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In search of the naming origin of Searchlight

Updated May 19, 2023 - 5:07 am

While the naming of Searchlight, Nevada, has never been officially confirmed, one Nevada historian believes researchers have come to the most logical conclusion to solving the mystery.

The town, just south of Las Vegas, was named by George Frederick Colton from Provo, Utah, who was in search of the Lost Dutchman gold mine.

Colton ultimately ended up finding gold in 1897 in the town now called Searchlight, but when he died in 1918, the origin of the town’s name died with him.

Many believed the town was named after the Searchlight matches Colton used to light his pipe, but those matches wouldn’t have existed when the town was named, according to Jeffrey Kintop, a Nevada historian and certified archivist.

Others believed that the town was named after someone named Lloyd Searchlight; however, no one has ever found a record of the name, Kintop said.

Instead, historians found a little mining company named Lloyd Searchlight from southern California that was named after the town of Searchlight.

Yet at the time Colton discovered Searchlight, Kintop said there was already a popular mining company called the Searchlight Mining Company in the Sunshine Mining District near what is now Salt Lake City.

However, Colton was found not to have any relation to that mining company.

So now what?

‘I like that story’

In researching the town’s name, Kintop dove into Searchlight native and former U.S Sen. Harry Reid’s book “Searchlight: The Camp That Didn’t Fail.”

In his book, Reid asserts that the town was named after Colton said something to the effect of needing a searchlight to find the gold ore.

But to Kintop, Searchlight was still an odd term.

“What did the ordinary person know about a searchlight in 1897?” Kintop asked himself as he started to look through an archive of newspapers at the time.

Kintop found that, at the time, searchlights were mentioned in relation to naval war battles, and that the spotlights on shorelines were occasionally called searchlights.

People of that time were also fascinated by a carbon arc searchlight that was unveiled at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, according to Kintop.

Many westerners and mining people went to world fairs. Nevada had a state mineral cabinet that would be sent to world fairs to exhibit the ores from Nevada to attract investors, according to Kintop.

“All of a sudden, searchlight became a pretty common word for something that was remarkable, and it fits in (Reid’s) story,” he said. “I like that story.”

Contact Jimmy Romo at jromo@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0350. Follow @jimi_writes on Twitter.

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