Dennis Cassinelli: Memories of Goldfield

For several years, I worked as a field engineer in the 1970s for the Nevada Department of Transportation. At that time, my duties included traveling to highway construction project sites to prepare the final report of quantities used on the various projects. One of these was a project on U.S. 95 at Goldfield Summit south of town being administered by resident engineer, Albert Aguirre.

On the first day, Aguirre took me on a tour of the project. The terrain was basically a beautiful desert landscape through a forest of Joshua trees. As we rode through the project, Aguirre pointed out features of the construction site.

Since there were no hotels in Goldfield except the Goldfield Hotel that has been closed since the 1940s, I stayed at the Mizpah hotel in Tonopah and commuted to work for the week I was there. Aguirre’s office was located in a room at the old Esmeralda County Court House. Early one morning, the District Judge came in and was looking at his watch. He then announced that there was going to be an atomic bomb test at the Nevada nuclear test site within a few minutes. Sure enough, the old court house shuddered from the blast at the nearby test site.

While I was at the office, I visited the rest room and found that they still had the old toilets with a large tank of water overhead and a chain that hung down that had to be pulled in order to flush.

Being an amateur archaeologist and a scrounger, I decided to visit the old Goldfield dump while I was in town. At that time, I found some interesting trash I want to mention. When the Goldfield mines were thriving, over 30,000 people lived there. The town was prospering and people were living to the full extent of their prosperity. Many of the miners who came to Goldfield were California transplants. Items I found in the Goldfield dump were indications of their extravagance.

As an example, the dump had countless large empty rectangular cans labeled “oysters.” This shows the restaurants in Goldfield catered to Californians who had a taste for Bay Area seafood hauled in by the wagon load.

Another item plentiful at the dump was hundreds of log cabin-shaped cans that once held Log Cabin syrup. These came in both large and small sizes. The entire dump area was also littered with hundreds of liquor bottles of many sizes, colors and shapes. This was typical in all early Nevada mining camp dumps. Many of these were broken, since antique bottle collectors had picked over the site before I had arrived. I did find a small purple medicine bottle from Cannon Drug Company in Goldfield.

On the south side of town I saw a large yard where an elderly lady named Lena Hammond was selling purple glass that had turned color from being out in the sun for a long period of time.

I stopped and asked her if she had any purple shot glasses, since I had always wanted one. She did not have any but I have since bought one in Folsom, California. Hammond and my mother-in-law, Mary Murphy from Tonopah, had known each other years before.

At the advice of some local residents, I made a visit to the Santa Fe Saloon on the north side of town for a few beers after work. I also visited the gem field west of town, but I was not able to retire on what I had found there. I did take a drive along some of the trails that had once been railroads tracks in and out of town. Being an old desert rat at heart, I truly enjoyed my time in Goldfield.

Dennis Cassinelli is a Dayton author and historian. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at


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