The Bullfrog District was organized in 1904 after discoveries by Frank "Shorty" Harris and Eddie Cross. Early the next year, a townsite was platted and the town began to form. The Las Vegas and Tonapah Railroad reached the town by 1906 and by 1907 it had a population of 6,000. The San Francisco Earthquake in April of 1906 and the financial panic that followed in 1907 held bring the demise of the mines, particularly the Montgomery-Shoshone, the only one that actually amounted to much. By 1910 only 700 people remained.
Rhyolite the Latest
A new town called Rhyolite has been laid out at the foot of Ladd Mountain in the Bullfrog District by N.M. Simons, Sol Camp, and Percy Stanley. Mr. Simons who is in town this week says that Rhyolite is destined to become a big city some day.
-Tonopah Bonanza, January 14, 1905
Mixing alcohol and frenzied mining speculation results in this sort of thing.
JAMES SIMPSON IS MORTALLY WOUNDED
Special To The Gazette
GOLDFIED, Nevada Jan. 27
Jas. Simpson, manager of the Bullfrog Mining Company, one of the heaviest claim owners in the Bullfrog district, was shot and mortally wounded at Rhyollite by Tom Shipe, a prospector, today. Simpson is still alive but he is expcted hourly to die as the ball passed through his abdomen, inflicting a terrible wound. The two men had an argument last night and Shipe loaded up on whiskey and hunted down Simpson, whom he shot without warning. Simpson was unarmed as he was a man of peaceable disposition and had no intimation that Shipe intended to kill him. (James Simpson is not known here but there is a Reno man named Joseph Simpson in the Bullfromg District. He formerly conducted the Turtle Restuarant and his friends fear that he is the victim of the assassin's bullet.)
-Reno Gazette Journal, January 27, 1905
You'll be happy to learn that Mr. Simpson survived the ordeal. Shipe, however, was found not guilty and went on to assault someone else and was also found not guilty.
By now, people were pretty confident in the town's future.
RHYOLITE'S GREAT FUTURE
It Will Iltimately Surpass The Expectations of Its Warmest Friends
There are many examples of the wonderful energy of the people who follow the mining industry in this state, but no place furnishes a more striking one than does Rhyolite, the busy little city situated in the extreme northern edge of the Amargosa Desert. Rhyollite can boast and justly of three water systems, owned by as many companies, which furnish both business and residence sections with a fine water, in ample quantities, as can be found in any desert town in the state. Wood and stone builedings line its broad streets. Unremitting care is exercised to keep the whole town in good sanitary conditions. Hotel accommodations are ample at the present time, and in the near future Rhyolite will have a stone hotel building that wil be the envy of all the Southern Nevada camps.
-Tonopah Bonanza, July 28, 1906
It's getting a school
Rhyolite's New School
The new Rhyolite school house will be completed by February 1.
-Tonopah Bonanza, January 27, 1906
Might as well get a new jail, too
Camp of Rhyolite is to Have a New $7,000 Jail
The construction of the building will commence immediately and when completed it will cost in the neighborhood of $7000. Three railroads are now building into Rhyolite and on account of the multitude of undesirable characters in the mining camp, the officers have found it neccessary to ask for a larger and stronger jail
-Reno Gazette Journal, January 11, 1907
In 1909 certain elements attempted to make a new county, named Bullfrog, with Rhyolite as the country seat. They failed in their attempt.
BEATTY ASKS DIVISION BILL BE KILLED
Says That Rhyolite Has Not Kept Its Word and that Billis for the Purpose Of Selling Real Estate
The following is from the Beatty Bullfrog Miner, publishes in Beatty, and shows how the county division measure is viewed by those who are not interested in a town lot in Rhyolite, and are not aspirants to some county office. That the affiar is a gigantic graft scheme is certain and the Miner asks the Legislature to kill the bill. Nye county division bill has at last been introduced in the assembly by Mr. Kane of Rhyolite. The Tonopah Bonanza says the opposition is so strong that defeat is certain. Senator Tallman and the assemblyman from Rhyolite are the only supporters of the bill in the Nye delegation. Bullfrog is the name of the new proposed county. The business is to be rushed so Rhyolite can get the cuonty seat before the balance of the town goes to Pioneer and Springdale. The bill is to make Rhyolite the county seat immediately.
