Nipton
California
Gateway to Mojave National Preserve

 

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ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF NIPTON, CALIFORNIA

In the nineteenth century, two overland wagon trails crossed on the east slope of Ivanpah Valley. One east-west trail carried people and freight from the Colorado River to the silver mining town of Ivanpah. The other, a north-south trail went from the mining community of Goodsprings to Goffs, a station on the Santa Fe Railroad (the Southern Route).  A discovery of gold at the turn of the 20th Century in the Crescent District drew attention to the crossroad which would become the town site and place name of Nipton.

An entrepreneur and gold seeker from western Pennsylvania, S.(Samuel) D. (“Dunc”) Karns, arrived in Ivanpah Valley late in the 19th Century attracted by the boom town in the Vanderbilt Gold District just up the valley from the E-W/N-S crossroad.  It is thought that on January 1, 1900, Karns and some associates staked the earliest claim in the Crescent District, to be given the name Nippeno, later to be followed by adjacent claims Susquehana, Cumberland, Northhumberland, Pennsylvania, &Osceola: taken together to be known as the NIPPENO CONSOLIDATED MINE.  The mining camp associated with the mine was known as NIPPENO CAMP which was located nearby the wagon crossroad.  There is evidence that the name Nippeno derives from Native American tradition of the western Pennsylvania region.

Nevada Senator William Clark, a Montana copper baron, was determined to connect Salt Lake City to Los Angeles by rail. In 1885 he proposed building the railroad which his company completed in the winter of 1904/1905 which passed immediately by the crossroad and Nippeno Camp.


Searchlight to Nipton Stage Coach


The San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake railroad brought new traffic to the little crossroads community. The whistle-stop on the railroad time tables was designated as “Nippeno Camp”.  Passengers bringing freight and cattle from the neighboring region traveled to Nippeno Camp  as it was the most accessible railhead for transit to the east-Salt Lake City and Chicago, and to the west-Los Angeles.

By 1910 the S.P., L.A., & S.L. line had been merged into Harriman's Union Pacific Railroad System and the name of the crossroads community had been changed to Nipton. A stage coach line from Searchlight, Nevada was established to carry passengers and freight to Nipton and the railhead.  Early records from the 1900 Census indicate an individual named Karns registered as a Mining Engineer in the Vanderbilt District.  Post Office records for the period of 1907 – 1909 show a S.D. Karns as the Postmaster in Nipton.  Voter records (1908) indicate that Karns was a registered voter in the Vanderbilt Precinct and worked as the storekeeper in Nipton.  Obituaries in Pennsylvania papers indicated that Karns died in Nipton in 1909.


Nipton Hotel in the late 1940's

Harry Trehearne, a Cornish miner from England, immigrated to America and was naturalized in Las Vegas in 1913. Settling down in Nipton, he opened a general store and pursued the development of the community, which included restoring the Hotel Nipton and digging the first water well. He was also active in many local mine explorations and developments. Harry met Ella Mae and they married, establishing a family home in Nipton. They filed homestead papers with the Federal Government and on April 10, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt completed the process, signing the homestead thus transferring the title of the land from the United States to Trehearne.

In 1940 while Harry Trehearne was returning to England for a visit, he was aboard the Athenia when it was torpedoed off the English coast. Trehearne survived and returned to Nipton.

On his return, Trehearne continued to develop the community of Nipton. He built a new General Store (now the Nipton Trading Post), the Town Hall and the Nippeno House. Other projects at the emerging town site also continued.

Clara Bow, the famed "IT Girl" of the Hollywood Silent Film era, moved to a cattle ranch about 16 miles from Nipton in the late 20's. Her husband, Rex Bell, drove their cattle overland to Nipton for shipment by rail to the slaughter yards. Clara accompanied the cowboys to Nipton, where she picked up her fan mail from the post office, and visited with her friends Harry and Ella Trehearne. Clara, it is said, preferred Room # 3 in the Hotel Nipton for her stays. Today Room # 3 is called the Clara Bow Room. Clara and Rex often entertained the Hollywood crowd at Nipton and on their ranch. Trainloads of guests would arrive in Nipton for the overland auto ride to their Walking Box Ranch.

