Jim Butler & The Discovery of Tonopah, Nevada

The Start of Tonopah…

Who is Jim Butler and how the heck did he end up on the rocky ridge where Tonopah stands today?

In May of 1900, Jim Butler picked up the first rock of silver in Tonopah, Nevada. This marked the discovery of the ore that built the town.

Historians accept three main theories circling Jim Butler and Tonopah. In order of what is said to be “most likely” they are; the Burro Legend, the theory that Jim acted on a tip from local natives, and the theory that Belle and Jim actually knew what they were looking for.

The History of Tonopah, Mizpah in the background - Early 1900's
The History of Tonopah, Mizpah in the background – Early 1900’s


Allow us to introduce you to “The Burro Legend.”

The Burro Legend

The story goes that Jim was traveling from his ranch to the Klondike field when a bad storm blew up. Not wanting to continue in the cold wind and rain, he moved to the shelter of a ridge to camp. Sometime during the night, one of his two burros wandered off and he had to go looking for it. When he found it, the burro took off over the ridge, at which point Jim picked up a stone to throw at the fool beast. Feeling the weight of the stone, he took a closer look and saw enough silver to make him take the sample for appraisal.

Given the likelihood that many prospectors had to chase their burros, this story became very popular. It has since been passed on as the truth. However, there was no mention of a burro in Jim’s original letter to the land registry on November 19, 1902.

The Burro Legend is the oldest and most widely propagated story of the discovery of Tonopah.

Jim Butler & The Discovery of Tonopah, Nevada


Tonopah / Jim Butler / Discovery / Silver / Mining Town / Burro Legend / Nevada / History