If you were to have asked somebody forty years ago where the town of Dayton, Nevada was some might look at you cross-eyed. Today, Dayton bursts with life, thanks to an influx of the all-too-common swarm of suburbia. Dayton, located a mere fifteen minutes east of the State Capitol, is the last and first town encountered synonomous with the Comstock Lode.

Dayton begins with the Carson River. And with the river, its entire life holds steadfast. This locale was ideally situated at the western end of the Twenty-Six Mile Desert sits at a bend in the Carson River. Immigrants stopping there for water would have to consider whether to follow the river south or continue west, giving the location its first name, "Ponderers Rest." In 1849, Abner Blackburn, while heading for California, discovered a gold nugget in nearby Gold Creek, one of the tributaries of the Carson River.

By 1850, placer miners settled at the mouth of Gold Canyon, working sand bars deposited over the millennia along the path of the creek. Because many Chinese immigrants eventually lived there, some called the community "Chinatown," but it also went by several other names. In 1861, the town officially adopted the name "Day's Town" or "Day-Town," after John Day, a local surveyor. Throughout the 1850s, Dayton served as the commercial hub for miners working in the canyon. With the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, newly-founded Gold Hill and Virginia City, six miles to the north, assumed prominence. Still, Dayton prospered by milling ore thanks to its vital water source from the Carson River.

  • Welcome to Dayton, Nevada.
  • Dayton, Nevada

In 1861, Dayton became the governmental seat for Lyon County. Its 1864 courthouse was one of the first in Nevada. The 1869 opening of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad shifted ore processing upstream to Brunswick Canyon, but Dayton continued to serve as a center of commerce and government. During the 1860s, the community's population eventually surpassed one hundred and finally reached a peak of nearly 600 in 1910. In 1909, fire destroyed the Lyon County Courthouse. Residents of the growing agricultural community of Yerington to the south called for a shift of the Lyon County seat, occuring in 1911, leaving Dayton with a shrinking economy and an even smaller population. By the 1920s, the Lincoln Highway was bringing some tourists through Dayton, but the town remained a quiet reminder of a time when Nevada's gold and silver strikes captured national attention.

In 1961, Dayton won fame as a setting for John Huston's film, The Misfits, the last movie appearances of Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. Beginning in the 1990s, Dayton experienced phenomenal growth as residential development expanded on the east side of the Carson River. The historic "Old Town" part of Dayton is within the Comstock Historic District, featuring a small but impressive main street, the monumental Odeon Hall, the Union Hotel, the original (now stuccoed) courthouse building, and a fine local museum located in an 1865 schoolhouse.

Today's visitor to Dayton will have mixed reviews. Dayton's quaint and lovely "Old Town" is easily missed and overshadowed by the much bawdier suburbia that has sprouted alongside US 50 over the last two decades. Dayton claims the designation of Nevada's oldest settlement, a title disputed by the residents of Genoa. Miners residing at the mouth of Gold Canyon noted Colonel Reese and his party passing along the Carson River as they headed for the Sierra foothills to establish Mormon Station, later called Genoa. Today's residents of Genoa point to the region's first post office and several other attributes of stability, correctly noting that their community deserves the title of "Nevada's first town."

The original town of Dayton, Nevada -- now considered "Old Town." This may've very well been where Nevada had its start!

Whatever the case, Dayton has become something of a bedroom community to Carson City, a popping little city with a couple of shopping centers, a hospital, a couple of schools, fast food joints and two booming casinos. The Dayton Chamber of Commerce on Main Street, north of the town's main intersection, invites tourists to pick up a historical walk brochure and take a walk through "Old Town Dayton," the true face of this very old community.

Status: Incorporated City
Founded: September 1850
Population: 8,964 (2012)
Zip Code: 89403
Motto: "Site of Nevada's First Gold Discovery"


Distance in miles from ...
Carson City -- 13
Reno -- 37
Fallon -- 51
Lovelock - 98
Tonopah -- 212
Ely -- 308
West Wendover -- 401
Las Vegas -- 426

Fun Facts:
- Dayton has been in tight competition with Genoa for over fifty years as to who should be crowned with the state's most prestigious title: The Oldest Community in Nevada. Dayton has been declared "The Birthplace of Nevada," site of Nevada's first gold discovery in 1849.
- In 1961, Dayton won fame as a setting for John Huston's film, The Misfits, the last movie appearances of Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe.

Battle Mountain, Nevada
Lander County Visitors Guide

Call it an armpit. Call it a quick rest stop on the 80. Call it what you will, but Battle Mountain's got flavor.