Its 2000 census population density of was the second-lowest of any county in the contiguous United States (above Loving County, Texas). Its school district has no high school, so students in grades 9-12 go to school in Tonopah and are in the database of the Nye County School District. Esmeralda is the only Nevada county in the Los Angeles TV market (or any California market) as defined by A.C. Nielsen.
Esmeralda County is one of the original counties in Nevada, established in 1861. Esmeralda is the Spanish and Portuguese word for "emerald". An early California miner from San Jose Ca (descended from the Cory family of New Jersey), James Manning Cory, named the Esmeralda Mining District after the Gypsy dancer, Esmeralda, from Victor Hugo's novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Esmeralda has had three county seats: Aurora until 1883, Hawthorne from 1883 to 1907 and finally Goldfield. At one point, due to the disputed border with California, Aurora was simultaneously the county seat of both Mono County, California and Esmeralda County, Nevada. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote about his time as a miner in the Esmeralda District in his book Roughing It.
Esmeralda grew from a gold mining boom in the first years of the 20th century. The mines were largely tapped out by the end of the 1910s and the economy and population declined afterwards.