Mercury Mine, Nevada
The Red Rock Mine looks more like a small community than a mining camp.
| The Red Rock Mercury Mine was a family owned and operated quicksilver mine that operated for well over 30 years.
The mine was first discovered back in 1927 by George Dunnigan who had worked in Tonopah and Goldfield during their boom days as a teamster until the railroads replaced the freight lines.
Out of work, George moved out to Fish Valley and got a job out at the Patterson Ranch where he would spend his free time prospecting in the local hills, one day he came across some formations that reminded him of quicksilver formations
he had seen as a kid at a mine back east where he grew up. George suspected that he had found a good mercury prospect so he staked a claim.
After starting up the camp, George began urging his son to quit his job in Oakland California and move to Nevada and help develop the mine. Three years later Walter yielded to his fathers pressure. His wife Roberta was still not convinced that quicksilver mining held much of a future. So she continued working her job in Oakland until 1932 when she followed her husband to Nevada.
Roberta took quickly to living in a small rock cabin and took care of all the cooking, washing, and keeping the house for Walter and his father George, this included hauling all of the domestic water from Chiatovich Creek in the next canyon and driving 75 miles over dirt roads to the nearest town for supplies.
After the death of George Dunnigan, Walter and Roberta were free to leave the Red Rock Mine and go back to Oakland and their previous way of life. But, by now it was too late, they had become quicksilver miners. The prospect of ever returning to the city was frightening.
In the 25 years since George Dunnigan moved to Red Rock, Fish Valley had grown (some-what) and Walter and Roberta now had a attractive frame home in the pinion pines with modern plumbing and electricity that they generated. They still had to haul water from Chiaovich Creek in 100 gallon tank mounted to a 1930 Model A Ford truck. A couple of trips a week would supply their domestic needs including the modern plumbing.
Water from a local spring was too mineralized for drinking so it was piped down a distance of two miles to irrigate a 100 square foot garden where the Dunnigans produced what crops they could that would grow in the short growing season of this latitude. The Dunnigans could have hunted for their own meat, but chose not to and instead made friends and pets of the animals of the White Mountains, including a skunk!
Walter once said about the Red Rock Mine; "It's not the greatest mine in the world... but it's faithful. It's in its 28th year of continuous production and still going strong". The older portion of the mine was developed by George Dunnigan and is entirely underground with over 4000 feet of tunnels. Walter later operated the mine by the open-cut method which proved to be successful and less costly.
Due to a combination of factors which included the end of World War II, the mercury market went into a tailspin and from 1946 though 1950 the price of mercury averaged less than $84.00 a flask. Coupled with the high cost of labor, the U.S. Bureau of Mines reported that many quicksilver mines had closed down leaving only 16 mines in the nation with any reported production, among them was the Red Rock Mercury Mine.
In 1954, the U.S. government started a three year effort to stimulate mercury production in the states by carrying a guarantee of $225.00 a flask. For some odd reason the market jumped to a peak of $340 per flask of mercury.
The government's price guarantee on quicksilver ended on December 31, 1957. What effect it had on the Red Rock Mercury Mine and the Dunnigan's is lost to history.
Let's explore the Red Rock Mercury Mine
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