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Mine area’s history on visit to Nelson

You’ve probably heard about the gold mine down at Nelson, south of Boulder City. It wouldn’t be right if a columnist named Nelson didn’t make mention of one of the oldest towns in Southern Nevada.

Head west toward Railroad Pass Casino and south on U.S. Highway 95. As you pass the dry lake, turn left onto State Route 165 and enjoy the mountain scenery for 8 miles into this tiny town, population 37. Veer into Nelson on dirt streets to look around. There have been no businesses there since the 1970s, but see an eclectic spectrum of homes from ranch styles to a tin-sided miner’s house fit for a movie set.

Originally named Eldorado, the area was settled in 1775 by Spanish explorers; gold finds over the decades led to one of the biggest mining booms in the state. Nelson was platted in ’05, a few months before Las Vegas; it was named after Charles Nelson, who was murdered by a Paiute named Ahvote. After Ahvote killed 10 men in one spree, local miners administered some plain old frontier justice, telling Ahvote’s brother that they would kill every Paiute in Eldorado Canyon unless he executed Ahvote, which he did. How’s that for colorful local history?

Continue east a mile, and you’ll see the panoramic view of Techatticup Mine sprawled over the hillsides. The word is Paiute, meaning “I’m hungry.”

Apparently, the locals were nearly starving when gold hunter John Moss came. They showed him where the quartzite breaks ground, for which he gave them food. Then he started digging; it was a major mine from 1862 until World War II.

The mine today is one of the coolest sights in Clark County. Tony and Bobbie Werly came to Boulder City in the ’80s and raised a family here while collecting antiques and rusting old stuff. In 1993, they purchased the old Techatticup property and started the restoration of a lifetime. Most buildings had either fallen down or been moved to various places in Nelson, or other mine sites.

With help from the Bureau of Land Management, they purchased 14 former mine buildings for $1 each and brought them back. They re-raised the main dining and recreation hall building and turned it into their museum and store.

In 2000, the Werlys moved out to the mine and made their home there.

Bobbie describes the amazing fauna outside their door. They’re neighbors to badgers, skink, rattlesnakes, feral cats, big horn, ring tail raccoon, coyotes and … scary … mountain lions. They put out separate food bowls for some of the critters (but not the mountain lions).

Their passion for collecting has turned the entire property into a museum. An amazing array of interesting, historic stuff fills many buildings. And they don’t even charge admission. The only thing you can pay for, aside from gift shop items, is a tour down into the mine itself. This is conducted by experienced and humorous guides who actually live on site, as well.

Call ahead to schedule a tour time and you will be more than impressed with the mine. It does not require much stamina.

Techatticup has been the stage for many films over recent years. “Breakdown,” “3,000 Miles to Graceland” and “Eye of the Beholder” all had scenes from this place.

Recently, a Chinese film company had 100 people on site for three weeks filming “7 Days Alive.” Many commercials are shot around the property, and it has become the “in” locale for weddings with two to four ceremonies a day renting one of their interesting settings.

One of my favorite TV shows, “American Pickers,” has called them twice trying to persuade them to come pick at their place. Tony said “no” because, he says, he is a hoarder, and would not sell one thing.

Route 165 continues east 5 miles to the landing on the Colorado River at Lake Mohave. Kayaking, boating, fishing and cliff jumping are popular activities. Locals still call this Nelson’s Landing, but the populated place of that name was instantly destroyed in 1994 when a 40-foot flash flood roared through and nine people died. Tony admitted he gets peeved when people call their place “Nelson Landing.”

Dave Nelson retired to Boulder City in 2003 after a career with the FICO score company. He is vice president and newsletter editor for the local Sons of Norway.

Editor’ note: Tours of the mine are given at 9 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. when there at least four people 13 or older. Call 702-291-0026 for reservations or information.

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