As the story goes, the once booming mining community of Tonopah owes its existence to a wayward burro (a “burro” is small donkey, especially used as a pack animal in the southwestern U.S.). One of prospector Jim Butler’s animals had wandered off during the night and sought shelter near a rock outcropping. When Butler located the burro the next morning and picked up a rock to throw at the rebel animal, he noticed the rock was exceptionally heavy, and that rock turned out to be from the second richest silver strike in Nevada history.
However, Tonopah suffered the typical booms and disasters that most mining towns do, but unlike many of its similar, it never emptied enough to receive ghost town status. Now It’s no metropolis, of course, but it have along with a population a little over 1,200 and like any town it does have its ghosts. Most of them reside at the Old Tonopah Cemetery.
Old Tonopah Cemetery was founded May 7, 1901 with the burial of John Randel Weeks (his body was moved to the new cemetery in 1911) and served the city until April 1911 when the number of dead outgrew the tiny piece of land, and the growing town required a new cemetery. So, a new site was opened a mile west of town.
Only one person has been interred in the old cemetery since it’s closure: he is Mr. Coombs in 1996 by his request.
Many of Tonopah’s pioneer resident are buried in the old cemetery which contains over 300 bodies. Among them are many victims of the mysterious 1902 “Tonopah Plague”, the cause of which still remains a mystery and it claimed the lives of over 30 men, causing a mass exodus from the area.
Other eternal residents include some fourteen miners who fell victim to the Tonopah-Belmont Mine Fire of February 23, 1911. Even if it seems that the Belmont Mine was Tonopah’s second richest producer and one of the most modern and well equipped in the state, the cause of the disastrous fire was never determined. It began at 5:30 a.m.: Mike Kuliache was bringing timbers down the shaft when he smelled smoke at the 355-meters level. Shift boss Frank Burke asked to send several timber men through the Desert Queen shaft. The night hoist operator went off duty at 7 a.m. turning it over to a less experienced man. The last survivors said there were still men below, but rules stated the cage should only be lowered in response to a signal and there was none. The fire took 17 lives.
They were some of the last persons to be buried here. Among them Big Bill Murphy who died saving miners at age 28 and a tin plate on a wooden gravestone reads “died while saving others”, or Nye County Sheriff Thomas Logan, killed in a shoot-out in a Manhattan bordello.
Of course many believe that the cemetery is haunted, and interested ghostbusters should inquire with the owner of the Clown Motel which is just next door. However, according to locals, the Mizpah Hotel and Silver Rim Elementary School are thought to be more actively haunted!
Images from Web.