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Empire, Nevada is located 6 miles south of Gerlach.

Alex Ranson discovered gypsum 1907 at what later became Empire.[1] In 1910, Alex Ranson, Nick Curnow, E. H. Cowles and James Raser filed a patent for a selenite placer mining claim.[2][3]

The mine moved from near Mound House, Nevada to the location in northern Washoe County in 1924.[4]

In 1946, Jay A. Carpenter stated that Allan Moore had been the superintendent since 1944. At the time, jointing in the blocks caused problems with blasting that meant that churn drilling of the next shots was too dangerous, so they were pivoting the face to avoid the jointing. A new 6" churn drill was used to drill holes in which Trojan black powder (40%) was used. Selenite domes 20-30' high and 50' wide were noted. These domes were also described in the 40th Parallel Survey of 1876. "Settlers at the time were using 3' pieces for windows."[5]

Carpenter describes the working conditions as being 6 days per week, 9-10 hours per day.[5]

In 1956, Empire was reported as having a perlite processing plant.[6]

In 1964, a perlite expanding furnace was present at Empire.[7]

The old schoolhouse burned in 1954 rebuilt that same year and enlarged in 1964. Empire first had TV service in 1957 and telephone service in 1965. Ernest M. Johnson was head of the safety division of the mine in late 1960's and the Ernest M Johnson Elementary School was named after him.[8]

Pacific Portland Cement Company sold the mine to US. Gypsum. The gypsum mine at Empire closed in 2011.



  1. "Alex Ranson, who Discovered Gypsum Deposits at Empire, Dies in Reno at the age of 83," Nevada State Journal, July 9, 1954, page 2.
  2. 1910 Patent
  3. Clarence. J. Thornton, "Ch. 3: Ranch Life in Northern Nevada and Eastern California," University of Nevada Oral History Project.
  4. "Wheels of Huge Gypsum Plant are set in Motion at Gerlach," Reno Evening Gazette, May 26, 1924.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jay A. Carpenter, Byron S. Hardie, "Notes on Washoe County Reconnaisance Trip," 1946. UNR has photos from this trip.
  6. "Perlite Resources of the United States," Marion C. Jaster, number 1097-I. US Department of the Interior, Geological Survey, 1956, p. 397.
  7. "Mineral and water resources of Nevada, number B065, Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology, 1964, p. 233.
  8. Nevada, The Silver State," vol. 2, p. 825, Western States Historical Publishers, 1970.
  • Louise Swesey Schmidt: Memories of Childhood in Gerlach Area—1910-1916," No. 75, 1977, University of Nevada Oral History Project
    • Louise Schmidt was born in Troy, Montana, on December 15, 1905; and at the age of six months she moved to Fallon, Nevada, with her parents, Alfred and Nellie Swesey, and her half brother, “Koot” Bronson. In 1910, after four years of homesteading in Fallon, the family, which by then included a younger brother, Alfred, moved to Gerlach, Nevada. For the next six years the family resided approximately thirteen miles southeast of Gerlach in an area known as the Gypsum Mine. ... Mrs. Schmidt presents memories of life in the Gerlach area. She recalls her father’s activities while he was employed by the Pacific Portland Cement Company. She describes neighbors, friends, and life in an isolated, rural setting.

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