, are stagnant, and mining operations are at a standstill. Hamilton is almost entirely deserted. Cherry Creek, in the same county, is hanging on to the ragged edge of existence, living on the hope of developments that are never made.
-Reno Evening Gazette, July 15, 1879
Two hundred forty-five people live here now.
The following partial census returns from Nevada, taken from Census Bulletin No. 254
-Reno Evening Gazette, 24 Sep 1881
At the time the Pacific Coast Directory for 1880-81 was published, Osceola was listed as having only the following businesses:
Felsenthal P H, General Merchandise
Johnson NF, saloon
Jonan A, saloon
-Pacific Coast Directory for 1880-81
Lack of water hurt Osceola in other ways, too. Lots of fires, like many Nevada mining camps.
FIRE AT OSCEOLA
A fire at Osceola, White Pine county, last Thursday, destroyed a row of buildings on the main street. Incendiarism is suspected. Someone working on the ditch had been playing poker with a Chinaman and lost, and threatened to burn the town in revenge. The fellow has skipped.
-Daily Nevada State Journal, May 8, 1890
In addition to the loss of his store building and stock of goods by fire at Osceola on Sunday morning last, J.T. Scott is said to have lost about $3,000 in cash, which was in his desk at the time, although some of the gold and silver coins have since been picked up in the ruins.- Ely News
-Daily Nevada State Journal, April 10, 1902
Some never recovered from those fires,
J.T. Scott, and old Nevada pioneer and business man, committed suicide at Osceola, White Pine county, a few days ago. Business troubles and whiskey caused him to commit the rash act.
-Daily Nevada State Journal, July 16, 1903
Things are slow now.
OSCEOLA IS A VERY DULL DISTRICT
One Company Working Placer Ground Makes Clean-up Only Once a Week
Osceola is very quiet just now. A little work is going on in the placers and one company is working six men and cleaning up some gold every week. There are probably 50 men, prospectors and all, in the district and people living in the camp do not look for much more activity than is now shown until spring opens.
-Daily Nevada State Journal, September 5, 1907
ACTIVITY OF OSCEOLA
Mining Expositor, Ely, Nev.
The Gold Bar will double its production this month said Dr. R H Richardson,
President of the company who has been spending the past three weeks at his Osceola properties. "We have not increased our working force and the increased production is due entirely to the fact the five men in our employ are all working in pay gravel. In august we placed a $1000 gold bar in the bank as the result of a months work and next week we will put in another lump
of gold bullion which will be worth about $2000." Practically all the gravel has been taken out of the main working shaft during the three weeks he was at Osceola Dr. Richardson was the guest of Charles W Gaby, the manager of the Gold Bar properties and he spent all the time watching the miners take out the placer gold. Forest Goody who bought the old Cumberland mines about a month ago has struck the richest gold ore ever found at Osceola. He found the rich ore body in a winze on one of the old workings. I never heard what the ore assays e but I was told by a party that streaks of gold could be seen in a chunk of rock. It is said to be the biggest thing ever found at Osceola.
The Cumberland group was worked several years by some eastern capitalists but
through mismanagement and the inefficiency of the men in charge the company
passed into the ahe hands of a receiver. The Salt Lake Hardware Company placed an attachment on a milling plant they had built. Osceola people relocated the group when they failed to do the annual assessment work and sold the properties to Goody.
-Salt Lake Mining Review, October 15, 1907
Lots of snow makes for water in the Spring, but slows the mail.
NEVADA TOWN SNOWBOUND
No Communication WIth Osceola For Week
Special to the Union
Ely (Nev.) Feb 21-- Osceola, in the eastern part of White Pine County, is snowbound and no word has been recevied from there since last week. The mail was due from Osceola last Thursday night, but the carrier failed to arrive. It has been snowing steadily in the Osceola region for several days and there are several feet of snow all through that section of the country. The snow storm which raged throughout White Pine county is the worst this part of the state has experienced in years.
