The once booming mining community of Tonopah owes its existence to a wayward burro.
One of prospector Jim Butler’s animals had wandered off during the night and sought shelter near a rock outcropping. When Butler located the burro the next morning and picked up a rock to throw at the animal, he noticed the rock was exceptionally heavy—that rock turned out to be from the second richest silver strike in Nevada history.
Tonopah suffered the typical booms and disasters that most mining towns do, but unlike many of its counterparts, it never emptied enough to receive ghost town status. It’s no metropolis, but it chugs along with a population a little over 1,200. Like any town, it does have its ghosts, and most of them reside at the Old Tonopah Cemetery.
Old Tonopah Cemetery was founded May 7, 1901 with the burial of John Randel Weeks, and was active until April 1911 when the number of dead outgrew the tiny plot, and the growing town required a new cemetery. Some three hundred people are interred at the old location, including many of Tonopah’s pioneer residents, many of whom fell victim to the mysterious 1902 “Tonopah Plague”, the cause of which still remains a mystery. Other eternal residents include some fourteen miners who fell victim to the Tonopah-Belmont Mine Fire of February 23, 1911, among them Big Bill Murphy who died saving miners at age 28, and Nye County Sheriff Thomas Logan, killed in a shoot-out in a Manhattan bordello.
Of course many believe that the cemetery is haunted, and interested parties should inquire with the owner of the Clown Motel which is next door - locally though, the Mizpah Hotel and Silver Rim Elementary School are thought to be more actively haunted.