Aurora Nevada – Mineral County Ghost Town

Aurora, Nevada is a ghost town in Mineral County about twenty eight miles southwest of Hawthorne, near the California border. Aurora is often mentioned as a footnote to larger better preserved town on Bodie, CA located just a few miles away.  Like most unprotected ghost towns today the town site is a just a remnant of its past, having lost much through heavy damage from vandals over the years.

The road leading into Aurora was once a 4×4 road and difficult to make it back into Aurora. Often the winter snows and spring rains rutted out the road leading to the town.

Aurora, CA photograph from the 1930's
Aurora, CA photograph from the 1930’s

Aurora was founded in 1860 by J.M Corey, James N Braley, and E.R Hicks while prospecting south west towards Mono Lake.  The “Eureka” moment came when gold and silver quartz was found while searching for water and game. Soon the word was out, and a migration of miners came up from Monoville and several other California towns.  Like many boom towns, Auroras population reach about 1,400 by 1861 and just one year later was almost 6,000.  Aurora boaster an 8 position stamp mill and the ore was hauled from the town via Wells, Fargo and Company. The town was constructed mainly from brick, as wood is a scare and finite resource in the area.

Aurora, Nevada as it existed in the 1800s
Aurora, Nevada as it existed in the 1800s

The Esmeralda Star was the town paper when the town reach is maximum population of 10,000. Life is town was rough and conditions were very harsh.   The territories of both California and Nevada tried to lay claim to the newly prized Aurora and in the spring of 1861, Mono County was founded by California, which fixed the seat of the county in the little town of Aurora.  Not to be outdown, in November of 1861, Nevada setup the head quarters of Esmeralda County in Aurora.  This dual county seat arrangement lasted for two years during which time both California and Nevada maintained two different county and exercised jurisdiction concurrently.

To settle the issue, Nevada and California jointly commissioned a survey to finally settle the issue and established the location of the border.  During the elections held in September 1863 Aurora had the distinction of voting in two elections.  The Mono County voting was held in the police station and voters could walk over to Armory Hall to vote in the Esmeralda county elections for Nevada.  Three weeks after the election, the survey results came in and Aurora was officially 4 miles inside the state of Nevada.  The Mono County Officials loaded up their records and assets into Wagons and moved the seat to Bodie, CA some 10 miles to the south west.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens September 1-2, 1867, Pera, Constantinople
Samuel Langhorne Clemens September 1-2, 1867, Pera, Constantinople

1862 found a young Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) in town for several months looking the make his fortune.  During his stay he worked as a laborer in the stamp mill for $10 a week including board.  The young Mr. Clemens quickly gave up mining and sent several lively sketches to the Territorial Enterprise located in Virginia City.  Several weeks later Samual Clemens was hired by the Enterprise where he adopted his pen name, and Mark Twain was born.

Today there is not much standing at Aurora
Today there is not much standing at Aurora

In 1863 Aurora is pictured as a cluster of huts made of stone, sheltered by canvas or tin roofs, with streets of wooden buildings , and many substantial brick structures near the center of town, and uncountable tents and dugouts in the surrounding hils. About 5,000 persons lived in these makeshift shelters and in the 700 houses, and enjoyed the services provided by the hotels , churches, 20 stores, 22 saloons and 16 quartz mills .

National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form – July 30, 1974

As with many gold towns, Aurora life was bright and short. Shallow mines could not support the town of 22 saloons and 20 stores and mismanagement and poor investments doomed the small town.  There was virtually no family life in the town. Prostitutes made up over 50% of the female population and by 1870 the gold and silver was gone, and the town soon faltered officially closing the post office in 1897.

A resurgence of Aurora started in 1906 when mining resumed in the area.  A post office was again opened to serve several hundred people, and a weekly called the Aurora Borealis was the paper of record.  During the revitalization of Aurora, the Aurora Consolidated Mining Co. claimed 1.8 million dollars in gold during World War I.  However, in 1919 the post office closed again and the town faded into history.  After World War II much of the brick town was demolished to satisfy the demand for the used brick market in 1946.

Remains of Aurora bricks found deep in the undergrowth.
Remains of Aurora bricks found deep in the undergrowth.

The site of Aurora is all but gone and consisting of little more than a cross roads, a cemetery and a few foundations.

Aurora Town Summary

LocationMineral County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude38.2871421, -118.9006963
Elevation7400 feet
Post Office – 1919
NewpapersEsmeralda Star May 17, July 5, Sept 20, 1862; Nov 18, Dec 30, 1863
Aurora Daily Times Nov 27, 28, 30, Dec 1, 9, 11, 12, 1863; July 11, Oct 7, 1864
Esmeralda Daily Union Mar 23, 1864 – Mar 15, 1865; Nov 27, 1867 – Oct 3, 1868
Esmeralda Herald Oct 20, 1877 – July 29, 1882; Aug 18, 1883 – Apr 19, 1884
Aurora Borealis Dec 3, 1905

Aurora Trail Map

Aurora Personalities

Samuel Langhorne Clemens September 1-2, 1867, Pera, Constantinople

Samuel Langhorne Clemens – “Mark Twain”

Before he wrote American classic novels as Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was a miner and newpaper reporter in Mineral County, Nevada. Prior to picking…


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