The Founder of Tonopah
As the new century bloomed in 1900, the state of Nevada was the subject of jokes and derision. The Comstock Mine had given out 20 years prior, and experts believed there was no more wealth beneath her desert soils.
Jim Butler, the district attorney of Nye County and a rancher of modest means, lived in Belmont with his wife Belle. He befriended the Native Americans in the area, who told him of a place called Tonopah they believed to be rich in minerals. That May, Butler found his way to Tonopah and spent a chilly night. The next morning, legend has it, he picked up a rock to hurtle at his runaway burro and noticed it was unusually heavy.
When it turned out to be silver ore, Butler and his friend (and future Nevada governor) Tasker Oddie filed eight claims on what would become the west's second-wealthiest strike. For the first five years of its existence, the mining camp that quickly became a boom town was known as Butler. It wasn't until 1905 that Tonopah became its official name.
Meanwhile, Jim Butler and his friends extracted what they could from the ground before selling the operation to an east coast conglomerate who brought in modern equipment, and kept the mines prosperous for nearly 40 years.
Jim and Belle lived the rest of their lives in comfort, and are immortalized in bronze statues downtown.