It is unknown how long man has frequented the area of the Amargosa Valley, but artifacts have been found as far back as 10,000 years. The first occupants were Native American hunter gatherers. The first white man to settle in the Amargosa Valley was Charles King. King had gone to California with the Gold Rush in 1850. By 1870 he had worked as a lighterer, a merchant in Sacramento, a lumberman, a sheriff and had mined all over California and Nevada. King was working as a miner in Timpahute, Nevada in the summer of 1871 when Wheeler's survey came through and signed on as a guide. With mining operations at Ivanpah and Chloride Cliff, King recognized that the Amargosa Valley would be valuable with its springs and thousands of acres of virgin grasslands. Between 1871 and 1879 several ranches were built in the Amargosa Valley. By the early 1880s, the decline of mines in the Ivanpah and Tecopa areas had deprived ranchers and farmers of markets, and about half had been forced to abandon their homesteads.
In the early 1900s the Amargosa Valley had little value to the outside world. With the discovery of silver and gold, mineral deposits in Death Valley and the founding of Las Vegas 1905 would set the phase for the next history of the Amargosa Valley. The population had begun to grow which brought great opportunity for many people. Freight was being moved north to Tonopah and to camps in the Death Valley area. Every water hole was occupied and the building of camps provided a succession of opportunities for miners, merchants and promoters. In the Amargosa, a worthless deposit of clay soon became very valuable.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad was the focal point of most of the activity in the Amargosa Valley. Supplies would arrive from the outside world on its tracks to make living possible in this out of the way area. The products of the valley - clay, marble and agricultural products moved south on its rails. The Valley depended on the railroad for its livelihood.
The modern era of Amargosa Valley development really began in the early 1950s, when the federal government opened the valley to settlement under the terms of the Desert Land Act.
Prior to that time, the only people living in the Amargosa Valley resided in Lathrop Wells and the Ash Meadows area. By 1963 electricity was brought in with the efforts of several ranchers in Amargosa and the modern area of Amargosa Valley had begun.
By the 1960s many residents were employed at the Nevada Test site. A number of these individuals filed for land under the Desert Land Act, which was still in force. The hub of Amargosa Valley's social life was the post office/restaurant/bar combination at Lathrop Wells. By 1964, most of the residents began to recognize the need for a formal community organization. With this in mind the residents organized the Amargosa Valley Improvement Association, known as AVIA, a nonprofit corporation. William P. Beko, the Nye County district attorney assisted AVIA in drawing up its charter. AVIA became a sub governing body in the Amargosa Valley. Now the town could formally communicate its needs to the Nye County commissioners.
In the 1970s the American Borate Company and IMV operations made a noticeable increase in the population and with that an increased demand for community services. After the towns people petitioned Nye County for the designation of an unincorporated town they were formally given that designation in 1982 and the town boundaries were drawn up. the town covers most of the Amargosa Valley and is the second largest unincorporated community in the United States, encompassing 480 square miles.
Today Amargosa Valley plays a definite roll in the Test Site and Tourism in Nye County. Many people believe that their community will continue to play an important role in research and development in both defense and nondefense industries. They are proud of their pioneering role in the development of nuclear weapons and in research on such projects as the nuclear rocket engine. With their proximity to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Big Dune and to Death Valley National Park, they are a premium source for tourists visiting Nye County.
Information from the Nye County Town History Project.