The first modern settlement of the area occurred in 1864 with the opening of a silver mine. The settlers abandoned the area when local Indian tribes launched a series of raids and massacres. Colonization launched in 1868. François Pioche bought the town in 1869. By the early 1870s, it had grown to become one of the most important silver-mining towns in Nevada.
Because of the remoteness which had allowed the Indian raids to occur, the town had a reputation for being one of the roughest towns in the Old West. Local lore says 72 men were killed in gunfights before the first natural death occurred in the camp. This legend is immortalized by the creation of Boot Hill, now a landmark in the city.
Pioche is known for its "Million Dollar Courthouse," built in 1872. The original cost of $88,000 far exceeded initial estimates and was financed, and refinanced with bonds totaling nearly $1 million. Pioche currently contains the county administrative offices and has one of the oldest grade schools in the state.
Next door to the courthouse sits the old Mountain View Hotel, where President Herbert Hoover is said to have stayed in 1930. Built in 1895, the hotel served the lodging needs of dignitaries visiting Pioche on court business. Although the building no longer serves as a hotel, it is an example of turn-of-the-century western architecture. There is another hotel, the Overland, which is still operating, with 14 themed rooms on the second floor over the main saloon.
An aerial tramway carried buckets of ore from the mines to the Godbe Mill. The tramway ran during the 1920s and 1930s and was used for the transportation of silver and nickel ore. The abandoned tramway used cables which still stretch over parts of the town, with some original ore buckets intact.
During Labor Day in September, the population swells for events including fireworks, history-based theater and mining car filling contests called "mucking events." In December, the town holds a public Christmas tree lighting.