Friday, July 13, 2018

Candelaria Ghost Town Anniversary

On Sunday, June 24th 2018 Jim and I celebrated our first year of marriage and I would wager a bet that no one reading this has celebrated an anniversary in quite the same manner that we did.

Neither of us are great romantics nor do we have grand expectations when it comes to birthdays or anniversaries so making plans to celebrate our first full year together was easy. We didn't really plan it and we just let it happen.

We had already decided to head out to our favorite place in Nevada, the ghost town of Aurora, before we realized that our stay would include our anniversary.  We had already spent two full days running around the sagebrush and kicking up dust in our side-by-side and had decided that we were going to run over to the ghost town of Candelaria, NV sooner or later.

Candelaria is a small spot on a dusty rock road about 60 miles northwest of Tonopah, NV. If you've never been to Nevada I will describe it briefly for you.  The sun shines constantly, the air is brutally dry and the wind blows relentlessly.  That being said, I can barely describe to you the misery that lays itself upon you as you drive through the barren sandy valleys that are lined in every direction by rocky and equally barren mountain ranges.

There are very few trees and the ones you see are limited to the tiny deteriorating towns that are stumbled upon as you travel east across the high desert of Nevada. I come from Iowa and Nebraska where every yard is lush and green so this is quite startling to me.

You would think by this description that I loathe Nevada but the truth is that I love the high desert as long as I'm on the western edge of it romping among the lush Sierra Nevadas. If you take me too far into the interior of the state I soon suffocate in the barren loneliness of the mountains and sagebrush and I find it quite amazing that there are people who settle there and call it home.

When the morning of June 24th started, Jim asked me if I would like to go to Candelaria for our anniversary instead of hanging around Hawthorne, NV where our RV was parked.  I was interested in this since I knew that Jim's family had some history in Candelaria but there was one bit of business that I wanted to attend to first.

The day before when as we headed into Aurora I had caught a glimpse of a bright and beautiful yellow flower along the side of the road. Jim is alway patient and eager to pull over and let me photograph a flower for as long as I like but I didn't ask him to stop, instead I told him that there was a flower that I wanted to stop and photograph on the way back.

By the time we returned that afternoon, the blazing desert sun had caused the flower to close, wilt and look like a pitiful mess.  I took pictures of it anyway but I was sad that I'd missed the opportunity to photograph this gorgeous flower and since it was apparent that the flower blooms in the night and closes when the heat of the day arrives, I'd asked Jim if we could return early the next day to get a shot of this flower. Mind you that this area is 30 miles into the mountains from where our RV is parked where he roads are so rough that we rarely exceed 25 miles per hour when traveling there and much of the roads are designated as 4x4 only.

When we woke up on our anniversary, Jim asked if I'd like to have lunch in Candelaria and I eagerly agreed but asked if he'd be willing to drive me into the mountains to take a picture of the elusive yellow flower I'd seen the day before. He graciously obliged me and I'm happy to say I was able to spend several moments with this wildflower.

Smooth Stem Blazing Star
I like to think of this flower as "Our Flower" because I took it's picture on our anniversary and went to great lengths to get the shots. Basically, it took 2 hours of travel and a terrible amount of dirt and dust to get a picture of the ditch weed I would come to know as the "Smooth Stem Blazing Star".

I only found one or two of these blooms so I felt quite lucky to have captured this elusive plant only to find two weeks later upon our return that the entire area was covered with these yellow flowers.  I felt a little silly for taking us so far out of the way to take the pictures when the hillsides would be covered with them in the following weeks but to tell the truth, it was worth the effort.

On our way to find Candelaria, we wondered around the ghost town of Columbus which was one of the saddest spots I've ever driven around. I kept seeing what looked like tufts of soft fuzziness and I finally asked Jim to stop. I took my camera out expecting to see nothing but what I discovered were these thorn covered cactus.  Not the soft fuzzy plant I was expecting to photograph but amazing to see nonetheless.

We had gone around the mountain from south side and after a long bumpy and slow ride, we came to a gate. We felt tired and defeated and hungry and I wanted to call the day a bust and head back to the RV but Jim wasn't done exploring. Due to the narrowness of the road and the high rocks on either side, Jim had to back out a great amount of the way. To get off the road ran the risk of putting a hole in a tire and trust me, help would not be coming soon since there was absolutely no traffic on these roads and we hadn't had cell service for over an hour.

