[Pioche, NV] — You may not have heard of Pioche, Nevada, but in the last half of the nineteenth century, this silver-mining boomtown had established quite a reputation for itself. The town’s 1873 tax records list 78 saloons and 34 brothels, numbers probably more than sufficient for its 6,000 residents. Back then, disputes were settled in the most expeditious manner possible, which more often than not resulted in at least one of the aggrieved parties staring down the wrong end of a gun. Local legend has it that 72 shooting victims were buried in the town’s Boot Hill cemetery before the arrival of a single decedent due to natural causes.

“This town made Deadwood and Tombstone look like kindergarten,” Jane Humphrey claims. Humphrey is a tour guide at Pioche’s “Million Dollar Courthouse,” which was built in 1872 for considerably less than that amount. However, due to inefficiency and corruption, that’s what it cost taxpayers by the time the construction debt was paid off in 1937.

“This was the most corrupt town in the west,” Humphrey continues. “In the 1860s and 1870s, judges and sheriffs here made between $40,000 and $60,000 per year in bribes.” Nowadays, Pioche’s population is considerably smaller than it was then (less than 1,000 today), and  its citizenry and officials appear to be more friendly and upstanding. I visited the town earlier this year as part of my Nevada “Lonely Highways” tour, about which I’ve written several earlier posts.

Pioche is located in the high desert about 180 miles northeast of Las Vegas on U.S. Route 93. You can visit Boot Hill and walk among its wooden grave markers (Humphrey says the markers are original, but in truth, they look a little too well-preserved to be 140 years old), and you’ll see the early 1900s aerial tram and its buckets which transported ore from the mines. If you’re lucky, Humphrey will lead you on a free tour of the Lincoln County (“Million Dollar”) Courthouse and its adjoining jail. According to Humphrey, the tiny jail was built to house 66 prisoners and had no electricity, no heat, and little natural light.

The courthouse is open for tours April 16 through October 15, from 10:00 am through 3:00 pm. Since it’s closed for the season at this time, I recommend calling the courthouse at 775-962-5182 to verify the schedule before a springtime visit, or check with the Pioche Chamber of Commerce (info below).

No, it isn’t Deadwood or Tombstone. But in its time, Pioche was the baddest of the bad. Come check it out for yourself.


Pioche history: http://lincolncountynevada.com/Lincoln-County-Nevada-Pioche.html

Pioche Chamber of Commerce: www.piochenevada.org

Nevada tourism: http://travelnevada.com


Pioche’s Boot Hill


Aerial mining tram with ore buckets

The “Million Dollar Courthouse”

Display inside courthouse

Tour Guide Jane Humphrey

Inside the old jail at courthouse







About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer specializing in motorcycle touring and travel. He is regular contributor to Harley-Davidson's HOG Magazine, and his travel features appear regularly in motorcycle magazines and other publications.

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  1. Gordon

    March 11, 2016

    My Great Grandfather,Thomas Henry Williams moved his wife and son to Pioche in early 1800’s. They appear in the Nevada Census for 1872. He came from St Ives, Cornwall to work in a mine.

    • Glen Abbott

      March 11, 2016

      Lots of mines there; dangerous existence though!

  2. tribal

    January 18, 2014

    A tip….dont trip on acid.
    Another tip…definitely dont take acid in pioche.
    The ghosts come out after 12am.
    And no it wasnt the cid talking.

  3. NYmike

    December 30, 2011

    Glen – Read about your ride in the Vegas desert a few months back in HOG magazine. I’m renting a Heritage Softail and am taking that tour on Jan 10th – great info, looking forward to the cool nights and the lonesome road.
    Happy New Year,

    • Travelin' Gringo

      December 30, 2011

      Hey Mike, thanks, you’ll love the ride — it’s one of my all-time favorites. Happy New Year!

  4. Gladys | ByahengBarok.com

    December 21, 2011

    i’ve always been fascinated with the old, old west. this post is superb. i would love to go there someday and not some set in a hollywood movie. 🙂
    Gladys | ByahengBarok.com recently posted..In the Pursuit of Light, In the Pursuit of Happyness

  5. adventureswithben

    December 21, 2011

    Mining towns always have a great story to tell.
    adventureswithben recently posted..How to Create a Travel-Themed Christmas Tree

    • Travelin' Gringo

      December 21, 2011

      That’s true, Ben, and those stories don’t usually have much to do with mining!

  6. Old towns like these are very interesting! I just wish they weren’t so far in the middle of no where 🙂 but then they wouldn’t have the ambiance they do. Thanks for sharing this hidden gem!
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Get into the festive spirit with a visit to London’s winter ice rinks!

    • Travelin' Gringo

      December 21, 2011

      So true — but if these places were close to “civilization” they’d be turned into Disneyland!

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