Candelaria, Nevada

Casey Born in Mining Camp

If Bodie was a thriving mining town, Candelaria, Nevada became even bigger, except the primary mining discoveries that fueled the Candelaria growth and drew the miners and prospectors were of silver—large veins of almost pure silver.

Mexican prospectors discovered the silver veins in 1863, and what would become the area’s largest silver mine—the Northern Belle—was  established in 1864, even though it was not initially worked to its potential.   

The town of Candelaria was given its name in 1865, the name Candelaria attributed to an early mine named for the then popular Catholic holiday, Candlemas Day.

Candelaria didn’t really begin to thrive until 1879 when a mixed group of foreign prospectors arrived, took over the Northern Belle, and created a boom town almost overnight. The Northern Belle alone became responsible for about half of the area’s silver, producing about $15 million of the eventual $33 million attributed to Candelaria mines.

 In 1880 Candelaria was the largest town in the area and was home to three doctors, three lawyers, two hotels, six stores, a post office, livery stables, two newspapers, somewhere between 10 and 27 saloons (sources vary), one school, and no churches. Several brothels were located nearby, in “Pickhandle Gulch,” three quarters of a mile away.

The nearest water had to be hauled in by burro from a spring nine miles away. At $1.00 a gallon, water was more expensive than the omnipresent whiskey. Without water, even the stamp mill operated dry, creating dust everywhere, much of it settling in the lungs of miners, causing many to eventually die of the miners’ malady known as “miners’ lungs” or “consumption.”

In 1882 water was finally piped from Trail Canyon which helped drop its exorbitant price to about a nickel a gallon. As Candelaria had survived for 17 years without water, its rival mining town of Bodie was prompted to take a few “jabs” via its newspaper. One Bodie story “expressed wonder that the lack of water should disturb Candelaria—it being charged that no more than a dozen citizens of the Nevada camp ever used the commodity, either for personal ablutions or beverage.” 

In 1885 the Carson and Colorado Railroad was extended to Candelaria. Candelaria was flourishing, yet by the end of the decade the veins began to peter out and the boom had begun its decline.

Candelaria today

Today’s ghost town of Candelaria, at about 5,000 feet elevation, sits in a treeless pass between a couple of dark hills. Strip mining is still in evidence with 20-foot ledges, lots of pilings, and mountains that look like they’ve been almost chopped in half. The town is very desolate, with the dirt road winding up a hill to the crumbling walls of the Candelaria Milling Company.  

A few building façades and walls still remain, some made out of hand hewn stone blocks which vary in size from about 12 inches high to about 18 inches wide. Lot of rusted metal pieces, barrel hoops, tin cans, broken glass purpled by the desert sun, broken pottery, and other detritus from a long-ago active town lie on the sandy, desert ground.  

Some of the broken plates bore the impressive insignia of  J. & G. Meakin of Hanley, England, a famous pottery company founded in 1851 by James Meakin and his two sons, James and George. Early on in the growth of the business, George went to America to set up an export business. Some of his successful sales ended up in Candelaria, indicating that at least some members of the town liked and could afford nice things. 

Around the deserted town, one can still find large holes which were cellars of homes into which walls and rock foundations have collapsed.  Numerous houses appear to have been constructed out of carved black volcanic rock, a commodity which is abundant in the area.

There’s a cemetery at the entrance to “town,” where the paved road from the highway ends. It’s protected by a cyclone fence even though most graves are just mounds. Illustrating the widespread population that settled in Candelaria, one grave marker indicates a native of Nova Scotia who died in 1884 at age 33. Two side-by-side graves mark a couple from Italy. There’s a grave of a seven-year-old girl.

Side by side are the graves of one Michael O’Keefe, native of Cork, Ireland, who died April 1902 at age 59, and Annie O’Keefe, native of Candelaria. She died in 1884, at only eight months, eleven days old.

Raising families

The formidable, desolate town of Candelaria, Nevada was obviously a tough place to raise families in the 1880s. Medical care was spotty; there was a dearth of water, and the entire town was dusty and sandy. Here Henry and Annie Casey came to begin their family.