We drove back around the mountain and tried to find Candelaria from the other side (the touristy side) and found success.  There were very few structures remaining in the town and most of the mill was gone except for the lava rock foundations seen here.
Lava Rock remains of the Candelaria Silver Ore Mill

When you enter a ghost town, there are very few bricks remaining even though there may have been several brick buildings when the town was in it's glory.  When a gold or silver town would boom, they would build brick buildings and then when the town would go bust, they would sometimes disassemble the buildings and move the building materials to the next boom town. On other occasions, bricks and building materials would get looted by the builders of other boom towns. On a much sadder note, in modern times there are visitors who remove artifacts and take them as souvenirs.

I beg of you, please do not remove or move anything you find in a ghost town or other historical site. First of all, it's against the antiquities laws and second, when you move or remove an item from an archeological site, you remove the ability for the next person to enjoy discovering the remnants of our past.

Most of the bricks we find are blank but this town had it's own brick yard and apparently it was the Snowbal brickyard because most of the remaining bricks were stamped "Snowbal".  To discover this, I had to put broken bricks together to spell it out. I am not sure why they did not include the second "l" in the word snowball.

Brick from the "Snowbal" Brickyard

Jim and I decided to have our anniversary lunch at the top of the dilapidated mill.  Jim is quite the reconstituter of dehydrated meals.  I would feel safe to say that he is a gourmet at the JetBoil.

Cartoni Anniversary Dinner

As we ate lunch looking over the town of Candelaria, Jim pointed out the southmost of the two remaining stonewalls.  As you can see below, there isn't much left of the once sprawling town of Candelaria.  You can see a stone wall on the left, a stone wall to the right and above that, the town cemetery.

The stone wall to the right was the building his grandmother had worked in as a young woman. It had been owned by her brother-in-law Ben Edwards and it was where she would meet her beau, Jim's grandfather Edward Scott.
Our view of Candelaria during lunch

Below, I found these photos of the town main street, the store/post office is the second building from the left that is made of stone and the men are standing on the porch. This photo is taken from the book by Lorena Edwards Meadows called, "A Sagebrush Heritage"

The stone bank building in Candelaria where Jim's Grandmother met his Grandfather

Credit to "A Sagebrush Heritage" by Lorena Edwards Meadows
Candelaria 1888
6 points to the flagpole in front of the bank where the grandparents met

On page 69 of the book, the building was described like this by the newspaper,
"The walls are marvels of strength and durability and will remain in place until the crack of doom".
My later photos will prove that this is unlikely.

The building was later used as the Ben Edwards' Bank and general store.  The post office was moved to the brick building next door when Ben Edwards took over because it is said that he had so much merchandise there was no room for a post office.

In those later years when the building became Ben Edwards' Bank, general store and Wells Fargo Company office the history of Jim's family began to take shape.

Jim's great grandfather Richard Barlow had died in Aurora leaving his wife and children. They had moved several times before they moved to Candelaria in 1890 so the sons could work in the mines to support the family.  The young Barlow boys earned $3.00 a day for a 12 hour shift.

Ben Edwards, already living in Candelaria, was a charming and ambitious young man that much of the town respected.  When the Barlow family came to town, including Jim's great Aunt Lou, the young Mr. Edwards only had eyes for the lovely Lou Barlow. They were later married and Ben went from doing the muckiest work as a miner to being a banker and businessman.

When Ben owned the bank and general store, (around 1900) he hired his young sister-in-law Bessie (Jim's Grandmother) to manage the general store.  Ms. Meadows wrote in her book that the store was visited by the likes of Wyatt Earp and the book has a picture of a bill of sale to Mr. Earp for $12.75 worth of merchandise. I wonder sometimes if it was Jim's grandmother who entered into the transaction with the famous lawman.

It was in this store around 1902 that a young man, Edward Scott, came into town and noticed the young Bessie Barlow and swept her off her feet. They were soon married and since Edward had just made a $40,000 fortune in gold in just two weeks, he took his bride on a whirlwind tour around the world. After the year was over, they returned to Nevada and made their home in the state.