- Tonopah Bonanza February 13, 1909
Like any Nevada town, Rhyolite was no stranger to fire.
BIG FIRE AT RHYOLITE
Rhyolite as startled at 7:45 o'clock this morning by one of the msot spectacular and disasterous fires in the history of the city, resulting in the total destruction of the Rhyolite Ice and Cold Storage Company's plant, about a quarter mile from the center of the city.A refrigerator car belongingto the Las Vegas and Tonopah railroad, standing on a side track beside the plant, was destroyed, as was also a residence building belongoingto Daniel New, the owner of the ice plant. The total loss is estimated at over $10,000.
=Reno Gazette Journal, August 16, 1909
Things are winding down now...
RHYOLITE'S OFFICE DISCONTINUED
WASHINGTON BUREAU OF THE TIMES
The post office at Rhyolite, Nev., has been ordered discontinued, December 15. Mail for this office will go to Beatty.
-Los Angeles Times, November 0, 1913
It's no longer profitable to run trains here.
FIGURES TELL OLD CAMP'S FINISH
Railroads Built To Take Care Of Rhyolite and Bullfrog's Traffic In Boom Days Now Serve Deserted Hamlets
Mines Hoped For Never Found So Cities of 15,000 Became Villages of 150 and Station of Amargosa Is No More
The rise and fall of Rhyolite, the Bullfrog District, Beatty, and Amargosa, which blossomed at the time of the Goldfield boom in 1907, but began to fade within a year, was told in figures of freight receipts and tonnage this morning in the court room of Judge Moran, where Henry Thurtell, examiner for the interstate commerce commission, is taking testimony in the cases involving rates on commodities used by smelting and milling companies in these sections.
Struggle For Existence
It has been a hard struggle for existence during the last few years, officials say,but conditions are improving and the carriers are now just about able to make both ends meet. The railroads are offering testimony to show that their revenues have been reduced as a result of orders of the state revenue commission. The Las Vegas & Tonopah and the Bullfrog-Goldfield Railroads,which effected a consolidation only a few months ago, gave, through testimony of officials and by exhibits, a detailed story of the roads that were constructed to handle the business of three thriving communities of from 5,000 to 15,000 population, told of the business handled during the early days of Beatty, Rhyolite, and Amargosa, when freight receipts amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars and shipments of freight were reckoned in the thousands of tons. These roads today, consolidated, serve the same three towns, but Beatty has a population of approximately 150 people, Rhyolite has less than 100 souls, and Amargosa is a deserted station.How the receipts declined from 1909 until 1912, when they reached so low a level that it was impossible to guarantee the running of trains at all, because absolute bedrock had been reached, was another feature brought out by the testimony at this morning's hearing.
-Reno Gazette Journal, February 10, 1915
Only a couple of people living here now....
RHYOLITE'S TAKES PLACE AMONG GHOST TOWNS OF THE BLOOMING WEST
Rhyolite, once a thriving center of the Bullfrog mining boom of fourteen years ago, has taken its place among the "ghost towns" of the west. A Mrs. Dyer, proprietor of the Rhyolite Hotel and her son are the only permanent residents. In the height of its popularity, Rhyolite claimed a population of between 7,00 and 8,00 and was the center of a thriving region. Severla buldings and substantial homes were constructed. With the decline of the Montogmery-Shoshone and other mines controlled by the Schwab steel interests, the prosperity of Rhyolite disappeared and now the wolves howl where once there was life and activity.
-Great Falls Tribune, December 26, 1920
Things are in such a sad state
RHYOLITE DEPOT TO BE AUCTIONED
Tonopah (Special to the Gazeette) One more nail in the coffin that holds the memories of the Rhyolite boom will be driven home when L.E. Glass, cleark of Nye county, sells the depot of the former Las Vegas and Tonopah railroad at Rhyolite for taxes amounting to $81. The station at the time of its dedication was known as the handsomest and most costly railroad station in the whole state of Nevada. It was erected at the cost of $50,000, of concrete blocks with cement flooring with a porte cochere [A porte-cochère, coach gate or carriage porch is a covered porch-like structure at a main or secondary entrance to a building through which originally a horse and carriage and today a motor vehicle can pass to provide arriving and departing occupants protection from the elements. - FN] for shielding occupants of automobiles arriving or departing from the station from sun or rain. The design was of the Mission style and the roof was of red Spanish tiling. The doors and window frams have been removed but the hardwood floor of the ladies waiting room is polished to a dazzling hue by the white sands of the desert sweeping through the building. Somebody has made application to the county to be permitted to buy the structure or as much of it as they choose to remove and a special sale have been announced. For the past seven years the property tax has appeared in the delinquent tax list without eliciting a bid.
