Aurora in Hawthorne, Nevada

Stamp mill hoppers.

Although gold is still produced in the area, little remains of Aurora, once a prominent Gold Rush mining town. Gold was struck in this area around 1860, leading to the town’s first (and biggest) boom. At Aurora’s peak in the summer of 1863, more than 5,000 people called it home. 

When Aurora was first founded, time the California state line had not been surveyed, and since Aurora was thought to lie in California, it became the county seat of Mono County in 1861. But Nevada territory also claimed the town, and later that year Aurora became the county seat of Esmeralda County in Nevada. (Mineral County, where Aurora now lies, was split off Esmeralda County later.) A federal survey in 1863 officially determined that the town lay in Nevada. This seems to have been a unique historical case, that the same town was simultaneously the seat of two different counties in two different states.

In 1877, the discovery of gold in nearby Bodie, around 1877, triggered a new boom in Aurora, and for the next couple of decades, the towns maintained a spirited rivalry. The last “historic” boom occurred in the early 20th century when a new stamp mill was built at Magnum just east of town.

Though Aurora’s population declined drastically by the end of the 19th century, many of its buildings survived through the 1940s. Eventually they fell victim to the post-war southern California fad for used brick as they were mostly constructed of locally fired brick. At present, the cemetery is still maintained (please be respectful), and the weathered concrete foundations of the Magnum mill are visible, but little else is left. Ironically, immediately to the east of the old mill site sits a large contemporary bulk-mining operation for gold.

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