Their daughter Anna Lorena Scott married James Mario Cartoni and is the mother of my husband and so here we are, in this dusty ghost town dreaming of the past and gently visiting this historic location with extreme reverence.

There were lots of things going on in this town at one time and you can't help but look at the traces of life in these abandoned piles of stone and decomposing wood and tin and realize that there was once a bustling town where lives were being made, couples were falling in love and getting married.  There was once love, joy and tragedy but the only sound that remains is the blowing of the wind and the occasional buzzing of an insect in my ear.

Ms Meadows' book also describes a meteorite hitting. Here is an exert from her book "An otherwise dull year, 1894 brought a staggering spectacle to Candelaria. on the night of February first, a meteor fell. The awesome event was described by Fred Corkill in a letter to the editor of the Mining and Scientific Press.

"The thermometer registered 15 degrees above zero. At ten o'clock, seven minutes, a brilliant meteor appeared, coming from the southwest. It made a tremendous illumination. So intense was it in brilliance that those who were out of doors were dazed, but few could tell whence it came or whither it went.  It was a dazzling, electric blue, lasting about four seconds,. It brought all who were awake to their doors, awe stricken, thinking some slumbering crater had burst into flame.  Thirty seconds later a terrific explosion occurred, like tons of dynamite suddenly exploding, shaking the hills and echoing through the rocky caverns,

"It was like a huge bombshell hurled in our midst. There followed a boiling and sizzling roar like an immense mass of red hot iron cooling in water.  The sound grew fainter and gradually died away.

"Those who were sleeping and did not see the illumination were aroused and rushed out of doors, supposing it to be an earthquake, or the crack of doom.

"When the snow melts and the focus of the explosion is definitely located, a search will be made for the meteorite.  None who heard or saw this will forget it, and they will relate it in future years as a great event; nor will anyone here desire to be nearer to those celestial bombs than he was this night.  Some ducked their heads to let it go by and considered it a very close shot for a star."

How exciting that meteor must have been and I wonder if they ever found it.

I can only imagine the past and the sound of the mill on the hill overlooking the town as it crushed the rock to extract the silver ore that this mountain bled for a few short bountiful years and when the mountain stopped bleeding silver ore, the town began to disappear and families moved on to other prosperous areas.

The front of the Ben Edwards' Bank and general store 2018
There is no remnant of the flag pole or boardwalks.
The remnants of neighboring buildings in the previous pictures are also gone.
Quoted; the True Fissure newspaper, 1880, "The iron doors have been set in place...."
The remains of the bank
The bank in the center of the picture
View of the Ben Edwards' Bank from the back, note the strong box in the foreground
In the background, the tailings pile from the mine
Tailings are what remains after crushing the ore from the rock
Behind the bank/store and to the west, these three structures can be seen.  I have several views of these structures. I'm not sure if they were businesses or residences.  In mining towns including the silver mine town of Candelaria, most miners lived in veritable holes in the ground with roofs made from flattened oil tins nailed together.  Evidence of these small structures are all but gone but considering the cold and snowy Nevada winters, I can't imagine the existence to have much pleasure.

For the businessmen and investors of the mines, life was good and the town hosted dances and social events not to dissimilar from the big cities on the coast.

One can only imagine who lived in these dwellings.
Behind the bank and to the west are these three neighboring structures.

Here are the photos of the building on the North side of the Main Street.  Unfortunately, this building has been vandalized to great extent.
Other remaining standing building in Candelaria. I am unsure of it's use but it is very well built
View from inside of the other building
Candelaria Silver Mine can be seen out of the front windows

Besides a few other small piles of rubble that were once homes, and a cemetery of unmarked graves, not much remains of Candelaria.
Unidentifiable Grave in the Candelaria Cemetery

Overall, I would say that it was one of the best days of my life.

I was thrilled to sit on that hill looking over the foundation of an old silver ore mill to eat reconstituted Beef Stroganoff with the man I love.

We sat quietly looking over the town that barely exists when out of the quiet my husband says, "Don't say I didn't take you anywhere special for our anniversary."

Peace and Love,


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