Mineral County

Stark and Beautiful

The Markers Statistics Related Links

Mineral County was created out of northern Esmeralda County and the intense hardship of the desert could not keep men away from just about gully, canyon, wash, and flat throughout these dusty parts. Consequently, this region has had its fair share of "flash-in-the-pan" mining camps but it was a few in particular that held (then) Esmeralda County afloat.

"The Rush to Esmerelda"
Three prospectors, bitter by bouts of defeat, wandered thirty miles east from Monoville, California to a small basin in the Wassuk Range. The men found a ledge of silver and several veins of gold floating on the surface of the mountains some thirteen miles east of Bodie, California. The men staked several claims right then and there and christened the ground, "Aurora! Goddess of the Dawn!" It took only weeks for word to spread of their find. News of the fabulous diggings spread north to Virginia City and west over the Sierra Nevada to several camps in California's Gold Country. "The Rush to Esmerelda" (sic.) was on!

In 1861, Aurora surpassed its status as a town within weeks and in the course of a year boomed into a full-fledged city. Along its line to the Owens Valley, the Carson & Colorado Railroad (C&C) completed a spur line and major depot at Aurora. Six hundred excited residents called Aurora home including one young man by the name of Samuel Clemens who worked briefly as a miner - that is, until he found his new fortune picking up a pen. It was here in this unassuming mining town that the name "Mark Twain" was born.

Things became even more interesting on March 2, 1861 when Congress drew the boundaries of the Nevada Territory and with it great confusion followed regarding Aurora's placement within California or Nevada! California created Mono County in 1861, naming Aurora as its seat, only to have Nevada quickly respond by designating Aurora as its seat of Esmeralda County. Until 1863 Californians could vote Republican in the saloon and Nevadans could vote Democrat across the street in the general store to vote for two county and state officials! A boundary survey put an end to the voting dilemma by officially placing Aurora four miles within Nevada. Aurora carried on for two more years until its population suffered in 1865 when its mines began to fade. By 1870, the town was all but abandoned and by the turn of the century consisted of little more than memories. By the 1940s, over a hundred ruins lie scattered along its streets. Since then, the town has been consumed by sagebrush and ghost town vandals many of whom have heartlessly carted away all of its stately brick buildings over the course of three decades. Today, hardly anything remains of Aurora. Her main street is now barely discernible by a wide strip of dirt cutting through the sagebrush along with a cemetery ... scraps of yesteryear that remind visitors to this once booming shallow basin.

The Age of Hawthorne
Envision our state motto, "Battle Born" underscoring the portrait of a dusty waystop in the desert. This is Hawthorne. Its streets, customs, and even its celebrations represent the nickname given to it: "America's Patriotic Home." The origin of this quiet city begins in 1934 in fact when a U.S. Navy base in New Jersey suffered a massive explosion due to the storage of military ammunition. After the attack on Pearl Harbor (1941) a demand for ammunitions rose increasingly and the Navy desperately needed to find a locale remote enough to store the ammunitions far from major population centers, but still accessible to military personnel. Hawthorne was chosen for such a site ... and was rather, "reborn" from a stoic desert outpost. In mid-1945, some thirteen thousand Naval workers were transferred here but after the war, America soon forgot about this spot on the map.

The war economy is responsible for most of the job market in Mineral County. Remnants of the Navy linger everywhere in Hawthorne and respective in its parks, schools, and libraries. Without the base, Hawthorne risks its loss of identity. Conversation here often invokes bits of depression, but this city of three thousand knows to how to fight - scraping money from commuters going to and from Reno and Las Vegas on US 95. What we have today is a county that presents a new perspective on the desert. Those commuters who speed through do so to reach the next pit stop while others who sail with the wind bathe in the region's haunting loneliness. Walker Lake is but one surprise in this bronzy beautiful landscape. Despite its massive fish die off in 2009, Walker Lake's eerily slate blue waves is enough to boost anyone's morale. Hawthorne carries on with a handshake and a smile. And Mineral deserves to smile.

The Markers
All six of Mineral's markers will force hunters from one end of its borders to the next. An obvious base will be Hawthorne - the county's only town of significant size. Hawthorne specializes in the frequent passer-by as well as the occasional overnighter. A short thirty minutes north you can plan on some excellent lakeshore camping at Walker Lake ... or consider retreating westward into the Wassuk Range and the Bodie Hills for some excellent runs with Ma Nature. If you happen to be a hardened desert rat you can have your pick of a thousand spots anywhere in the hills along 95. Mineral invites the appreciative adventurer.

Markers of Mineral County

Coasting through the long and lonely vastness of Mineral County is something of the wonderful for any desert rat. Although Hawthorne may be the nucleus here, only two markers are located here so you'll be spending most of your time getting acquainted with the region's spaciousness. No matter how to embark on this sea every wave of sage has something different to say!

[16] -- Mineral County

38.68368, -118.77269

"Jedediah Smith, first American into Nevada, passed here in 1829 during his remarkable trip across the state."

[60] -- Hawthorne (Present Mineral County Seat - Former Esmeralda County Seat)

38.53235, -118.62491

"Townsite selected in 1880 as a division and distribution point for the new railroad."

[92] -- Candelaria & Metallic City

38.14024, -117.45391

"Candelaria was presumably named after the Catholic Candlemas Day."

[154] -- Belleville

38.22503, -118.17774

"Founded in 1873, Belleville flourished by milling the ore from the Northern Belle Mine at Candelaria."

[183] -- Walker River Reservation

38.95048, -118.81056

"Agent Calvin Bateman reported on August 31, 1874 that the reservation "is the home of at least six hundred Pah-Utes."

[237] -- Carson and Colorado Railroad Freight Depot

38.52431, -118.62382

"This building, the first to be constructed in Hawthorne, is the remnant of the narrow-gauge Carson & Colorado Railroad."