1849 Gold Discovery

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Images of America: DAYTON
by Laura Tennant
and Jack Folmar

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“Thar’s Gold In The Canyon!”

It was the spring of 1849 when frontiersman Abner Blackburn left Salt Lake City for the California goldfields. His handwritten diary tells the story of Nevada’s first gold discovery.

“In the spring, (March), I joined a pack train for the gold mines,” he wrote. The pioneers followed the Carson River Route.

While laid over in Gold Canyon waiting to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Abner found Nevada’s first gold. He describes the unforgettable moment in his journal. The quote contains his words and spelling.

“I took a bread pan & a butcher knife & went 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 sundown & 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.