Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pioche: The true Wild West

The law in remote Pioche, southeastern Nevada's richest mining town in the 1870s, was often determined by the fastest gun. The nearest population settlement--and the only law enforcement--was 400 miles to the west. Supplies had to be hauled over the sizzling desert from a railhead 275 miles away.

In 1870-71 Pioche claimed almost 60% of the killings for the entire state of Nevada. There were more than six dozen graves on Boot Hill from violent deaths before the first death by natural causes.

Employment prospects were good if you were a hired gun. The rich and the mine owners made good use of your services. See for yourself as you stroll Boot Hill reading the gravestones.

Visit the million-dollar courthouse, one of Nevada’s most famous landmarks, built in 1872 with bricks brought round the Horn. Now home to government offices and a museum, you can relive the past by joining the jury (there is one empty seat that you can fill for that period photograph) in a trial reenactment.

The electric mannequin judge bangs his gavel and the conglomeration of jurors listen in rapt attention to the prosecutor’s oration, then step inside the two-foot thick walls of the jail that once held some of the West’s most feared desperadoes--and those that could not bribe the jury.

The historical experience of Pioche is 175 miles north of Las Vegas on US93. Two small RV parks are in town and no-hookup camping is at Cathedral Gorge State Park ten miles south.

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