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Silver discoveries by the french trader Louis Barbeau were made in the Humboldt Range early in 1860. This was hostile indian territory at the time, but a peace accord was made with the Paiutes, and the prospectors flowed in. The townsite of Humboldt City was platted out in 1861. By 1863, the population had boomed to around 500. An article published in the Humboldt register, May 2, 1863, described the town as:

"A picturesque and beautiful village containing some 200 well-built houses, some of which are handsome edifices, and many beautiful gardens that attest the taste and industry of the inhabitants. A beautiful, crystal stream of water diverted from its natural course runs, a little babbling stream, through every street...Humboldt City contains two hotels, kept in good style, one the Coulter House, by Mr. and Mrs. Bailey Nichols, the other, the Iowa House, by Mr. and Mrs. Wilson; two saloons, one by Messrs. Sylvester & Helmer, gentlemen ready to argue or fight for their politics, or deal out red-eye to their numerous thirsty customers, the other by Messrs. Wilson & Coulter; one blacksmith's shop, by Daniels & Cooper, who will at any moment stop shoeing a refractory horse to spin a yarn; two stores with large and well-selected stocks of goods; four families(five or six more are on the road for this place) and children, chickens, pigs, and dogs enough to give the place a lively appearance".

Ore production thrived from 1863 - 1864, but declined after 1864. The post office was removed in 1869.

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