Despite its colorful name, Battle Mountain has managed a rather staid
existence since 1870 when the population of Argenta deserted the little
mining settlement and re-established themselves at Battle Mountain Station
on the Central Pacific Railroad.|
The settlement depended for its prosperity on the railroad, and on the mines that blossomed and wilted along the slopes and side canyons of the Reese River Valley all the way to Austin, 90 miles to the south. Galena, Jersey City and Lewis were three of Nevada's most prominent mining camps in the 1870s, and all of them were served by the railroad at Battle Mountain, as was Pittsburgh in the 1880s and Dean in the 1890s. After the turn of the century the strikes at Hilltop, Bannock, McCoy and Betty O'Neal all shipped by way of Battle Mountain.
One of the Central Pacific's officials was James H. Ledlie, a former Union officer in the Civil War whom Ulysses S. Grant called, "the greatest coward of the war." A siding near the southern end of the route through Reese River Valley was named in his honor, and Ledlie was a familiar visitor to the railroad.
Grant's scorn dated from the ghastly Battle of the Crater, a slaughter that ensued when a troop of Pennsylvania coal miners dug a tunnel beneath the Confederate lines protecting Petersburg, packed it with explosives, and blew it up. Ledlie was to have led his soldiers in the charge through the resulting crater, but instead got drunk in his dugout and refused to come out. The troops attacked without him and were shot down like deer as they struggled across the great hole. Interestingly, Ledlie was in Battle Mountain the day in 1879 that Grant came to town on his triumphal western speaking tour. No doubt Ledlie made sure to stay out of his sight.
Battle Mountain was the last stop for W.J. Forbes, a famous Nevada newspaperman of the l9th century. He was remembered by Carson City journalist Sam Davis: "Pioneers still laugh about his quips and fancies. Writing under his pen-name Semblins he discoursed on every subject known to man, and his shafts so often hit the mark that he became popular with all classes of readers." He edited and published a dozen newspapers in Nevada and California, and in 1873 started the short-lived The New Endowment in Salt Lake City.
"Returning to Nevada," David wrote, "he started Measure for Measure at Battle Mountain. It was a wonderful paper, but it did not pay, and a friend found him on the morning of October 30, 1875, lying stiff and cold across his shabby bed. He had fought a fight against all odds all his life, was one of the brightest genuises the coast had ever seen, but he lacked the faculty of making and saving money and lived in communities where his mental brightness was more envied than appreciated."
In 1880 the Nevada Central Railroad was completed through the length of the Reese River Valley to the south, connecting Austin with the transcontinental line, and the following year a short line was built to Lewis. But the BM&L lasted less than a year, and the Nevada Central was only profitable as long as the mines at Austin were operating at full capacity. By the middle 1930s most of the mines that generated traffic at Battle Mountain were shut down and boarded up and the NCRR had passed into receivership for the last time.
Battle Mountain's 30-year snooze by the side of US 40 ended suddenly when the DuVal company invested more than $20 million in the development of large copper ore bodies in the hills to the south. All at once Battle Mountain became a boomtown in its own right. The schools overflowed, the sewer system burst its seams, the municipal wells started pumping sand and the cost of policing the town full of restless young men doubled.
It took some doing, but Battle Mountain has sorted things out now, the mine is now producing gold instead of copper, and its employees have long since settled into the comfortable life of the community.
Livestock and agriculture have an important place in Battle Mountain's history. 1978 World Saddle Bronc Champion Joe Marvel grew up riding and roping on the family ranch southeast of town. One of the most productive crops in this broad desert valley is lawn turf, grown here and retailed in Reno. Nevertheless, mining is still the mainstay of the economy.
Battle Mountain's principal attraction for tourists is the bright stripe of enterprise still fronting on the highway and the railroad tracks as it has since its founding so long ago. The Owl Club and the Nevada Hotel have been welcoming visitors for well over a century, and Donna's Diner on the west end of downtown is a local treasure.
You might enjoy the 37-mile drive to Wildhorse Reservoir, a 2-mile long lake equipped with boat launch facilities, campsites and picnic areas and stocked with fish.
In the meantime there is the Elquist Memorial Park and the Olympic sized swimming pool on Nevada Route 305 which continues south 90 miles to Austin. There is also a lovely scenic view about three miles out of Battle Mountain, especially at sunrise or sunset. Follow the signs to the dump and park with your back to town. In the winter you're likely to see Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and Hawks.
Calendar of Annual Events
Welcome to Battle Mountain
THE OWL CLUB