Harry Trehearne passed away in 1949 and Nipton passed into other hands. After a period of neglect, Nipton was purchased by the Gerald Freeman family in 1984. Much of Nipton has been restored since then. The Freeman's first efforts included the restoration and renovation of Hotel Nipton <http://www.nipton.com/hotel.html> and the promotion of it as a Bed and Breakfast Inn, and the reforming of the general store into the Nipton Trading Post as a gift and convenience store. Nipton Station, a recreational vehicle park, was developed to provide temporary living accommodations for workers in the local gold mines. A new future is being charted as a gateway community to Mojave National Preserve <http://www.nipton.com/mnp.html> . The new emphasis for Nipton is as a host location for tourism and a hub for art and nature educational workshops. This is a shift from its traditional role in mining, ranching and railroading.

TWENTIETH CENTURY CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY OF NIPTON, CA

1900 Gold is discovered in the Crescent District - New York Mountains near Crescent Peak, Nevada about 5 miles east of a small community at a wagon crossroads in Ivanpah Valley. The apex claim, given the name "Nippeno", is staked on Jan 1, 1900.(Nippeno Patent -U.S. Archives) The crossroads wagon community becomes known as Nippeno Camp, as the place where the miners live.

1904 Track laying crews on the new San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad pass through Nippeno in December heading east to rendezvous with west bound crew a few miles from Jean, Nevada. (Myrick 1963)

1905 The first train from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles runs on February 9 with Senator Wm. Clark aboard.

1905 - 1910 Original construction completed of Hotel Nipton. Mining boom days in Nippeno with active exploration and development in the Crescent District. (Smith-1981) Regular stage travel between Searchlight and Nippeno probably established in this period. Stage travel continues to be reported through 1926 (Hewett - 1956)

1910 Union Pacific Railroad System acquires the S.P.L.A.&S.L. line: changes the name Nippeno to Nipton - to avoid confusion with Nippomo, another stop on RR time tables. (Smith 1981)

1913 Harry Trehearne naturalized in the United States District Court at Las Vegas, NV on Dec. 9, certificate of naturalization No 123166 being issued to him. Born in Bristol, England on Oct. 31, 1885 and came to the United States about Feb. 17, 1906. (Nipton Patent - U. S. Archives)

1918 Roy Port of Ivanpah Valley reportedly stays in Hotel Nipton on a trip up from San Diego. Hotel was "old" at that time. (N. Huth -1981).

1922 Harry Trehearne becomes full time resident of Nipton on May 6, 1922. (1935 Homestead Entry No. 022952).

1922-24 Harry Trehearne leases railroad station site (20 acres) from Union Pacific R.R (inference based upon references to ground "leased from railroad" in 1935 Homestead Entry No. 022952).

1924 Original (wooden) store constructed by Harry Trehearne doing business under the trade name Nipton Mercantile Company; Trehearne also repairs Hotel Nipton for occupancy at an expenditure of $3,000.(1935 Homestead Entry No. 022952).

1928 Trehearne files original Settlement Claim on 320 acre enlarged homestead tract adjoining the "Railroad Station Grounds at Nipton, California". The Sacramento General Land Office designation of Serial 022952 is given to the Settlement Claim. Subsequent decision by the G.L.O. to reject the "enlarged homestead" is issued on March 7, 1930.

1929 Light Plant constructed at Nipton to provide electricity for the townsite. Equipped with 2 KOHLER 5kW generators.

1930-31 "Big John" Silvera, Deputy Sheriff of Searchlight completes work on "Garden of Mystery" in front of Hotel Nipton. (Smith 1981)

1930-33 School House built in Nipton. Made of concrete with galvanized steel roof, Harry Trehearne believed to be instrumental in this construction. Correspondence of the period indicates that Trehearne was the registered "Clerk" of the then established School District. Costs of construction are indicated as $18,000.