-Reno Gazette Journal, January 31, 1923
PIONEER PURCHASES RHYOLITE DEPOT FOR SENTIMENT
Tonopah (Special) Mrs. Foss, one of the pioneers of Rhyolite bid in the old Las Vegas and Tonopah railroad depot at the Ghost city for the sum of $205 in competition with two other bidders who wanted the building to dismantle and sell the material. Mrs. Foss says she is going to let the edifice rmain where it is without removing s tick or stone to that it will always endure as a monument to the brave men who established the city of Rhyolite at the very threshold of Death Valley.
-Reno Gazette Journal, February 22, 1923
There's always an optimist out there
RHYOLITE ACTIVE SAY PROSPECTORS
Rhyolite promises tocome back, according to men from the southern end of Nye county. For some time past, they say, an organized buying movement has been perceptible with money coming from Eastern and Coast sources. One of these buyers remarked sagaciously that Rhyolite has not been scratched in the early days and was abandoned in a panic.
-Reno Gazette Journal, July 16, 1923
JOHN T. OVERBURY, FOUNDER OF RHYOLITE, CRUSHED TO DEATH
PRMINENT NEVADA MINING OPERATOR LOSES LIFE IN ACCIDENT
Henry Weber, Early Resident of Goldfield, Badly Hurt When Car Turns Over
TONOPAH (Special) The accident occurred some time before 1 o'clock this morning.Weber was found unconcious a mile from the wreck, It is beleived he attempted to make his way to Tonopah to summon aid for his dying companion but collapsed on the road. Overbury was pinned under the heavy automobile and he died shortly after the accident. Overbury was the founder and leading spirit of Rhyollite in the halcyon days of that famous camp. He erected the "Overbury building" which was the first three story steam-heated structure in the camp.
-Reno Gazette Journal, August 25, 1923
HIS CITY IS A GHOST BUT HE'S BURIED THERE
Tonopah (Special) The remains of John Trumbull Overbury were laid to rest thsi afternoon in the thinkly populated cemetary of the Ghost Cirty of Rhyolite in whose activities eighteen years ago he took a prominent part.
-Reno Gazette Journal, August 30, 1923
Not quite dead...
RHYOLITE NOW HAS A "MOVIE" BOOM
The streets of Rhyolite are once more alive with people, according to W.J. Tobin of Pioneer, who arrived in Goldfield last week. But the rejuvenation of the famous old town is only temporary. It has been brought about by the Famous Players-Laskey Corporation which is filming a picture to be known as "The Air Mail." Sixty-five of teh Hollywood colony are living in the town and natives for miles around make daily trips to see the stars perform. When the movie people entered Rhyolite three weeks ago, there was only one inhabitant in the town, Goerge Bowen, who is leasing the old Senator Stewart property. The desterd stone buildings were delapitated from years of neglect. The movie people repaired the handsome school house, which now has the appearance of a first class hotel. Once of the school rooms has been converted intoa dining room, and another is being used as a kitchen. The second story of the building is furnished for living quarters. Many of the players live in one of the church buildings, and some are in the famous house built of bottles. The bottle house will appear prominently in the picture.
-Yerington Times, January 28, 1925
OK, so now the town is dead. Completely dead. Oh wait.
Ghost Casino at Rhyolite Opens October 1
Redecorated and refinished as the "Ghost Casino," the historic old railroad depot at Rhyolite will open as one of Southern Nevada's most elaborate night clubs October 1, Wes Moreland, the new owner, announced today. Moreland said more than $10,000 has been spent in converting the old depot into a modern entertainment spot. A gala opening night is planned and Southern California celebrities will be invited to attend.
