Once there was a mining town by the name of Cortez, very near the border between Eureka and Lander county. Historians say its long history began in 1862, while the Civil War was raging full scale back east when a group of Hispanics discovered silver ore next to Mount Tenabo.
After being sent to Austin, a major mining center at the time, considerable interest was raised among the locals.
A hearty bunch of prospectors, always on the lookout for new finds, made their way to the town of tents, site and discovered more silver ore. Word spread, and the influx of other miners began to happen right away.
By 1865, three companies were active in the district. With the end of the Civil War, now unemployed soldiers began drifting west to where there was work in the mine fields.
Cortez had a similar problem experienced by many mining locations in rural central Nevada of the time: Isolation and difficulties getting the ore to the stamp mills in Austin.
But being resourceful, one company invested $100,000 to enlarge the works at Camp Mill to 16 stamps and they produced a lot of ore for shipment to railroads, but even that is another story all in itself.
Cortez continued working until the late 1920s and into the early 30s and suffered greatly during the Great Depression.
Today, the mining operation is owned and operated by Barrick Gold and comprises the Pipeline and South Pipeline deposits and the Cortez Hills deposit. Pipeline and South Pipeline are open pit mines, while Cortez Hills is an underground and open pit mining operation. Under continuous operation, Cortez has been open longer than any gold mine in the state of Nevada. It is Barrick’s and Nevada’s largest gold producer.
Like many mining towns in the Wild West, especially Pioche which was to follow later, Cortez also had its share of shootings.
The late historian Dan Ashbaugh speaks of a story there which he was unable to verify, but said: “pops up frequently in Nevada historical volumes.”
In his book, Nevada’s Turbulent Yesterday, he writes of a man named Bill Broadwater. A poker player he was, but at this outing, not a very good one. Soon he had lost his entire stake to John Llewelyn. All he had left to wager was his Henry rifle. The game went on and Broadwater was losing again. This was too much to bare. “He snatched up the rifle, pulled the trigger and drilled the winner through the heart.”
Broadwater surrendered on the spot. Soon, two Sheriff’s deputies, Glassford and McGuire, were assigned to escort the prisoner on horseback to Austin. Several miles out, Ashbaugh notes, Glassford dismounted to tighten the cinch on his saddle. “Broadwater, seeing his opportunity, reached over, snatched the rifle from the saddle scabbard and covered his two guards. He disarmed them and rode down the trail to freedom.”
A reward was offered by the citizens of Cortez for Broadwater’s capture and return, but the likelihood was remote and that might be the end of the story. But not so fast.
Several months later the sheriff of Trinity County, California (Weaverville, in the mountains about 60 miles west of Redding), recognized Broadwater from a wanted poster in his office. Broadwater had a job locally sorting potatoes. He was taken into custody without incident, taken back to Austin for trial, convicted and sentenced to 20 years at the prison in Carson City.