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Ghost Town For Sale: Palisade site up for auction

Ghost Town For Sale: Palisade site up for auction

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Ghost Town For Sale: Palisade site up for auction
Palisade, now a ghost town available for purchase, looked like this in 1874, according to the information on the back of the photograph. (Northeastern Nevada Museum collection)

Once a bustling railroad town where they had "shoot-outs" to entertain travelers, the ghost town of Palisade is now for sale.

Those with a hankering to own their historic property can bid Tuesday on more than 160 acres of a town site that was headquarters for the narrow-gauge Eureka and Palisade Railroad eight miles south of Carlin.

Greg Martin Auctions of San Francisco is offering the property in an auction that features antique guns and daggers, an Amelia Earhart jacket and more.

"We think this is the first time a ghost town has come up for auction, and it is definitely a first for Greg Martin Auctions," said Jill Matousek Turner of Rodin & Shelley Associates, which is handling publicity for the sale.

"Greg Martin said they have had a great deal of interest so far," she said.

One of the landowners, John Sexton of Atlanta, said the parcels for sale cover most of the town site itself, and he remembers adobe buildings and a jail on the site when he was a child.

"The state condemned the jail and took it, also the schoolhouse, and dismantled it," he said in a telephone interview.

"I haven't been out since I was a kid, and I am 50 years old. It's really so far from here. Maybe somebody else could do something with it," Sexton said.

His brother Frank is the other owner, and he lives in Loganville, Ga.

John Sexton said he recalls playing at Palisade as a child.

"The only thing I remember especially is I would find pieces of turquoise on the ground. I think my mother may have put them there," he said. "Also, I never forget seeing the rattlesnakes."

Sexton said he lived at Battle Mountain at the time. He said his father, also John, traveled the state for 32 years as a circuit judge.

The brothers are including railroad papers and stock certificates from Palisade in the bidding package, along with the land, which John Sexton said forms "almost a perfect rectangle."

He believes the Eureka County School District still owns parcels at the town site, as well. The old cemetery, apparently owned by the county, is one of the few reminders of the town, along with the narrow-gauge railroad bridge and a ruin or two.

Palisade had a population of 300 during the railroad days, according to historic accounts, and the town survived a flood and fire in 1910.

Turner researched the history of Palisade for the auction.

Palisade was originally named Palisades, for the sheer rock cliffs to the east of town along the banks of the Humboldt River. With an elevation of 4,811 feet, the palisade in turn was named after a similar geographic formation on New York's Hudson River.

According to "The Pacific Tourist," a guidebook for rail travelers in the late 1800s, the town was then located halfway down the wild and untraveled canyon (whose upper half was so rugged that "not even a horseman venture through it.")

In many ways, Palisade lived and died by the railroad. Palisade was founded in 1868 as a watering stop for thirsty steam engines on the Central Pacific Railroad (which later became the Southern Pacific) and grew quickly as the shipping point for supplies to mining districts in eastern Nevada.

During the 1870s the town rivaled Elko and Carlin as a depot point on the Central Pacific for wagon, freight and stage lines to Mineral Hill, Eureka and Hamilton. Palisade was also a distribution center for the cattle and sheep industry, for rail shipments both east and west.

The Eureka and Palisade Railroad - a 90-mile long feeder line to the Central Pacific - was completed in 1875. Palisade then became the headquarters for its four locomotives, 58 freight cars and three bright yellow passenger coaches.

In its heyday, Palisade had churches, a school, hotels, stores, saloons, fraternal organizations of Masons and Odd Fellows, two freight depots and a large shop where freight cars were built.

The Pacific Tourist reported Palisade's new station-house, ticket and telegraph office were "the finest in Nevada."

Residents also were amateur thespians.

During its glory days in the 1870s, Palisade had a reputation as one of the most violent towns west of Chicago. Newspapers throughout the West decried the regular massacres, which strangely seemed to occur only during Central Pacific train stops.

But it appears the violence was an elaborate town hoax, regularly acted out (one account says over 1,000 times) by Palisade men, women and children, plus nearby Shoshone Indians.

An account at Northeastern Nevada Museum from a 1978 People's Almanac states that the town in reality was crime-free and didn't even have a sheriff. But the article states that the residents had great fun with their acting.

Palisade's boom did not last long. When Eureka's mines began to play out in 1885, Palisade started to decline.

In 1902, the railroad property was transferred to a new Utah company and renamed the Eureka and Palisade Railway.

According to accounts, Eureka experienced a renewed mining boom, but the severe floods in 1910 damaged miles of track and equipment. In 1912, the railroad property was purchased by George Whittell and the Eureka-Nevada Railway Co.

Turner said John E. Sexton, general manager of the Eureka-Nevada Railway and the Sexton brothers' great-grandfather, steered the railroad through stormy years. After his death in 1927, his brother, Charles B. Sexton, became general manager in charge of operations.

In September 1938, the little narrow gauge railroad between Eureka and Palisade finally abandoned the town, and its rails were pulled up and sold as scrap to Japan.

"I know my father was on the last train ride," John Sexton said.

Palisade made the news again in August 1939, when the Southern Pacific train named "City of San Francisco" derailed. Of the 220 passengers and crew, 24 were killed and 121 were injured.

Palisade's long, slow decline continued until the post office closed in 1962.

Today, many current Elko and Carlin residents know the Palisade area because of the Christmas lights the Johnson family displayed at Palisade for a number of years.

The Johnson property isn't part of the Sexton parcels offered for sale, but a buyer can purchase the more than 160 acres where the town once stood.

John Sexton said he believes the mineral rights are included, considering that the property has been in the family for many years.

The ghost town is lot 2512, which will be offered on Tuesday. People can bid at Greg Martin Auctions headquarters in San Francisco, by telephone or on the Internet during the sale that begins Monday and ends Wednesday.

Greg Martin Auctions is offering the town Tuesday in conjunction with online auction company eBay through one of its LiveAuction partners, Auctions By The Bay.

The property is estimated to bring at least $100,000, according to the auction company.

Greg Martin Auctions may be reached by telephone toll-free at 1-800-509-1988, by fax at 415-543-7576, by e-mail at or online at


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