1934 Controversy over School House located on Settlement Claim No. 022952. Residents and voters from the Cima and Kelso precinct of S.B.Co. file protests with the U.S. Land Office regarding the inclusion of the lands underlying the school house within the Settlement Claim. Trehearne deeds school house land (100' by 200') to the Cima School District, Deed dated August 16, 1934.

1935 Second Homestead Entry No. 022952 filed in Sacramento by Harry Trehearne dated August 1 on 120 acre site known as Nipton, California.

1937-40 Under Trehearne direction, original water well dug by hand, in miners manner of sinking a shaft, to a depth of 550 feet below surface.

1940 Pump installed in water well: 8 gpm capacity

1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Patent papers transferring title of Nipton site to Harry Trehearne on April 10, 1940.

1940 Spring (?) Harry Trehearne travels back to native England. On route, his ship Athenia is torpedoed. Trehearne survives and returns to Nipton. Photo shows H. T. with dislocated shoulder from incident. 1940-43 Store and Town Hall constructed taking several years due to many interruptions as a consequence of wartime shortages of materials.

1945 Trehearne constructs concrete block 2 bedroom home (Nippeno House) for his family including Ella, his wife and Roland, his stepson.

1949 Harry Trehearne dies on March 24 at age 63. 1953 Ella Mae Trehearne dies in her late 50's. 195? Union Pacific Railroad abandons station at Nipton. 195? School moved to new location in Mountain Pass.

1956-1984 Nipton property passes into the stewardship of six various owners.

1956 - 1958 Ted W. Bernhardt &; Alberta Bernhardt 1957 Quiet Title on school house land in favor of T.W. Bernhardt et.al. Cima School District fails to respond to quiet title action. '58 - '65 Lynn C. Snyder & Mary H. Snyder '65 - '73 Carl H. Winnefeld ~ Nancy J Winnefeld '73 - '78 Nancy J. Fetters '78 - '80 Richard Hill and Theresa Hill '80 - '84 William F Huth

1984 Freeman Family (d.b.a. Provident Corporation) takes possession of the Nipton town site under provisions of a lease with option to purchase.

1985 Escrow on purchase of Nipton town site closes in January. Freeman begins rehabilitation of deserted town site. Renovation of Hotel Nipton and reopening the store under the trade name of Nipton Trading Post receive first attention.

1985-1988 Gold Mining Boom days in Nipton with active mining and development of nearby Morning Star Mine, Coliseum Mine and Castle Mountain Venture (Hart Mining District). RV Park is activated under the trade name of Nipton Station to provide temporary residence for miners working in nearby mines. Nipton Station is full to capacity of itinerant miners and their families.

1986 Hotel Nipton, bed and breakfast inn opens for business in May. Nippeno House remodeling is completed in July to serve as primary residence for Gerald Freeman family.

1989 Nipton Trading Post becomes vendor for California State Lottery.

1991 East Mojave Subdivision completed involving the clearing of title and elimination of "railroad station grounds" parcel on San Bernardino County records.

1990-91 Nipton Trading Post is the largest sales volume location of lottery tickets in California.

1994 Nipton land parcels exempted from inclusion in Mojave National Preserve by Act of Congress, signed by President Bill Clinton on October 31, 1994.

1995 Planning begins for developing Nipton as tourism and art center.
1998 Construction of first prototype EcoLodge tented cabin to accommodate visitors to the Mojave Desert recreational resources.  This EcoLodge is named The Pioneer.
2000 Construction completed of modified second prototype EcoLodge to be named The Surveyor.   Information obtained regarding S.D Karns circa 1900 arrival, and his activities in establishing Nipton (Nippeno Camp) as a California place name.
2002 EcoLodge prototype further modified following design features of the 1920’s Frank Lloyd Wright “Ocotillo” campsite at Arizona.  Contemporary innovations include screened windows, wood burning stove for cooler weather and evaporative cooler for warm weather habitation.

2005 The Kelso Depot restoration completed by the National Park Service and the facility opened to the Public as the official Visitor Center for Mojave National Preserve.  Nippeno Camp at Nipton now includes 4 EcoLodge tented cabins.

                                    Compiled by Gerald Freeman in Nipton, December 2005


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