EXHIBITS

Aurora, Nevada

Horse-drawn hearse in Aurora, Nevada, 1920s
Horse-drawn hearse used in Aurora, Nevada, to take citizens to their final resting place
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, P0126, 1-03.)

“Aurora, almost forgotten save by those who neighbor it, though it was once the mining sensation of the West, a municipality of some few thousand inhabitants”[1]

Now it stands forgotten, but once it was strong and vibrant. Here is the story of Aurora, one of the first big strikes in Nevada.

Three prospectors working east of California near Mono Lake found an interesting-looking quartz when they were out hunting for game in August 1860.[2] Thus began the whirlwind journey of Aurora as the golden child of Esmeralda County. Aurora had an “unusally [sic] high concentration of silver present, rivalrying [sic] the richest ore of the Comstock Lode.”[3]

Gravestone of William E. Carder who was killed and buried in Aurora, Nevada in 1864
Headstone of an Aurora resident with the wife calling for vengeance for her husband
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, P0126, 1-04.)

Due to the location of Aurora, both California and Nevada claimed Aurora as their own and dubbed it a county seat of both states. Thus they had double elections for each county until a national surveyor came and determined that Aurora was four miles away from the California line, thus making it the county seat of Esmeralda, Nevada.[4]

Six major mines kept seventeen stamp mills busy crushing the rich ore, and by 1804, the population reached 10,000. These mines led to silver production reaching several million dollars a year during the Civil War.[5] 

With such prosperity, the town also faced a significant rise in violence. With violence came the creation of a vigilante committee to help protect the city. After a robbery, the committee caught the robbers and prepared to hang them at dawn. The justice from the next county over sent a telegram telling the town to wait until he could arrive. They sent a telegram back saying they were set to hang four men in half an hour. Through swift, terrifying justice, there were no more issues of violence afterward.[6]

After producing $27,000,000, the mine dried up. A population that had risen to thousands dropped to 500 citizens in 1880. There was a brief revival in 1914 during the First World War, but it died off by 1918. By the census of 1950, the town was empty. What was left of the town was given over to the winds of time, as seen in the following quote, “The triumph of time is nearly complete.”[7]

[1] W. A. Chalfant, Gold, Guns, & Ghost Towns (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1947), 57.
[2] Robert Silverberg, Ghost Towns of the American West (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1968), 153.
[3] Silverberg, Ghost Towns of the American West, 154. 
[4] Silverberg, Ghost Towns of the American West, 154.
[5] Silverberg, Ghost Towns of the American West, 155–156.
[6] Silverberg, Ghost Towns of the American West, 157.
[7] Silverberg, Ghost Towns of the American West, 158.