Thompson Smelter

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Lyon County

There was a lot of excitement generated from the big copper strikes in Mason Valley in the early 1900's. There was also a lot of excitement about the anticipated opening of the smelter. Although the smelter wouldn't be completed and opened until late 1911 or early 1912, news of the smelter was being reported as early as 1909. An article from the Yerington Times on November 13, 1909 read, "News Plans for Mason Valley- Preliminary Work of Grading and Well-Boring on Gunn-Thompson Smelter Site Near Wabuska Started Friday Morning." It was also reported in November that the Copper Belt Railroad had completed track to the Thompson Smelter site. Construction supplies were being delivered. They were expecting completion of the Nevada Copper Belt Railroad track to Nordyke by December of 1909, and to Smith Valley by February of 1910. On February 11, 1911, the Yerington Times reported that a telegraph line was being run from Wabuska to Hudson. As soon as that line was completed, "a wire will be run to the new smelter town of Thompson." Articles continued to appear in newspapers all over the state in 1911. To include the Carson Daily Appeal and the White Pine News. Newspapers ran headlines such as: "Mason Valley Smelter Well Under Construction" and "Thompson Town and Smelter Progress". By April of 1911, the Nevada-Douglas Mine was getting ready to produce ore as soon as the track was completed to the mine, and the smelter was ready to receive ore. Other copper mining operations were also making plans to ship ore to Thompson as soon as the smelter was completed. By May, a twenty-room lodging house was being built to provide rooms to those that the newly constructed hotel couldn't accommodate. A store and three new homes were also being built. A tennis court at Thompson and several large projects at the smelter had already been completed. Newspapers continued to print large stories about the progress of the smelter through the rest of 1911. They also reported on the growth of the actual town of Thompson. On July 11, 1911, a Yerington Times article included the line, "No doubt of the permanency of that town." This was very common in those days. Newspapers often reported glowing reviews of a new boom town. Probably to bring attention and interest to the area. But like an overwhelming majority of Nevada towns and camps built around the mining industry, there would be no permanency to Thompson. By July, it was being reported that the smelter was expected to open in November. The railroad was also laying the last ten miles of track to Ludwig and the Nevada-Douglas Mine. 45 steel cars for hauling ore had been ordered and were enroute from Pittsburgh. The machinery was also being installed at the smelter. The smokestack which was said to be 200-feet tall and contained over 1,000,000 bricks, was almost finished. It was said to be the largest smokestack in Nevada. On October 31, 1911, the Yerington times headline read: "The Copper Belt Drives Last Spike- Is Now Prepared To Handle Ore and Produce From Mason Valley". The article also reported a December 1st opening for the smelter. I believe this meant that the smelter was ready to receive and store ore, but not necessarily ready to process it. On December 1st, the Nevada-Douglas mine sent a few carloads of ore to the smelter by way of the now completed Nevada Copper Belt Railroad. The Nevada-Douglas had a contract with the smelter to provide 333 tons of ore per day, or 10,000 tons per month. On or near New Year's Day of 1912, the furnace was finally blown in at the smelter. It has the capacity to process 800 tons of ore per day and was expected to produce 12,000,000 pounds of copper per year. After all of the anticipation. After all of the newspaper articles that reported on the progress of the smelter, once it finally opened, I didn't find very many. A headline in the Tonopah Bonanza on January 16, 1912 read: "New Smelter At Thompson Said To Be Doing Good Work- Everything In Connection With the New $1,000,000 Mason Valley Plant Is Working Beautifully". It appeared that the smelter stayed busy receiving ore from several mines. This also included slag from the dumps at Sodaville. On October 24, 1914, a Yerington Times headline read: "Fires Drawn In Mason Valley Smelting Plant." The article reported that the smelter had closed. Many employees had already left the area. One line read, "It was not a pleasant site to see the fires in the big plant go out, and it is devoutly to be hoped that conditions will soon attain that will allow of the resumption of operations." A letter was also published from President W.H. Aldridge of the Mason Valley Mines Company to the stockholders. Aldridge stated that low copper prices and canceled shipments of ore from several mines that were under contract were the reason for the closure. I have found articles that speak about the smelter reopening in 1917. This coincides with the information provided by Stan Paher. I have not yet read those articles from 1917 forward. Paher stated that smelter shut down again in 1919. Paher also stated that the smelter operated on a smaller level between 1926 and 1928. It did not run again after 1928, and was eventually dismantled.

Post Office: (Thompson) June 28, 1911 to June 30, 1920.

Last Trip/ Road Conditions: November 2013. The road past the town to the smelter is good. At least it was when we went.

Sources: Nevada Post Offices- An Illustrated History (By: James Gamett & Stanley W. Paher); Yerington Times (Newspaper); Carson Daily Appeal (Newspaper): White Pine News (Newspaper); Tonopah Daily Bonanza (Newspaper); Pioche Record (Newspaper); Churchill County Standard (Newspaper); Walker Lake Bulletin (Newspaper); Goldfield News (Newspaper); Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps (By: Stanley W. Paher).