The discovery of gold in California in 1849 caused prospectors to drop everything and head west, creating the Gold Rush. Sixty years later, the discovery made by a young mother of two prompted another rush, this time in Nevada.
Ellen Clifford was the daughter of a prospector. Her father had come west from Maryland to seek his fortune in the goldfields. Ellen was born in Nevada, showing at an early age a great aptitude for prospecting. When she married Joseph Nay, she convinced him to go with her to the goldfields. With their two young daughters, they worked hard, both staking their own claims. On March 31, 1909, Ellen spotted a large boulder half buried by sand. She knocked off a piece and discovered it was covered with flecks of gold. “I never saw so much gold on a single piece of rock before,” she wrote in her diary. The rock weighed 75 pounds and was full of gold.
The Nays and Cliffords kept the discovery a secret until they could lay out lots to be sold off in an orderly fashion. But when the news was released, the old gold fever struck again. A June 1909 news story, dateline Tonopah, NV, reads “Every available vehicle was pressed into service and before noon hundreds of people were on their way to the new camp. Tomorrow morning a newspaper will be published and already there are several saloons and restaurants in the camp.”
The community which sprang up around the find was called Ellendale, and Ellen, proud of what her discovery had wrought, gave tours to reporters and potential investors. By November 1909, the vein of gold was completely tapped out, but the Nays used their proceeds wisely, building a ranch for themselves near Belmont.