C opper was discovered in the Robinson
District in the early 1870's, but due to the low grade, low demand and the problems with the exploitations compared to silver and gold,
discouraged any development. It wasn't until 1900 when Edwin Gray and Dave Bartley came to the Robinson District and optioned two copper
claims , that led the way to the copper boom. To fined out what the limits were, they first run a tunnel into the mountain and soon found
themselves in caved on all sides by copper ore. With this news, they had no problem drawing the attention of many engineers and
M ark Requa became attracted to the discovery
and since his father owned the Eureka and Palisade railroad which was given to Mark to manage, he was looking for a potential feeder.
By October 1902, Requa took option on the Gray-Bartley claims for $150,000, and with daddy's help the following year organized the
White Pine Copper Company.
R equa tried to sell the idea to the Southern
Pacific Railroad, but they refused due to 150 mile distant from their track at Cobre. He then attempted to raise the funds for a narrow
gauge, but before realizing what the costs would amount to, he already had engineers in the field running a preliminary survey
from Cobre to Ely. Requa headed east to find capital to operate the mine and build a narrow gage railroad, while there he was able to get
the New York and Nevada Copper company to unite there holdings with his and incorporate the Nevada Consolidated Company,
November 1904. Together this gave them a company, with enormous ore reserve, but still lacked the capital for development. He did
though have enough to build the narrow gage railroad, he then presented the whole matter to the Guggenheims Exploration
Company. The Guggenheims did helped Requa organize the Nevada Northern Railroad in May 1905. They then organized another
firm, the Cumberland-Ely Copper Company to obtain the best water rights in the district and a proposed site for the reduction plant.
The Guggenheim family in 1906 wanted to merger
their company with Requa's, Requa refused, but by October they came to an agreement. The Guggenheims and Requa were to form a
new company, jointly owned, to construct and operate the reduction works. Also that the Cumberland-Ely would be allowed to
purchase half interest in the Nevada Northern Railroad. Now the Cumberland-Ely owning half interest in the smelter, and having
the control over the water rights plus owning eight square miles of land, selected the McGill site for the reduction plant.
Soon after that Requa was removed as general manager of the Nevada Consolidated Copper Company. That fall after construction
began, the area started filling up with company owned building and tents and became known as McGill, named after a local ranch owner.
By 1907 the Steptoe Valley Company built quarters for their officials and modern homes for their skilled employees. This is when a
few stores, bank, boarding houses and saloons were built. In August of 1908, the first shipment of blister copper from the district
marked the completion of the reduction plant. In the eight years since Gray-Bartley discovery, showing a recorded production
of $420 and a cost of $4,000,000 by the Guggenheim family, the quest was over. At the end of 1908 production reached $622,470 and
the following year topped out at $6,561,787, and rose steadily in following years there after. This made the Robinson Mining
District the richest in Nevada History.
I n 1909 the Nevada Northern Railroad
built an modern depot and service began. By 1910 the population had grown to almost 2000 and supported many businesses,
including a weekly paper known as the Copper Ore. In the late part of the decade McGill past Ely as the county's largest
town, showing a 1920 census of 2850 permanent residents. Then in July of 1922 the reduction plant covering about nine
square acres, burnt to the ground at a estimated cost of $2,000,000. It was soon rebuilt. 1930 found the town at 3000 people
with over half of them working the mill and smelter. Ruth and Kimberly were sending great amounts of tonnage, and the
plant was treating 14,000 tons of ore daily. The town maintained in a high level through World War II and the mid-1950's.