Ely is a rarity of late, a mining town with living, breathing people. The axe never quite fell here. Even when local lodes diminished, the central location of Ely kept it on life support. The city was simply in the right place, an important hub on the railway route and a rare stop for tourists on three different highways (93, 6, and 50).
Success was never assured. When the initial rush to Nevada began the finds were elsewhere. Founded in the late 1870s Ely existed as little more than a stagecoach stop and a post office. The breakthrough came in 1906 with the discovery of a copper bonanza in nearby Ruth. The Liberty Pit, dug in 1911, was at the time the most massive man-made hole on the entire planet. I was told you can see the excavation from space. Kennecott Copper Company took over the pit in 1915 and slowly became the driving force of the local economy.
Who were their employees, the people that made the long journey out west to work in the dark, dank mines or toil on in the scorching desert laying the railway? The cheap labor pool in the early American West had been the Chinese. By 1882 xenophobic attitudes had banished the Asian work force through legislation, the Chinese Exclusionary Act.
Companies searched for a new labor source, finding it in a new wave of immigrants escaping tyranny and poverty in Eastern Europe. Italians, Serbs, Greeks, Czechs, Slovaks, etc. came here chasing opportunity. One mining camp employed 233 workers, 4 of which had been born in the United States. Ely was as much of a melting pot as any of the industrial cities back east.
All these things I learned as I walked the six miles through Ely and on past Ruth. I would speak to you of the latter three fourths of today's trek, but you look tired and I should wrap up events in a tight little bow before you nod off.
In fact, to thank you for persevering so long, I'd like to get you a present. Hopefully you are looking for a plant to give your yard that Western look. It just so happens I walked by about eight billion sagebrushes today. Don't worry, there will be eight billion more tomorrow. Place your order whenever you like, there's no rush, I probably have a couple more weeks of this tedious scenery to go.
P.S.: Thank God Dad is with me now, I no longer have to suffer alone. I just hope he makes it the two weeks before going irreparably insane.
22 miles/3457 total miles
Thanks to recent donors:
Laurie Jo Coheen
Duffy and Michael Petty