Battle Mountain, Nevada
By Dennis Cassinelli
Battle Mountain, Nevada
For many years, I have traveled Interstate 80 while working for NDOT on my way to Elko,
Wells, Utah and other places east. Sometimes we stopped at Battle Mountain for fuel or food.
The Battle Mountain area was home to the Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone pe
oples. The area was noted by fur trappers in the 1820s and 1830s. It served as a waypoint for westward-bound travel on the Emigrant trail along the Humboldt River by 1845. According to local legends the name of Battle Mountain stems from confrontations between Native Americans and early settlers during the 1850s and 1860s.
When copper ore was discovered in 1866 and mining began, the Central Pacific Railroad started a station to support the mining activity. In 1870, the railroad moved the Argenta station to Battle Mountain and established a townsite to serve the Battle Mountain copper and gold mining district.
In 1874, the Nevada Legislature overrode the governor’s veto and approved a railroad from Austin to Battle Mountain. The Nevada Central Railroad from Battle Mountain to Austin was completed in 1880. The rail line was constructed to connect the silver mines around Austin to the Central Pacific Railroad line at Battle Mountain. The rail line served the Austin area until it was abandoned in 1938.
Ulysses S. Grant, spoke in Battle Mountain in 1879 on his western speaking tour. President Woodrow Wilson established the Battle Mountain Indian Colony in 1917. In 1979, the Nevada Supreme court moved the Lander County seat from Austin to Battle Mountain.
On the lighter side, In December 2001, The Washington Post published an article by Gene Weingarten titled “Why Not The Worst?” that titled Battle Mountain as “The Armpit of America.” The town used this unofficial title as a publicity opportunity and hosted an annual “Armpit Festival” sponsored by Old Spice deodorant. An NDOT associate of mine once saw the large BM painted on a hillside south of town as some high schools students in Nevada often do such as a W for Winnemucca, C for Carson City or N for University of Nevada in Reno. When he saw the BM on the hillside, he remarked “I wonder if that stands for Bowel Movement.”
Despite all this, Battle Mountain is proud to be a prosperous mining community that over the years has produced millions of dollars worth of gold, silver, copper and turquoise.
Just a few miles north of Battle Mountain on dirt roads is a place called the Shoshone Mesa. This was a sacred place for the Western Shoshone. It has been called the Land of the White knives due to a particular white chert that was called Tosawihi which translates to “white knife.” This white chert can be found there that the Shoshone used to make knives and arrowheads.
On a hunting trip several years ago, my son John, and I walked over much of Shoshone mesa. I had no game tag, so I looked for arrowheads while John hunted. Amazingly, I did find two or three of the white chert projectile points. The Tosawihi chert is strikingly beautiful for its color like fresh snow. Unlike other white chert, Tosawihi glows when exposed to a black light, and is thus easy to identify. Tools made of this Tosawihi chert have been found as far north as Canada and as far south as New Mexico due to ancient trade routes.
This article is by Dayton Author and Historian, Dennis Cassinelli. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at denniscassinelli.com Just click on ”order books”