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Ophir- Murphy Mill

Nye County

See the page for Ophir Canyon as well... The additional discoveries made by John Murphy and his associates in 1864 would later be known as the Murphy Mine/ Murphy Ledge. It would be the dominant mining force in Ophir for many years. Later that year, R.B. Canfield and the Twin River Mining Company obtained the mine. Construction of the 20-stamp Murphy Mill began in 1865. On November 22, 1865, the Reese River Reveille reported: "The mill upon the Murphy seems to be progressing finely. Two large California teams with twelve tons of machinery therefor stopped here last night, and intend to unload at the mine to-night- Nov. 18th...." By late Spring of 1866, as the snow melted, mining and prospecting picked up. One newspaper line read "We are also informed that work is going ahead on the mill and mine of the Murphy company..." At a cost of $200,000, it was finally completed by the Fall of 1866. By June of 1867, the mill was only running at half capacity. Yet it was still processing about $1,000 worth of ore per day. In November of 1867, the total production for the prior twelve-month period was reported at $363,190. The mill also holds at least one significant claim to fame in mining history. It was the first to have a Stedefeldt Furnace installed. On January 18, 1868, the Belmont Silver Bend Reporter wrote: "The Stedefeldt Furnace- We are informed by Frank Seeley that on Saturday last, at the Murphy Mill in Ophir Canyon, the first trial was had of the newly invented roasting furnace of Mr. Stedefeldt. About two tons of pulp was passed through the furnace in two hours and twenty minutes, after which it assayed 82 per cent. The furnace is pronounced a perfect success, and will no doubt supplant those now in common use..." But as the story goes, major issues began to surface. Dense rock made it difficult to work the mine. Ore was also difficult to process. It took 2,500 hours of labor to sink a single ten-foot shaft. Dividends were not being paid and stockholders stopped investing capital. On October 29, 1868, the Gold Hill Daily News reported: "Bad Business- We were informed yesterday that the Twin River Company, which owns a superb mill of 20 stamps capacity and the famous Murphy mine at Ophir Canyon, in Nye county, about 55 miles south of Austin, has declared itself bankrupt." From this point forward, the mine went inactive for a period of time. By June of 1872 it was being reported that upgrades were being conducted on the mill. 30 men were working in the mine and a good body of ore had been discovered. In August of 1872, the Gold Hill Daily News reported that the mine was now under the control of Hill Beachey and other San Francisco capitalists. For those of you who are unaware of Hill Beachey, I will give the short version. He was one of the more prominent freight and stage road/route builders in the west. When mining districts opened up in remote areas, he built roads and routes that connected them to major supply hubs. For example, he built the Beachey freight and stage route that connected the large railroad town of Elko to the booming White Pine District in the late 1860's. (See the Huntington Valley page). After this period, production at the mine again slowed. The company began to lease out its holdings starting in the late 1870's through 1885. Newspaper articles during this period are almost non-existent (or maybe I just couldn't find them). In 1885, a leaser made a rich discovery. This gave new life to the mine. The Chicago Mining and Reduction Company (which may have been a new name given to the old company) began revamping the mine in 1886. On March 14, 1886, the Eureka Daily Sentinel reported "The Chicago Mining and Reduction Company, Ophir Canyon, are pushing the work of development steadily in their mine, which continues to improve with every stroke of the pick. The mill is running and doing good work." Ore was assaying between $800 and $3,000 a ton. By April of 1886, plans were made to bring the 10-stamp Prussian Mill from Jefferson (see Jefferson page) to Ophir to increase the mill capacity to 30 stamps. By May, the Murphy was employing every man available. Employees were needed, but this came with a warning. The Eureka Daily Sentinel stated: "We would advise miners not to rush in there too fast as there is not work for everyone that comes along... Ophir is a live and prosperous camp, but it is not large enough to supply work for all the unemployed in the State of Nevada." By 1886 and into 1887, reports stated that Ophir was hitting its most prosperous period ever. And as the story goes, troubles came again. By August of 1887, the Chicago Company was in debt. Shawn Hall stated that operations were suspended by December. In August of 1887, the Reese River Reveille wrote: "The Chicago Mining and Reduction Company at Ophir Canyon intend hereafter to pay off their employees and all indebtedness with silver certificates..." By September of 1888, a man named L.J. Hanchett of Austin filed suit against the company for $32,775 in unpaid bills. Mainly for his services in providing mining supplies and wood for the furnaces. Stan Paher stated that the revival was over by 1890. Small revivals would occur at Ophir after the 20th century. But nothing that would ever equal the great Nevada mining giant that it once was.

Last Trip/ Road Conditions: The last trip was in July 2017. This road is always rough. I highly suggest four-wheel drive. Quads are even better. We tried going up to the townsite in early February of 2015. There is a tight curve below the mill and town. Add in February snow. Then throw in my four-wheel drive going out. Getting my truck backed out of that curve was a serious endeavor. Definitely one of the worst back country situations that I have ever been in. We never got to Ophir on that trip. I’ve been there several other times though. It is at the top of my favorites list.

Sources: Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps (By: Stanley W. Paher); Preserving the Glory Days- Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of Nye County, Nevada (By: Shawn Hall); History of Nevada 1881 (Thompson & West); Nevada Place Names- A Geographical Dictionary (By: Helen S. Carlson); USGS MRDS Reports- 10173461 Murphy Mine; 10044392 Murphy Mine: Reese River Reveille (Newspaper); Belmont Silver Bend Reporter (Newspaper); Gold Hill Daily News (Newspaper); Pioche Daily Record (Newspaper); Eureka Daily Sentinel (Newspaper); Lyon County Times (Newspaper); Elko Independent (Newspaper); White Pine News (Newspaper).

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