-Reno Gazette Journal, September 20, 1937
A change of ownership
Ghost City Casino at Rhyolite Open
Burton A "Slim" Riggs of Beatty has taken over operation of the Ghost City Casino at Rhyolite and he and Mrs. Riggs will operate is under the names "Slim and Velma." Opening night will be Friday, July 16, and after that date Mrs. Riggs will make a specialty of serving "reservation" dinners. The Rhyolite Casino has been a popular place for many years and draws a big tourist package.
-Reno Gazette Journal, July 16, 1948
Still going despite some nefarious activities
Prisoner Does Vanishing Act From Nye Jail
Robert "Bob" Thomas, 50, leading figure in recent court activities here following his arrest with two companions, whi it was alleged were operating an unlicnsed gambling game in the Ghost Casino at Rhyolite, near Beatty, walked out of a Tonopah police station on July 23 and disappeared. Mr. Thomas, who had been doing some painting for Police Chief Honicutt at the police station, had proved a model prisoner and was glad to do little jobs for his jailers to "kill" time. A lose tab had always been kept on him while he was working but there was a slipup somewhere and Mr.Thomas merely vanished. It is believed he obtained a ride to Ely. He has not been found.
-Reno Gazette Journal, August 2, 1948
What? It's STILL going?
RHYOLITE MAY BE TELEVISED
Hollywooders Set Up Equipment
They're thinking about putting the old ghost town of Rhyolite on the television in the near future, according to information coming from Beatty. First steps in this direction were taken a short time ago when technicians from the Don Lee studios of Hollywood set up movie equipment at Rhyolite where they filmed the historic ruins of what was once a thriving community, and boom mining camp in southern Nevada. At the time of the boom the town had a population of several thousand persons. Today the only live spot in Rhyolite is the Ghost Casino, operated by a Los Angeles couple which occupies the famous depot on that Rhyolite town.
-Nevada State Journal, April 8, 1951
The movie "The Island" (2005) starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi also used Rhyolite as a location. as have many other movies.
OK, so dead now, right?
Rhyolite: From ghost town to gay town
A Reno-based homosexual group says it will buy Rhyolite, Nev. and turn it from a ghost town to a gay town. Stonewall Park Inc. announced a national fund-raising campaign to build America's first city "oriented toward the gay and lesbian lifestyle." Organizer Fred Schoonmaker said the firs 50 to 75 "pioneer" residents would live in cabins outside the turn of the century gold town located near Death Valley. The gay trailblazers will be followed by apartments, condominiums, stores, casinos, and up to 20,000 residents, he predicted. About 15 people now live in Rhyolite, which once boasted three railroads, 6,000 residents, three daily newspapers, and elegant buildings with marbled staircases and mahogany railings. News of the possible gay buyout surprised Earl Gregory, owner of the Red Barn Antique Shop, housed in one of the town's three buildings. "I'd be strictly against something like that," Gregory said. Local politicians were even less happy with the proposal. "I don't think we want that kind of community in our county and I personally am very upset at the idea," said Ny County Commissioner Robert Revert. "This isn't San Francisco."
-Reno Gazette Journal, October 10, 1986
Apparently this dream was thwarted
RHYOLITE: Dreams of transforming this duty desert ghost town into a gay community have died after promoters of the project were able to raise only $100 of the $2.25 million asking price. Schoonmaker did not have a telephone number listed in Reno and an operator said the Reno Telephone number for Stonewall Park had been disconnected.
-The Napa Register, December 17, 1986
1987 was not the time, and Nevada was not the place for this sort of venture.
Gay-resort developer faces new enemies
A 44-year old former casino worker, Fred Schoonmaker, originally intended to take over the ghost town of Rhyolite, near Beatty, then abandoned that location for the Mill City site, 138 miles northeast of Reno. The abandoned goat ranch is right outside rancher Bill Dale's window. "I don't want them (gay people) on my property. I don't want nothing to do with them," Dale said. "I've never seen one (a gay person) that I know of. I'm 67 years old and I won't put up with a bunch of bull." Schoonmaker envisions the growth of a small town with gay-owned banks, shops, and gas stations. The enterprise would be supported by gay tourists who would come to gamble in the town's casinos.
-Reno Gazette Journal, February 17, 1987
For an almost day by day, blow by blow history, you can check out the timeline at the Friends of Rhyolite website.