-Sacramento Union, February 22, 1911
STAGES FORSAKEN IN WHITE PINE CO.
Mail from Osceola To Ely Is Now Being Carried on the Backs of Horses
No stage has arrived from Osceola, and the eastern part of the county, since Monday night, though one was due in Ely under the regular schedule on Thursday night. Last night the driver, L.A. Miller, of Garrison, came in on horseback with the mail on a pack horse and left this morning carrying the accumulated mail for Osceola, Blackhorse, and other offices on the route in the same manner. While there are several feet of snow between Garrison and Ely, according to Miller's reports, the delay was due more to waiting at Garrison for the stage from Newhouse, Utah, which connects with the line from Ely there three times a week.- Ely Expositor
-Reno Evening Gazette, February 22, 1911
PLACER MINING AT OSCEOLA
Mining Expositor, Ely, Nev.
Placer mining is taking considerable attention in the Osceola district as the snow on Osceola Mountain is beginning to melt and at the higher elevations the water is just beginning to run. In another week it will be coming with good volume down old Dry Gulch, which was the scene of some remarkable finds in the early days. Following its discovery in 1875
John W Lines, an old timer of the district, has returned and taken up some claims in the upper section of the gulch
where he has been preparing ground in order to take advantage of the water as soon as it begins to come down. C R Starkweather, owner of the Creek Ranch, is interested with him and they hope to take out quite a bunch of nuggets this
spring. There is much virgin ground in the upper part of the gulch and also beds of cement from which some believe the
gold found lower down in the gulch came from. Where it came from before the cement beds were formed has not been
guessed and possibly will never be known, though it is probable the beds will some day be prospected for placer deposits and may yield surprising results. Lower down in the gulch nearer that part of it where nuggets running into the
thousands were found, Tilford brothers are getting ready for the water and believe they have some good ground from which
they will recover a nice bunch of dust and nuggets when they make a cleanup. Clean up in grub gulch down below town Henry
Nicholson, Russel Moyle, and Henry Biscomb have a lease on some of the ground that is owned by the Amalgamated Nevada
Mines company. Moyle and Biscomb are doing the work and they all hope for good results from their efforts. The only lode mining going on in the district at present is by the Boston Nevada company, which has three men working. Forest D Goody President and Manager of the company is expected to arrive from the east in the near future and make arrangements for more extensive operations. Years ago the old cumberland mine now owned by this company was known as the jewelry box and much fine gold ore has been produced from it. Some of the most recent development by the company has opened up very good ore and when the lower tunnel is extended to cut the shoot it is believed the company will have a large body of highgrade that will bring handsome profits when extracted.
-Salt Lake Mining Review, April 30, 1911
There are other minerals that need to be removed besides gold
In the Osceola district more than 300 men are working on the tungsten properties. The Tonopah Mining Company is alone employing 120 men.
-Reno Evening Gazette, January 13, 1916
But gold is what we came here for.
OSCEOLA EXPECTED TO STAGE COMEBACK
"I saw more gold at Osceola than I did in all of Weepah," said a mining engineer who recently inspected the once
famous old white pine county camp, quoting the Ely, Nevada Record. "Osceola has the ore and the water and these
together make ideal conditions for the revival of this old time producer," he added. Henry Nicholson exhibited with pride the other day a bar of gold bullion weighing four ounces and eight penny weights and valued at $70. It was made from a ton and a half exactly of ore taken, without selection from the mine which he and his associates are developing at Osceola. The bullion was extracted in the Willard Creek Mill. The vein which is now being worked is four feet wide. After inspecting the mine on wednesday of this week he said he had never seen it looking better. The vein was discovered lately. Present conditions hold out hope for the production of a good tonnage of high grade milling ore. On the test run from which the bar of bullion was secured the heads assayed 83 and the tails about 23. If the ore was treated in a cyanide plant ninety per cent of the 23 loss could have been saved, so it is evident that a cyanide plant is what will be needed and no doubt will be built later on, when a sufficient quantity of milling ore has been developed to warrant its construction. At the present time Mr. Micholson is planning to install a 10 ton ball mill which with amalgamation should save 65 per cent of the values, leaving 35 per cent in the tailings, which will be stored for treatment later, when a cyanide mill is built. The vein now being worked has been sunk on for a depth of 60 feet and a drift extended 50 feet in ore that averages better than 60 per ton according to Mr. Nicholson, who states that the vein varies in width from two to four feet with the face of the drift still in good ore. The drift is being carried forward without interruption in virgin territory.
