Palmetto, Nevada: A monument to the power of hypothetical money

December 13, 2023

I’m always impressed — in a “wow you’re really stupid” sort of way — by what people will put themselves through for hypothetical money. Apparently, painful self-sacrifice in the name of a slightly above zero chance of becoming rich is a normal part of human behavior. Back in the 90s, for example, people joined startup tech companies and worked 18-hour days for almost no pay because they believed stock options would make them rich. Do you know how many people became rich off of stock options? No one I ever met.

This is the same mentality that convinced people they should build towns in the middle of deserts. Gold! Or in this case, silver! Hence the town of Palmetto, which has a not-smart name (no, dummies, Joshua trees are not palm trees) and is located in a not-smart place.

Stone ruins in Palmetto, Nevada.

Here’s the short and uneventful history of Palmetto: in 1866 three prospectors found silver in the Nevada desert and thought they were gonna be rich. They built a stamp mill and a little town and a few years later they slunk off with their tails between their legs, because there wasn’t any more silver. 

Then in 1880, someone else found silver nearby, and the town was once again up and running. This time it persisted through the first few years of the 20th century and eventually grew large enough to support a few businesses and a weekly newspaper. But by 1907, Palmetto was empty diggins. Again. Now there’s nothing left but a few crumbling stone buildings and a placard.

These are definitely not palm trees.

Over its lifetime the Palmetto Mine produced a total of around $6.5 million in gold and silver, but the cynic in me is pretty sure there were only few people who actually walked away better off than they were when they arrived. I don’t know, maybe it was all divided up equitably amongst the miners and their families? If I’m too cynical, someone let me know.

In its heyday, Palmetto was mostly a tent city with 200 tent homes and tent businesses like the one pictured below, where you could get drunk and pick up your groceries in the same convenient location.

Palmetto was all about convenience.

What’s left of Palmetto isn’t anywhere near as cool as what’s left of Metropolis, but it’s at least slightly less likely to collapse on top of you and cause your death. The stamp mill still exists, and you can pick your way through the sagebrush to get a closer look at the remains of a two-story boarding house. 

This strange hole is evidently a part of the stamp mill, at least according to some questionable sources on The Internet, but I can’t tell you why this hole exists or what its purpose was.

Some random hole or another.

Palmetto is located on Highway 266 about 12 miles west of Lida, Nevada. We weren’t even looking for it, so it’s genuinely not hard to find.