Nevada family fights government over property near Area 51

By Glen Meek, I-Team reporter , Kyle Zuelke | kzuelke@8newsnow.com

Published 08/31 2015 09:45PM

Updated 09/02 2015 01:34PM

A Nevada family with a mining camp overlooking the secret base at Area 51 is finally speaking out -- after keeping their silence for more than 60 years.

VIDEO: The Sheahan family spoke exclusively with the I-Team's Glen Meek.

It may be one of the last great untold stories of the Cold War.

It's a tale of what happens when family, history, and national security collide.

In what may be the final act of a Cold War drama playing out in the Nevada desert, a family is poised to lose land they have held in Nevada since Ulysses Grant was president.

Here is part of their story and what they say has been decades of abuse at the hands of their own government.

By now, most people have probably heard of the secret base -- hidden in the Nevada desert -- known as Area 51.

But, what you may not know is that there is a privately owned lead and silver mine overlooking the classified base.

"From our great-great-grandfather, to our grandfathers, to our fathers, they were raised there," said Joe Sheahan, Groom Mine co-owner. "This was their home."

The Groom Mine has been in the Sheahan family for 130 years. Since military testing started in the mid 50's, the family has had one of the nation's most closely guarded secrets literally in their backyard.

They have never spoken about it publicly -- until now. 

"First, we really didn't want to come public, but the Air Force has forced us into it. We want 'em to know what they have done over the last 60 years to our family is not acceptable," said Dan Sheahan, Groom Mine co-owner. "These were fired over our property. The bullets, the cases dropped on the ground right there and then."

The Sheahans say their buildings have been strafed and bombed by military jets over the past six decades. They believe it was an errant bomb or dropped wing tank that blew up their mill in the 1950's --  ending production at the mine.

Read letter about explosion at mine

Affidavit on bombing practice near the Groom Mine

"My grandfather and my grandmother, Dan and Martha Sheahan, were destroyed at the hands of this government," said Ben Sheahan.

"They went to the poorhouse trying to win their case of the mill that was destroyed by the Air Force. We have some evidence they absolutely were the culprits in that, and it was never addressed," said Barbara Sheahan-Manning, Groom Mine co-owner. "They literally ran our grandparents out of money trying to fight them."

"They have driven away prospective business partners and told them, 'If you buy the place or try to operate, we are going to condemn it, and you're going lose your money,'" Dan Sheahan said.

In recent decades, the government has withdrawn large tracts of land around Area 51 and posted sentries to  keep preying eyes off the base.

"We've been illegally searched. I was threatened to be arrested on a trip when I was going out one time to get on our land, our own privately owned land," Sheahan-Manning said.

"They held people at gunpoint. They withdrew 89,000 acres of land, surrounded our property and made us an island," Joe Sheahan said.

"But six years before that, they placed a security shack on the road that our grandfather built for access to our own property and started requiring us to go through their checkpoints in order to gain access," Sheahan-Manning said.

"Now, we're not saying what they're doing out there is unimportant and doesn't need to be protected -- we get it.  We've been alongside these people since 1955," said Joe Sheahan.

"The truth is you can get more of a view of what's going on on that base through Google Earth and pictures that are out there all over the Internet," Sheahan-Manning said.

"What we're hoping is that our representatives say enough is enough. They need to step in, and they need to fix this," said Ben Sheahan.

Now, in what the Sheahans consider the final insult in a litany of abuse, they are being given an ultimatum by the Air Force. They must accept a $5.2 million buyout for the 400 acres in their possession or face having the land condemned and taken through eminent domain.

"I mean, that's really what we're talking about," said Joe Sheahan. "Is it okay to bomb your citizens, hold 'em at gunpoint and then -- just to add insult to injury -- just steal their property?"

The Sheahans say the Air Force offer doesn't even cover the value of the minerals in the mine -- let alone the family's close connection to the land -- where forbearers not only toiled -- but died.

"Either give us our property, leave us alone, or pay us what you owe us," Joe Sheahan added.

The Sheahans have until Sept. 10 to accept the Air Force offer.

"What the American people have got to realize is if they can do this to us, they can do it to each and every one of them," Dan Sheahan said.

"So, isn't it ironic that on September 11th, the United States government is going to finish the last act of what can only be described as a criminal act to take our property," Joe Sheahan said. "On September 11th, I just find that ironic. Sad."

The I-Team reached out to the Air Force for comment on the story. This link will take you to their response.

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