Old Town Dayton lies at the mouth of Gold Cañon on the Carson River. It’s the site of Nevada’s first gold discovery and a contender for being the state’s earliest Euro-American permanently inhabited settlement. After gold was discovered in California, thousands of fortune seekers trekked West. Those following the Carson River Route often camped at the mouth of Gold Cañon (Dayton) while waiting for snow to melt in the Sierra Nevada.
In the spring of 1849 frontiersman Abner Blackburn’s pack train camped near Gold Cañon on their way to California’s goldfields. With a bread pan and butcher knife, he prospected the creek bed, finding small quantities of placer gold. That day, his company continued prospecting, finding gold valued at about $10. The following year, 1850, a Mormon pioneer, John Orr, found a nugget weighing 19.4 grams. Nevada’s gold rush was on!
Hundreds of miners moved to Gold Cañon, located in Utah Territory. Soon their tent camps became a settlement where Dayton developed. Working their way up the canyon, prospectors struck it rich when they discovered the world-famous Comstock Lode in 1859. Remnants of the rock wall of the 1861 Pony Express station, called Nevada, still stands today. In the same year, Congress created Nevada Territory. The lively town became the first Lyon County seat in 1864.
Emigrants, Pony Express riders, Wells Fargo and Overland stagecoaches, and two railroads passed through the fertile Dayton Valley which is also the site of Nevada’s first Chinatown. Due to the Carson River, Dayton flourished as a milling and trade center, also serving as the breadbasket of the Comstock, supplying fresh produce, hay, grain, wood, and charcoal, from its piñon trees. Dayton remained a regional trade center into the 20th Century.
Old Town Dayton’s structures haven’t changed much since the late 1800s—it’s a place where you can step back in time. For more Dayton history, make sure to visit the Historical Society of Dayton Valley website at www.daytonnvhistory.org.
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