Friday, December 02, 2011

Aurora Ghost Town (Overlook)

(GPS: N38° 17.435 W118° 54.010)

This begins another series that has been a long time in coming. I've been sitting on the pictures and footage of this for quite some time. I guess you could say that it is a sequel or prequel, depending on how one looks at it, to my Bodie series of blogs I did a year ago. In this blog I just intend to give you an introduction to the next few blogs on this.

Aurora Ghost Town is in Nevada. It is not too far from the California state border. That was one of the early disputes they had in the town because at one point it was thought to be in California until they did a surveys of the California and Nevada borders. As one enters from the north side of where the town was there is a rock that has a sign. You can right click and open in a new window if you want to read what it says about this on the sign:
There is another sign not to far from the rock. This one tells you to not to take anything you find at this ghost town. The sad truth is that sign is really too late.Aurora is my favorite ghost town based on the history it has and its remoteness. The problem is there is nothing really there these days. Most of the materials the town was made of were ransacked long ago. I'll get into why this was the case later, but I think what happened here was rather tragic. From what I have seen in old pictures the town was very beautiful. These days it has been reduced to fields with the foundations of some of the buildings and rubble around.

Normally, I do not like to present open fields with nothing left. There are some traces of how the town was, but in some ways it is disappointing. However, since I love what this place once was and it is fun to go there, I am going to do my best in giving you an idea of how the main part of this town was.

The truck we came in on was parked by where the above pictures were taken. The trick to getting to Aurora is you really need a 4WD or a high clearance vehicle. A word of warning on this, Aurora is a remote place and there are a couple of dirt roads to get here. Some are easier than others, but you do not want to get stuck out here. Civilization is NOT in walking distance, and you run the risk of not seeing any other person while you are here.
One can take your vehicle into where the town would have been, but from where we parked we just walked down the dirt road until we started to overlook the town.This is panorama getting close to overlooking where the town would have been:
The road you see in the middle of the pictures intersects what would have been the main street of town which I will be showing in the next few blogs. Just to the left the of road in the above picture there is an area that has a cliff that overlooks the main street; if you look closely the cliff starts to connect into the middle of the picture. This is where the armory would have been. I'll get back to this in a moment. In the above picture and the one below, we are looking toward the south from the north side. As you can see, there really is nothing here. That wall and a few other structures are all that is once left of this town. In the above picture, just down below and right in front of that wall is where the main street would have intersected the road we were on.

I'll give some of the history as we go along, and will mention some books at the end of the series that go into a lot more detail. Aurora, like Bodie, was a mining town. In August of 1860, a few men found gold and silver in a rock outcrop in the background of the above pictures which was called Esmeralda Gulch. Esmeralda was the name one of the men used because he had just read Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In the years that followed Aurora quickly developed into a major town with a population of a few thousand people. Somewhere in the range of 3-4,000 people, but some would say more than that. For an area like this and at that time, that was a lot of people.

The boom years of the town were really during the years that the American Civil War was going on. Really it was from 1861-1864 that the town really grew with many coming to make their riches here. The bulk of the gold and silver were produced in 1863-1864 when the mills were in full force. Thereafter the boom was over and the population dwindled until it reached less than 200 in 1890. There were some revivals of mining, but by 1920 Aurora was a permanent ghost town.

I mentioned the armory that overlooked the town. A militia group was maintained for the posibility of any hostilities. There was the possibility of issues relating to the Civil War that could cause a conflict in the town, but the more obvious issue was the possibility of Indian attack. The Owens Valley War between the ranchers and the Paiute Indians was going on around the same time as the boom years and the Civil War. Nothing ever happened regarding that, but the militia was used once in an infamous incident which I will get to.

Aurora Ghost Town: West Pine Street (Youtube Version)

Aurora Ghost Town: West Pine Street (Vimeo Version)