Travelogue:

Belmont then and now

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Matt Hufman

The steps of the Belmont Inn & Saloon, which was once the home of town “guardian” Rose Walter, are shown here on Sept. 18, 2013. The building was also a stagecoach stop in the 1880s. Below the steps is a “stagecoach stone,” which is where passengers would step on and off.

Day 4, Nevada Heartland tour, first update

Don’t be jealous, but Mike and I took off our jackets at lunchtime. Yes, jackets. It was cool this morning in Belmont, which is about 45 miles north of Tonopah. (It’s just about the geographic center of the state.) And, the weather required jackets, which after a summer in Las Vegas, was wonderful.

The tradeoff for that is a cold winter. How cold? Glad you asked. Someone said something about 0 (yes, zero) degrees not being uncommon. (It's 7,400 feet in elevation.) Remember that when you plan a visit.

Speaking of plans, Mike and I expected to be elsewhere this morning, but Rick Main, the owner of the Belmont Inn & Saloon, introduced us to Terry and Fran and we put our plans on the shelf. We’ve had a great morning. Terry and Fran are retired teachers and both grew up in central Nevada. (Terry in Tonopah, Fran in Goldfield.)

They’re not year-round residents, but they are here often. And they have been very gracious.

Fran runs Sticks and Stones, which is billed a “high desert boutique.” It may sound funny – a boutique in Belmont – but she opened the doors for us. It really is a fine little boutique. Then Terry gave us a tour of the Belmont Courthouse, which opened in 1876, and described a history that could only be made in Nevada. (More on all of that later.)

Belmont is a gem. It’s fairly well preserved for a town like this, and that is, in no small part, due to a woman named Rose Walter. Her family homesteaded in the area. She ended up in Manhattan, a small mining village nearby, with her husband, who was a miner. She and her husband moved back to Belmont in the 1950s to take care of her dying mother. Her husband later passed away, and Rose – people still refer to her as Rose – stayed.

She was essentially the town’s protector for years. For a period of time, she was the only year-round resident, and she ran off people who came to plunder the town. Terry said he gave a tour of the courthouse one time to a man who had come up here when Rose was alive. The man and his friend had come up to Belmont on motorcycles and asked Rose if they could take pictures. She asked if they had weapons. They did, in their saddlebags. She demanded them with such authority that the men complied. She then gave her permission with the admonition not to take anything. They didn’t, and when they were done, they checked in to retrieve their weapons and head home. (There’s another rule in Belmont: no camping.)

Rose died at the age of 93 in 1987, and there’s a plaque by the flagpole in town in her honor.

One thing about Rose that isn’t well known is that she said she had a brush with the Manson family. More on that later.

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