County’s Oldest Intact Building Hit Hardest By Earthquakes

Heidi Bunch photos/MCIN
The back of the second story of the Nine Mile Ranch house had extensive damage from crumbling bricks after three large earthquakes struck nearby last Wednesday.

The oldest intact building in Mineral County suffered extensive damage after three large earthquakes hit Mineral County after midnight on Wednesday, Dec. 28.

Nine Mile Ranch, known to many locals who pass the property on their way to and from the Walker River, had damage when the quake jostled loose the rock bricks which made up the exterior of the historic building.

An old dugout completely fell to the ground and a barn’s interior wall, composed of the same rock bricks as the main house, collapsed. Cracks in the ground could be seen visibly.

Damage from the quakes exposed a hidden second story fireplace at Nine Mile Ranch.

The Independent-News reported in September of 2016 that the historic property once owned by Barron Hilton had been purchased for $19.4 million by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, who acquired property in both Lyon and Mineral counties.

The purchase included 7,139 aces of land, surface water rights which produce almost 28 cubic feet of flow per second to the Walker River and the primary right of the 160 acre-feet of groundwater which were included along with thousands of acre-feet storage rights.

The historic property has a long chapter in Mineral County history. It was first shown on maps of the 1860’s to be called the “Cobbs Rancho”. The rancho would serve as a toll road on for the Carson Valley & Esmeralda Toll-Road.

Mark Twain, a resident of Aurora, would reference the ranch, referred to the property as “Nyswanger” in his Roughing It book.

Here Twain would lose a fortune when, in the words of the famous author, “By the laws of the district, the “locators” or claimants of a ledge were obliged to do a fair and reasonable amount of work on their new property within ten days after the date of the location, or the property was forfeited, and anybody could go and seize it that chose. So we determined to go to work the next day. About the middle of the afternoon, as I was coming out of the post office, I met a Mr. Gardiner, who told me that Capt. John Nye was lying dangerously ill at his place (the “Nine-Mile Ranch”), and that he and his wife were not able to give him nearly as much care and attention as his case demanded. I said if he would wait for me a moment, I would go down and help in the sick room. I ran to the cabin to tell Higbie. He was not there, but I left a note on the table for him, and a few minutes later I left town in Gardiner’s wagon.”

Twain and his partner would lose the claim on the property while he attended to Capt. Nye at Nine Mile Ranch but he would later lobby against the laws of early Nevada.

The property would be managed as a hotel in the in the 1860’s and 1870’s. The Esmeralda Herald of Dec. 1, 1878 would report, “Geo. A. Green, of the 9-mile ranch, says he cut a crop of timothy hay from his land that is seldom excelled in California. It is reclaimed sage-brush land, and required but little irrigation.”

Work would continue at the ranch including an addition and rock work.

Taxes on the property during the turn of the century would be assessed for three small houses and remnants of a stamp mill.

With the help of Major Max C. Fleischmann, the ranch would begin to take shape with improvement of buildings, instillation of fencing and an airstrip.

The property would change hands again throughout the years to such as Stewart Abercrombie of Ranch Tiajguas, Santa Barbara and Hilton.

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is aware of the damage to that of Nine Mile Ranch and that of the building located at Fletcher. Until assessments can be made as to the magnitude of the damage, it is unknown what financial damage the earthquake caused.

The foundation stresses that those visiting the ranch are welcome to stop and look but reports of theft have already been reported. A spokesperson for the group stated that Mineral County Sheriff’s Office will be notified of any vandalism and/or theft that occur on their properties.

A special thank you to Sue Silver for her research on the history of Mineral County.

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