One Candelaria woman, Mary Marden Albright, who was married to a Northern Belle mining engineer/millwright from Canada, lost a child at birth in 1888. Not trusting the Candelaria doctors, when she found herself with child the following year she went to Bishop, California, where her son, Horace Marden Albright, was born on January 6, 1890.

As an interesting sidenote, Horace Albright went on to a distinguished career. He was a confidential secretary to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane, and was also a co-founder of the U.S. National Park Service, becoming its first assistant director, and later director. In 1933 Albright accompanied newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Shenandoah National Park and convinced the President that all the military parks should be protected. Roosevelt agreed and directed Albright to initiate an executive transfer order.

With most of his public goals realized in the expansion of and preservation of U.S. National Parks, Albright resigned to enter business, becoming vice president and later president of the large United States Potash Company, from which he retired in 1956.

The Henry Casey family

In that same dusty mining camp that attracted the Albrights, John S. Sheehan, and thousands of other settlers, Henry Joseph Casey, that Irishman from county Galway, came to seek a livelihood. By this time his father-in-law was working Mt. Diablo Mine, and Henry too became a miner.

Henry found the lure of a booming mining town irresistible. With Annie’s help and his own determination, he regularly set aside a little money from his hard-earned mining income. One day, he had enough to open a business.

He figured that by catering to the free-spending miners he would assure himself a regular income. It didn’t take long to realize that not only did the miners spend their income freely, they also drank freely.

So at some point during his tenure in Candelaria, Henry Casey became a saloonkeeper to cater to their vices and assure his family an income. It was good business sense on Henry’s part in which he recognized a need and put himself in a position to fulfill that need. Apparently Henry’s business acumen and instincts would be passed on and be inherited by his eldest son.

Unfortunately however, it appears that the time Casey spent in the mines to get his grubstake would turn out to be a fatal lure. He began to suffer from chronic bad health which would plague him for the rest of his life. It is not known definitively whether the mining dust played a part, but it certainly seems likely.

Note:  Henry Casey’s October 20, 1902 death certificate lists the cause of death as “Pulm. Phthisis.” Pulmonary phthisis is a “miner’s occupational disease, a form of lung consumption associated with or aggravated by work in dusty surroundings, such as badly ventilated underground workings. It was a form of tuberculosis commonly called “consumption” at the time, which involves the lungs and a progressive wasting away of the body.  

There is no record indicating if the Caseys knew the Albrights, but it is probable. After all, Mary Albright had lost a child around the same time Annie Casey was expecting. Who could imagine that the first sons of the two women, both conceived in the same rowdy mining camp, would go on to greatness.

Candelaria, in what is now Mineral County, Nevada, is seven miles west of U.S. Highway 95, some 62 miles west of Tonopah. As county seats have changed, Candelaria records, if they exist at all, could be found in any of four destinations (Goldfield, Hawthorne, Carson City, or Aurora), although Aurora is just a ghost town now.  

In Goldfield, an Esmeralda County Courthouse ledger from the late 19th century shows that the wife of one H. Casey (they only listed the fathers then) gave birth in Candelaria to a male baby on March 29, 1888. That would have been James Emmett Casey, the eldest of Henry and Annie’s four children, and principal founder of UPS. He was named for his grandfather, James Casey, that first Casey in county Galway. James E. Casey rarely, almost never, used his middle name “Emmett” as he did not like it.

Henry Joseph Casey and Annie Elizabeth Sheehan Casey stayed in Candelaria long enough to give birth to two more sons there.

The same ledger indicated that the wife of Henry Casey again gave birth to a male on July 13, 1890. That would be Jim’s brother Harry. “Harry” was actually named exactly as his father, Henry Joseph Casey, no “Jr.” He would also later be called H.J.).

The last Casey entry in the ledger shows his wife presented him with a third son on February 21, 1893. That would be George Washington Casey. George W. Casey, who later became a founding partner of UPS, also hated his middle name “Washington” and never used it.

James E. Casey and his brothers spent the first few years of their lives in that mining camp on a high, cold Nevada mountainside. There, in an Wild West atmosphere amid hard-working and hard-fighting miners, Jim tried to live as normal a childhood as possible, playing with other kids on mining pilings or in the hills around the dry and rocky town. That he went on from those austere beginnings to become a business icon is a true American success story.

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