In Search of the Historic Gans/Nelson Stadium

Obtained at
Joe Gans

You’ve seen the coming of age films & you’ve seen similar stories of “the times they are a changin’.” Well, this is one of those.

I’m making my way to the site of a historic boxing match. It was 1906 and this was one of the first sporting events ever to be filmed.

The sport, itself, was something new called Gloved Boxing. The match lasted 42 rounds. Joe Gans finally won by a technical foul. His opponent was “Battling” Nelson. The $30,000 purse made news around the world. They brought in extra train cars to sit on the tracks to house the huge audience in train cars. They built a stadium just for the event and today, on foot, I’m making my way to that location at the North edge of my town, Goldfield, Nevada. I know it was just beside the ruins of the old train station.

I sat down to scribble these words at a line of rocks. It appears this was a storefront at one time and I looked down at the dust around my boots to discover melted clumps of glass. I have to wonder if these are remains from the 1923 fire that was Goldfield’s second major death toll. A flash flood had hit the town in 1913 with a couple fires in 1905 and ’06.

I’ve found the ruins and they lie on private property, in what appears to be a junkyard with a crane and trucks and engines in various states of decay. This mostly fallen down plastered-over brick building has graffiti scratched into it. It’s really a very unremarkable site, other than how it sadly sits, forgotten, in the middle of this sagebrush industrial graveyard.

There is an aluminum plaque at the site that my friend Dominic, a county commissioner, later showed me there. I can’t get over how forgotten the location has been left. The current family that owns the land was headed by a maritime contractor, who’s now passed away.

To describe what I’m seeing: it’s a long gully, a wash, parceled with junk vehicles and the ubiquitous scatter of Goldfield rust bunnies. I see homes, on ridges, over looking this section, but here it seems pretty clear of population. I assume it tends to flood. I swear I just heard an ‘oogahh’ horn.

Not a trace here of that stadium that I’ve seen in historical pictures and a video clip on YouTube. I did find a cement framed box, standing all alone beside a dusty car path with cement barriers blocking entry. In a sea of sagebrush, I can tell this is not a related artifact. Someone has dumped trash into this box, with discolored plastic toys and a vinyl purse, some shoes, a phone and various rubbish scattered.

Later, I’m told that the wooden stadium was quickly dismantled and sent elsewhere. Wood is a hot commodity in this semi-barren desert town-always has been.

The aroma of sagebrush here is almost overpowering. I found a cool keychain on the ground from Nevada’s famed Mustang Ranch brothel. It’s brass and purports a ‘stud farm’ at the brothel and says “Ask for Dave”. I’m keeping it. I put the keys back on the ground that had been attached to it. I don’t know who Dave is. I hope he finds his keys. This place is a paradise for ground scores.

Anyone seeing me wandering around this site must be wondering why a man in work boots and jeans with a nice shirt and tie would be here. Earlier today, I just happened to be a witness in a court case concerning a man who wears a gun. The case was in our beautiful wild west courthouse at the center of town.

There was a time when a gun drawn and pointed at someone’s face was considered a “disagreement”. Today, a person simply wearing a firearm is considered a criminal. My friend is no criminal, he just loves guns. He was found innocent of false imprisonment with a deadly weapon and also coercion.

The times they are a changin’. Welcome to Goldfield where stories like these seem appropriate.


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