I have lived in Las Vegas for more than 24 years and I am embarrassed to say Friday was only my second trip to Tonopah.
There will be many more.
I made the drive as the new editor of the Tonopah Times-Bonanza &Goldfield News, which comes along with being editor of this newspaper.
I have the challenge of guiding the two important, but distinct, newspaper voices in Nye County. I quickly learned on my visit that people in the northern part of the county, where the Nye County seat is located, might have strikingly different opinions on issues facing the county than folks down here.
My visit was to meet Bill and Bobby Jean Roberts, whose family history at the Times-Bonanza goes back to World War II.
As I learned talking to Bill, his family roots in news go back to when his father was working at the newspaper as a teenager. Bobby Jean’s family is five generations in Tonopah.
Unlike a place like Las Vegas and Pahrump where it is hard to find anyone from there, most everyone I’ve met here has deep family roots in Tonopah.
I had overseen the last three editions of the historic newspaper, which launched in 1901, with the guiding help of the Roberts, so I figured I needed to make my way north to see what the town is about.
I had read about Tonopah in my college Nevada history class, and had heard about the area from state journalists such as John L. Smith. I had a passing understanding of the area’s history as a mining town founded when Jim Butler, around the turn of the 20th century, discovered gold and silver while trying to find a burro that had wandered away.
I made the trip with my wife, Rhonda, who has lived in Las Vegas nearly as long as myself but this was her first trip here.
We stayed at the Mizpah Hotel. And at the risk of losing some of you here, I have a ghost story.
Yes, we stayed on the fifth floor, where, as the story goes, the “Lady in Red” was murdered by a jealous lover. This being Nevada, I’m betting this was not the first woman of ill repute to be murdered in a Silver State hotel, and it certainly was not the last. But, for whatever reason, this one’s spirit has seemingly never left.
We had heard the stories before we checked in, but my wife and I are not ones to believe in ghosts. When we tucked ourselves into bed, the wind was howling through our double glass windows giving off an eerie sound.
After a good night’s sleep, my wife woke to find her lotion bottle had been squeezed and a hard mint from the check-in counter had been crushed in its wrapper. Also, when we left the room to check out, the “do not disturb” sign I left hanging on the door was gone.
Whether this proves the existence of a haunting spirit or my wife’s husband is gullible, I don’t fully know the answer.
When I wasn’t being allegedly haunted, I had two nice, long meetings with Bill. The purpose of the trip was to get to know Bill, better understand the newspaper’s history, and its place in the community of Tonopah. I knew the paper has chronicled the rise, fall, and semi-rise and flattening of the town and central Nevada.
I also learned that the view of a Tonopah resident regarding issues facing Nye County — attitudes about the Bureau of Land Management or Yucca Mountain to name two — might be a lot different than the view of residents in here in Pahrump.
The Knightlys were only able to visit Tonopah for 24 hours so there is a lot I still need to learn, and many more people I would like to meet.
While I love hearing the old stories, I would like to find out more about challenges facing Tonopah and northern Nye County today. Bill and Bobby Jean gave me a good overview, and we will talk more on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
And I can’t forget the “Goldfield News” part of the Tonopah Times-Bonanza, as that paper is the newspaper of record of Esmeralda County, where Goldfield is the county seat.
The Knightlys stopped by the half-ghost town on the way home — how could we not — and did a self-guided history tour, which I highly recommend. You can pick up a map anywhere in Goldfield and head out on your own.
We also stopped by the Elite Trading Post, which is filled with old Nevada collectables and books, and Dinky Diner for lunch. I will be making more stops there in the future, too.
I plan to visit Tonopah at least every quarter. The Knightlys are already planning a trip to something called the “crab crack” in February, I think. Or March.
I can’t remember.
Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times. Find him on Twitter: @KnightlyGrind.