-Salt Lake Mining Review, August 30, 1927
We're knee deep in the Depression now.
At Bald Mountain we met a group of 5 placer prospectors from Ely. They were miners who had been thrown out of employment by the closing of the copper mines. They stated that about 100 men were now placer mining at Osceola. Some are working on the west side, others on the east side of the mountain. Water is plentiful, and sluice boxes are used. Fairly good results are obtained, the men average from $1.00 to $5.00 per day in recovered gold. [$18 to $91 in 2017 dollars] A royalty of as much as 50 percent is said to be exacted by some of the claim owners, which probably deters more men from entering the district.
- Northern Nevada Field Trip, Smith, Stoddard, 1932
Still, development and exploration continues.
OSCEOLA MINES BECOME ACTIVE
Ely, Nev. March 29 (Special) Considerable activity is in evidence at Osceola one noted gold mining camp, according to word reaching Ely, and there are about thirty-five men at work there, a few in the shaft operations, but most of them on the old placer fields. Moyle & Baird recently made a run through the Nicholson Mill and Williams and Osborne, leasers have a run going through the mill this week. While no water has yet come down the mountain, warm weather is expected to bring a good run-off that will see intensive placering. Ordinarily, dry-washing is used. A nugget worth fifty dollars was recently found by one of the miners, it is reported here.
-Reno Evening Gazette, March 29, 1933
PLACER MINERS AT OSCEOLA INCREASE WASHING CAPACITY
Placer mining operations are reported to be expanding in scope in the Osceola district, 40 miles southeast of Ely and one of the first productive placer districts in Nevada. A pulsating jig is being added to equipment of a pilot gravel washing plant of the Nevada Production Co. with a capacity of 500 cu. yd. of gravel per day, replacing a 100 ft. sluice and using one-fourth the volume of water. A caterpillar Diesel bulldozer is being operated by the Crebe brothers on property of the Placer Recovery Co, where the plant was said to be handling 75 cu. yds. of gravel per day.
-Nevada State Journal, September 20, 1937
Even in the 1940's they were still poking around.
OSCEOLA PLACERS TESTED BY DRILL
New test drilling operations started last week by a crew in the employ of the General Mines & Engineering Co. of San Francisco. It was the purpose to drill a large number of holes to depths ranging from 100 to 150 ft., and ascertain the value of gravel at bedrock.
-Nevada State Journal, July 8, 1940
Osceola burns. In 1947.
BLAZE RAZES OSCEOLA CAMP
Mining Community Gutted By Fire
Landmark town of OSceola Spring Valley mining camp at one time among the leading gold and silver producers of eastern Nevada was razed by a fire today. The flames destroyed all houses in the near ghost town but one, and the owner of the house saved was seriously burned trying to save it. Lee Marriot was the resident who was seriously burned. The extent of his injuries had not been fully determined. Glenn Duncan, fire supervisor for this area of the grazing service, reported that buildings in Osceola caught fire this morning when a range fire spread into the community. The fire was reported under control at 2PM. Mr. Marriot reportedly was trapped in a building while fighting the fire. Osceola once was a large, roaring mining camp important at the turn of the century. It had gone down-grade and ore there has been depleted. Only minor placer operations are being conducted there now.
-Nevada State Journal, July 3, 1947