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A Museum Full of History from the Wild West

Updated on September 14, 2015
Mineral County Museum in Hawthorne, Nevada
Mineral County Museum in Hawthorne, Nevada

Mineral County Museum--Full of History from the Wild West

When I first started working at Mineral County Museum in Hawthorne, NV, I didn't realize all of the history of the area. As I learned more about the area, I realized it had definitely been part of the Wild West. Communities in the area were established because of mining and the railroad. Gold, silver and many other minerals were mined in the area. Alcohol was cheaper and more readily available than water. The Native Americans had legends such as the sea serpent in Walker Lake. Stagecoach robberies, lynchings, gambling, overnight wealth followed by ghost towns are all part of the history. In the 1930s the Navy built an ammunition depot here. Supporting the war efforts became a big part of the community and provided great growth during the 1940s and into the 1950s. Many people have donated items from throughout the history of the area to the museum. There are mining equipment, railroad artifacts, munitions tools, household items, clothing, furniture, photos, tools, a pharmacy display, Native American artifacts, minerals, rocks, crystals, office and business equipment, musical instruments, toys, dolls, cars, a fire engine, a gas pump, paintings, sculptures, and many more items on display in the museum. Stop in to visit if you are in the area. You're sure to enjoy your time spent here.

Part of the Wild West

Entrance to Mineral County Museum
Entrance to Mineral County Museum

Prior to gold and silver being discovered in the area the Paiute Indian Tribe lived on the north side of Walker Lake, fished in the lake, hunted deer and harvested pine nuts. The Paiutes told of a legend about a sea serpent in Walker Lake.

Mineral County has its name for a reason. Many different minerals are in abundant supply here. Mining in the late 1800's was a major industry here. A railroad was built to service the mines in the area, and the town of Hawthorne was built by the railroad. Aurora, Candelaria, Rawhide, and Lucky Boy were well known mines in this area. Bodie, although in California was only a short distance from Aurora. Aurora had the distinction of being claimed by both Nevada and California at one time. There were numerous small mines in the area and some mines are still being worked today.

The museum has a lot of mining equipment--an ore cart, gold separator, stamp press, picks, shovels, lanterns, and much of the equipment used in mining.

The railroad that built Hawthorne was the Carson Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroad. Later Southern Pacific bought out Carson Colorado. Since Southern Pacific was a standard gauge railroad and would have to build a new rail line, they decided to bypass the town of Hawthorne. Mina, a town about 35 miles southeast of Hawthorne, grew rapidly as the railroad was built through the town.

Hawthorne dwindled down to 300 people. Sheepherding was the major occupation in the town, until in 1930 when Hawthorne was selected as the location for a Navy Ammunition Depot. Hawthorne became a military town. Babbitt was built as housing for the base and was at one point bigger than the town of Hawthorne. Today Babbitt is a ghost town full of deteriorating roads and cement foundations. Some business development has taken place in the area and more is hoped for the future.

The museum has pictures of what life was like in Babbitt in the 1940s and 50's.

Stamp Mill
Stamp Mill

Stop In To Visit

If you are visiting Hawthorne, Nevada or even just traveling through take time to stop and visit this museum. The museum is located at 400 Tenth Street. It is straight across from the rest area. It is one block to the west of Highway 95. If you are traveling from Reno, NV to Las Vegas, NV you will go through Hawthorne. It makes for a nice rest break to walk around through the museum. The director and assistant director are very knowledgeable and helpful. The museum is open from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday during summertime hours. Winter hours are 12 noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Enjoy a walk back in time by visiting the Mineral County Museum.


There are stories of murder and lynchings in Aurora. There is the story of Samuel Clemens (later to be known as Mark Twain) moving west to mine in Aurora before moving to Virginia City and starting his career as a writer. There is the story of the railroad building the town of Hawthorne. There is the story of boom and bust as mines opened, flourished and closed. There is the story of the Navy building an ammunition depot in the middle of a desert. There are many interesting stories to be learned with a visit to this museum.

Sea Serpent Legend

There are interesting stories to be found in the museum. One story is the legend of the Walker Lake Sea Serpent. The Native American Paiute tribe which has lived around Walker Lake for hundreds of years called the Sea Serpent, Tawaga. Since the town of Hawthorne was established the Sea Serpent has come to be known as Cecil. Today he is the high school mascot and a motorized Cecil is driven in every parade in town.

There are local people who say they have seen Cecil, but claims of seeing Cecil have gone down as the size of the lake has shrunk with overuse of the water upstream and drought conditions. There are several accounts of sightings and of killing a monster from the lake, but unfortunately no proof has been provided that there really is or was a sea serpent in the lake.

It's not so hard to believe in sea serpents if you realize Nevada was largely covered by water in the past, and that less than 90 miles away is a large deposit of Ichthyosaur bones.

The Legend of the Bells

Bell Display
Bell Display

There is a display at the museum of bells found buried in the desert near by. Why the bells were buried is not known for sure. It is interesting to read the legend of why these bells might have been buried. Some of them have Mexico on them and are dated in the 1800's. If you visit the museum, maybe you can solve the mystery of the bells.

A Piece of Junk Art

Or Art Made from Junk

One of my favorite items in the museum is a statue of Paul Revere's Ride made from junk. Different metal parts and pieces are joined together to create Paul Revere and his horse. I love the fact that something creative has been made from things that would otherwise just be thrown away.

Mineral County Museum Video

Videos from Mineral County

A Link to Hawthorne

Check this site for some interesting pictures of Hawthorne, Nevada.

Walker Lake Video

Anti-Submarine Knocker

Mountain Road

Welcome to Hawthorne, Nevada

Here's what you'll see as you enter Hawthorne, Nevada from the northwest.

Bodie, California Ghost Town

Nevada Videos

More Nevada Videos

Nevada Ghost Town Video

Remains of Giant Sea Creatures Found Close to Mineral County

A visit to Berlin, Nevada is less than two hours away from Hawthorne, Nevada. Near Berlin remains of large sea creatures were found. These sea creatures were Ichthyosaurs. Many skeletons of Ichthyosaurs have been found. Now evidence is indicating this spot may have been a Kraken's lair, because of the way the bones have been laid out. Check the following links for more information.

Share your experiences in Mineral County

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    • JenaleeMortensen profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Working in a museum is interesting. Working in the museum helped me to get to know the area even though I had lived there less than ten years when I started working in the museum. I like visiting museums when traveling because you can learn a lot about a place from a museum. Thanks for visiting my lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've always liked museums. It must be neat to work in one! If I'm ever in Hawthorne, I'll be sure to check out the Mineral County Museum. All the best.

    • norma-holt profile image


      8 years ago

      Very nice lens with some great information and history. Blessed and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

    • PurplePansy LM profile image

      PurplePansy LM 

      9 years ago

      I love history and museums! I particularly like the info on the legend of the sea serpent and the mysterious bells. Thanks for doing this lens!


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