After local rancher Joseph Good’s cattle were drawn to a spring nestled this southern Nevada valley, the area soon became known as Goodsprings and the name simply stuck. And, similar to the tale of many other Nevada cities, significant prospecting occurred in Goodsprings. So significant in fact, that Goodsprings is still considered to be one of the most productive mining districts in all of southern Nevada. Part of the reason Goodsprings drew in so many prospectors wasn't necessarily for the amount of goodies in those hills, but the variety. Impressively, lead, silver, copper, zinc and gold were all mined from the area, which subsequently prompted a boom after the railroad was brought to Goodsprings in 1910.
When visiting Goodsprings today, several historical buildings can be found throughout the captivating downtown area, including the Goodsprings Schoolhouse and remnants of mining camps. Perhaps the most interesting is the hard-to-miss Pioneer Saloon, which lies right at the entrance of town on the main drag. Practically begging for a visit, the Pioneer Saloon opened its doors in 1913 and is one of the oldest saloons in Nevada.
Originally erected by esteemed local businessmen George Fayle, the Pioneer Saloon wasn't just a bar, but instead the social epicenter of town. While there are several bars throughout the state that will certainly scratch that Wild West itch, the Pioneer Saloon is just about as authentic as it gets. It might seem tame today, but back in the early 1900s, Goodsprings was booming, miners were spending too many hours at the bar and things got real western…real fast. So much in fact, that one of the original tin walls tells the tale of a fellow who tried to cheat his hand at cards. Appalled at such an atrocious act, his opponent fired three shots, killing him on the spot. These three bullet holes, along with an original coroners report can be inspected first-rate when popping in for a visit today.
The amazing historical snippets don't end there, either. The interior and exterior walls are stamped tin, manufactured by Sears and Roebuck, and thought to be one of the last [if not the very last] of its kind in the United States. Also, the solid wood Brunswick bar was manufactured in Maine in the 1860s, brought west to the formerly booming Rhyolite, and relocated to Goodsprings in 1913. The Pioneer Saloon also has the original stove—which still heats the building today—and dining tables that have been around since its opening day too.
While the historical factoids are too great to individually name, there’s one in specific that definitely put this place on the map. While traveling on a war bond tour in 1942, actress Carole Lombard was scheduled to travel from Indiana to her home in Los Angeles. Although originally scheduled to return home by train, Lombard was so anxious to get back that she scheduled a flight last minute. Her plane refueled in Las Vegas, and after a few minutes in flight crashed into Double Up Peak on Potosi Mountain, just outside Goodsprings. Lombard’s husband, Clark Gable, immediately flew to the Pioneer Saloon where the search party was headquartered. Gable spent three grueling days at the Pioneer Saloon, waiting to learn if there were any survivors. Tragically, all 22 passengers aboard the flight perished, including his beloved wife Carole Lombard. When checking out the Pioneer Saloon today, visitors can learn more about this catastrophe in the Clark Gable Memorial Room. Take it to a new level of immersion by checking out Clark Gable’s alleged cigarette burns in the bar counter—a result of him nodding off while waiting for Lombard’s search party to return.
Countless television shows and movies have also used the Pioneer Saloon as a backdrop, and their wildly delicious Ghost Burger has even been featured on the Food Network. And what goes better with your Ghost Burger than a Schlitz beer? You’re going to want one, as it’s the only beer the Pioneer Saloon served in 1913 that is still served there today.
Bottom line: if you only have time for one excursion away from the Las Vegas Strip, make sure the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings is #1 on the list. Delicious meals, incredible conversation, friendly locals, irresistible history and authenticity that can't be replicated are just a few things to make this one a memorable stop.