Dayton: Site of Nevada's First Gold Discovery, 1849
THAR'S GOLD IN THE CANYON!
In the Spring of 1849 frontiersman Abner Blackburn joined a group of emigrants heading from Salt Lake City to the gold fields of California. His handwritten journal records that "In the spring, (March), I joined a pack train for the gold mines." The prospectors followed the Carson River route and camped at the mouth of Gold Cañon—at the site of today's Old Town Dayton—to await the opening of Sierra passes.
Blackburn took a bread knife and pie pan and went prospecting. His discovery of gold in several places in the canyon is the first documented discovery of gold in the Silver State. He describes the experience in his journal. (The quote retains his spelling.)
"I took a bread pan & a butcher knife & went out in the raveins to prospect & found gold in small quantities in 3 places. Went to a larger raveine, whear the watter run down over bed rock a little on the side of the gulch. Dug down in the slate & found a fair prospect & kept panning for an hour or more. Went to camp & all hands grabbed up pans, knives, kettles & started out. We scratched, scrapped and panned until nearly sun down & took nine or ten dollars worth of gold. Being without tools & nearly out of provisions, we were compeld to abandon the place but calculated to return."
A year later. in 1850, Mormon pioneers again stopped at Gold Canyon. A nugget weighing 19.4 grams was found by John Orr. It is now part of the Nevada State Museum Collection, but is on display at the Oakland Museum.