Now the Wedekind mine, where prospectors struck it rich in the early 1900s, is buried beneath a modern-day suburbia where Wedekind Road winds towards Pyramid Way.
The first homes in the area sprung up as a result of the mine, rising just a few years before the majority of Sparks moved into the area in 1904 along with the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Sparks’ first community began when a traveling piano tuner lazily kicked over a rock while roaming the hills near Wedekind Road. A glimmer caught his eye and he realized that he had struck silver.
George Wedekind had come to the United States from Germany in 1851. Feeling the allure of the gold rush, Wedekind moved to Virginia City where he became an amateur miner in between piano tuning jobs.
Then he moved to the area that is now known as Sparks, where he made his silver discovery. With the help of his two sons, Henry and Louis, who were experienced miners from eastern Nevada, Wedekind began to develop the mine to its full potential.
A small town began to form around the mine, including a smattering of 12 houses, a general store, machine shop, post office, boarding house, large mill and a machine shop.
It was the city before the city of Sparks, said Les Edes, director of the Sparks Heritage Museum.
Now, the house of former Sparks Fire Chief Bill Farr sits on the maze of tunnels.
In 1963, Farr’s wife was sitting in their family room when she heard a loud rumble, Farr said. The dining room and surrounding portions of the house had sunk into the mine.
“It scared the living daylights out of her,” Farr said.
After extensive construction, the Farrs said they feel much safer in their home, although sink holes still appear across their property.
“I just feel very blessed because I have been able to study and understand a little bit of the history and development of the city of Sparks,” Farr said.
In 1901, the Wedekind mine’s success caught the attention of a prominent rancher, governor of Nevada and Sparks’ namesake John Sparks. Sparks had come into a large sum of money through a cattle deal and wanted to make an investment. Sparks convinced Wedekind to sell the mine, the land and the mill site for $155,000.
Wedekind retreated to retirement in Reno with the fortune he had made from the mine while Sparks dug shafts deeper into the ground.
Sparks mined the area intensively, brining in some of the best mining technology available, 40 new workers and prominent metallurgists. As the years marched on, the mine didn’t bring the returns for which he had hoped.
Through a series of failed investments and drained coffers from another campaign for governor of Nevada, Sparks became bankrupt. His attention shifted from the mine to bigger priorities.
The little town of Wedekind City scattered before it could be incorporated.
“It was like a lot of the other ghost towns in the area,” Edes said. “It was just never incorporated.”
* Historical information gathered from the Sparks Heritage Museum archives.