The story by Sally Zanjani relates to an unprecedented economic activity pertaining to that precious commodity—gold! High profits and high drama are the highlights of that unique event in the history of District Goldfield (named later). Sally sets the tone for the story in the first sentence of the book, which kindles and sustains the curiosity of the reader. She writes, “The wind was raging as Harry Stimler and William Marsh drove their buckboard south from Tonopah that December day1902. They’d found out the hard way that they’d never get rich working leases in the Tonopah mines. To cash in on the real money, you had to be first on the ground in a new strike.”(Zanjani, 1992, p.1)
Part I of the book has four chapters on the development of the mines, viz. Tom Fisherman’s gold-the discovery 1901-02, Al Myer’s gold-the early years, 1903-1905, Vincent St. John’s gold-the boom year-1906, and George Wingfield’s gold-the decline, 1907-1910. In a decade, the gluttons of the gold rush had almost empted the gold-ore, from the womb of Earth. As the gold prospects turned bright, claims and counterclaims resulted in a brief stampede occurred in May 1903, but it soon resulted in the formation of the Gold District organized and supervised by thirty six enthusiasts. Initially, the area was littered with tents. Within four years, it was a full-fledged District. Within a decade abrupt fall in gold production had begun. The trend continued, but Goldfield survives today. It has a scanty population; you can still see the remarkable buildings like Goldfield Hotel and the old jail, which remind you of the boom days. Goldfield’s mining production through 1960 has been estimated at around $90 million,
Part II of the book consisting 8 chapters and an additional chapter, ‘The End of the Last Gold Rush’ gives interesting details about the social life of a District in the making, peopled by all adventurous traders in search of gold and trade related to gold. How Gold -fielders enjoyed a variety of amusements- such as lightweight boxing championships, excellent restaurants, movie, traveling theatrical companies, the Montezuma Club etc.
The people of Goldfield celebrated every holiday with pomp and fanfare culminating in the Fourth of July, 1907.Events like an “All Fools Carnival”, delighted the audience.
The chapter, ‘The power to rule or Ruin,’ gives account of how such a brisk and rewarding economic activity gives rise to interplay between enlivened political interests.
The darker side of the life also needs a mention. The people of goldfield went through a period untold suffering due to repeated attacks of pneumonia and influenza (also mentioned as black plague) from 1904 to 1907 that took a heavy toll.
A well written book! It details facts about ‘a real sense of life and death in a gold rush town that flashed and faded early in this century!’
Zanjani, Sally: Book: Goldfield: The Last Gold Rush On The Western Frontier:
Publisher: Swallow Press (September 1, 1992) ISBN-10: 0804009619