Located on U.S. Highway 50 on the western slopes of the Toiyabe Range, Austin was founded in 1862 as part of the silver rush. The legend goes that a Pony Express horse kicked over a rock, exposing the silver. The city was named after Austin, TX.
The town grew rapidly, and, by 1863, it had a population of over 10,000 and became Lander County’s county seat. It also was a staging point for prospectors looking for new mines in Central Nevada. In January 1864, the town was incorporated, and this included adding police force, a fire department and schools.
Soon, in 1869, however, the White Pine area began to pull miners and prospectors away from Austin. Yet, Austin continued to produce silver and be prosperous, and, in 1880, the Nevada Central Railroad connected Austin to Battle Mountain via a transcontinental railroad. Yet, by 1887, most of the mines in Austin were closed. While considered largely to be a “living” ghost town, residents still reside in the town, and the International Hotel (which originated in Virginia City in 1859 and was moved to Austin in 1863) is supposed to be the oldest in Nevada. While it doesn’t rent out rooms anymore, it still offer meals to travelers.
One of the other attractions in the area is Stokes Castle, built by Anson Phelps Stokes as a summer home for his sons. Built between 1896 and 1897, it was only used once by the family between June and July 1897, and then was largely abandoned.
Historical Marker Inscription
Austin sprang into being after William Talcott discovered silver at this spot on May 2, 1862. Talcott came from Jacbobsville, a stage stop six miles to the west on the Reese River. He was hauling wood out of the Pony Canyon, directly below, when he made the strike that set off the famous rush to Reese.
A town called Clinton flourished briefly in Pony Canyon but fast growing Austin soon took over and became the Lander County seat in 1863. Before the mines began to fail in the 1880’s Austin was a substantial city of several thousand people. From Austin, prospectors fanned out to open many other important mining camps in the Great Basin.
Centennial Marker No. 8
State Historic Preservation Office
39° 29′ 53.982″ N, 117° 4′ 46.660″ W
US-50 Austin, NV 89310, United States