The old historic community of Dayton is located on U.S. Highway 50 next to Carson City and Virginia City. Dayton is described as being a ghost town by some, but a visitor would never suspect this when seeing the amount of traffic that flows through on Highway 50. It is not till a visitor pulls off the highway onto the old side streets that the emptiness associated with a ghost town starts to enter the picture. A lot of old buildings sitting idle mixed in with a few shops that are open is the first clue that confirms that Dayton is indeed a living ghost town. The high volume of vehicles on the highway through this town is actually composed of about 95% fly by commuter traffic. Dayton is one of those old historic places that remains hidden in plain sight, because the majority of motorists on Highway 50 are simply too busy to stop and take a look!.
The town of Dayton actually does lay claim to being the oldest settlement in Nevada, but some historians disagree, because the nearby town of Genoa also claims to be the oldest community in this state. The settlement that is now called Dayton first took shape during the late 1840s when pioneers and gold prospectors made their way through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to California. Dayton was a key decision making point for which perilous trail to follow and this was one of the last places to trade for much needed supplies.
In the early years, the Dayton settlement changed names a few times. Tragedy struck this community several times in the early years too. Placer gold was discovered in the area in 1850 and Dayton soon became a small boom town trading post that supplied the local miners. In the late 1850s, a large population of Chinese gold miners moved to Dayton to avoid racially motivated California taxes, which actually was a very well timed pilgrimage. When the Comstock Lode was discovered in neighboring Virginia City back in 1859, nearly every prospector in the west moved to Virginia City for the worlds richest gold and silver mining operation. The population that remained in Dayton during the Comstock rush were mostly Chinese miners, so the local folks in Virginia City soon referred to Dayton as being Chinatown and this has come to the forefront in recent decades with increased public interest in Chinese wild west heritage.
Many enterprising individuals figured that more money could be made by providing goods and services for the Comstock mining industry than by digging dirt. Dayton soon became a prosperous supply line town, but tragedy struck when a couple of major fires nearly burnt the town down. When the Virginia & Truckee Railroad was completed in 1869, the need for the goods and services provided by Dayton declined. Dayton then took shape as an agricultural town and this place has been quiet ever since. Only the old historic buildings along the main street area remain as a reminder of the bustling Comstock Mother Lode days.
Dayton is now a quiet little town that is on the rebound once again. Dayton serves tourists heading west on U.S. 50 and commuters that run between Reno and Carson City. Many residential developments have popped up nearby, but wild west tourism and antique hunting is what now keep Dayton on the map. Tourists genuinely are interested in visiting historic old west towns in this modern age, because these destinations offer an opportunity to step back into a simpler time.
Dayton has a developing historic main street district that is worth checking out. There are a few good shops and eateries, which cater to visitors that are interested in reliving the old Comstock mining days. Like many other living ghost towns, Dayton is a haven for artisan shops, western memorabilia and antique stores. The town of Dayton is a great place to go on an antique hunting venture, so be sure to chalk this old west picker destination up on the list!
When traveling on Highway 50 to Virginia City or Carson City, it is all too easy to just let the little town of Dayton to pass by in a blur, because the high volume of traffic moves quickly on this road. Just flying by like most of the other drivers do will result in a lost opportunity for a quick tour of an old west town that was once quite a big Chinatown back in its heyday. It definitely pays to stop and smell the roses, because this old Comstock Mother Lode boom town has plenty of legendary old west stories to share!
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