Dayton Firsts

Our Very Own Dayton
“Best Seller!”
Images of America: DAYTON
by Laura Tennant
and Jack Folmar

First book on Dayton history since the 1920s!
This wonderful book is available for sale in
our museum.
Sales benefit the Historical Society of Dayton Valley.
Contact or call or text 775-508-9043.

The Legends and Lore of Dayton’s History

For more information on Dayton history visit the historic Dayton Museum in Old Town Dayton. For hours and information, or to arrange tours, click on the link to our Museum & Contacts page.

In 1999, the town of Dayton, Nevada, held the 150th ANNIVERSARY of Nevada’s first GOLD discovery––in Gold Cañon, where the Comstock was born. In 2001 Dayton again celebrated––as Nevada’s first permanent settlement in 1851. Dayton boasts many other firsts in Nevada’s history, including being the site of Nevada’s first Chinatown and home of Lyon County’s first courthouse.

Pick up a self-guided walking tour at the Dayton Museum (Shady Lane at Logan) and see one of Nevada’s oldest cemeteries, the Carson & Colorado Railroad Depot, camel stables, the famed Odeon Hall & Saloon, the Rock Point Mill, the jail and firehouse, the 1865 school house and much more. Walk the streets blazed by explorers, emigrants, miners, Pony Express riders and Wells Fargo stages. At day’s end, savor a brew at one of the historic bars on the Overland Trail and Lincoln Highway.


First Nevada Gold Discovery

During the Gold Rush, thousands of emigrants came West in wagons and on horseback. They camped at today’s Dayton if snow made the Sierra Nevada impassable. In the spring of 1849 frontiersman Abner Blackburn joined a group of emigrants heading to the gold fields of California. Awaiting the opening of Sierra passes, they camped at the mouth of Gold Cañon, at the site of today’s Old Town Dayton. Blackburn took a bread pan and a butcher knife and went prospecting. His discovery of gold is the first documented in the Silver State.

First Permanent Nevada Settlement

In May 1851 a California-bound wagon train carrying Lucena Parsons and her husband George remained at Gold Cañon for almost two weeks due to Sierra snow. Lucena Parsons recorded that more than 200 miners were working the canyon. Since the Native-American tribes in the area were nomadic, this made Dayton the first and oldest permanent non-native settlement in Nevada.

Nevada’s First Dance

The steady flow of visitors led to the area’s growth. A trading post was built by Andrew Spofford Hall of Indiana on the banks of Gold Creek in 1852. On New Year’s Eve, 1853, a dance was held at Hall’s trading post, attended by nine women and about 150 men. It is likely that Native American “princess” Sarah Winnemucca attended this dance.

First Nevada Non-Native-American Birth

By 1853, thousand of emigrants had passed by Gold Cañon and many stopped to look for gold. Among them, Laura Ellis and her husband James settled on a ranch in Dayton Valley. Laura kept a daily journal, recording one of the State’s first historical documents. In 1854, their son, James Brimmel Ellis, was the first white child born in Nevada.

First Nevada Marriage…and First “Dissolution”

Gold Cañon in 1854 also saw the first marriage in what would become Nevada. While her father was away on business a motherless girl of 14 was persuaded by a local miner to marry him. The deed was done…but soon again undone when the girl’s father returned. The father took his daughter and moved to California, leaving the hapless miner behind in Gold Cañon.

First Nevada Chinatown

By 1856 Chinese miners had left Placerville, California, to mine at Gold Cañon. It is not clear whether the Chinese or their Occidental neighbors got the idea but in 1856, Chinese laborers under suppervision of Mr. Rose dug a water ditch from two miles west of town to Gold Cañon. At times, 200 Chinese worked the placer claims in the canyon and during the late 1850s there were far more Chinese in the settlement than Occidentals. The 1860 U.S. census designated the settlement as “China Town,” but then only recorded the Chinese who were living as servants in Occidental households. Most of the Chinese Ditch is still visible on the hillside northwest of Hwy 50E as you come into Dayton from Carson City. One Chinese home and a portion of another remain as Dayton businesses.

First Lyon County Seat and Courthouse

Dayton was designated the seat of the newly formed Lyon County by Nevada’s first Territorial Legislature on November 25, 1861.

First Nevada Quartz Mill

By 1861 the first quartz mill in Nevada was built in Dayton. In January 1881, after the Comstock ores had declined, The mill at Rock Point was the only ore mill operating on the Comstock. The remains of the Rock Point Mill can be visited in Dayton State Park along U.S. Hwy 50E.

First Mining and Milling Book Written in Dayton

The history of the first book on mining and milling was written in Dayton by Guido Kustel, datelined May 1863, Dayton, Nevada Territory, when he built and operated his own mill on the Carson River in Dayton. Kustel, also a metallurgist, became one of the most important mining engineers in the West, not only during the California Gold Rush, but in the early silver mining days of the Arizona Territory and the subsequent silver boom on the Comstock in Nevada. He was a prolific author, writing a series of books and scores of articles, which distilled and translated from German much of the Freiberg Mining School expertise updating it with his own considerable experience gained in the various mines, assay offices and milling operations. His pioneering first book “Processes of Silver and Gold Extractions, for General Use and for the Mining Public of California and Nevada, with Full Explanations and  Directions for All Metallurgical Operations Connected with Silver and Gold from a Preliminary Examination of the Ore to the Final Casting of the Ingot,” quickly became one of the standard references for mining and mill men of the day, being especially useful for those on the Comstock.  (Information provided in a book published by Paul Franklin in 2012: “The Anatomy of an Ingot.”)