In 1857, gold was discovered in Dogtown which is about seven miles south of Bridgeport. This led to a mining boom in the area.
Other gold strikes occurred in the Mono region, including Aurora in 1860. Aurora became a booming town, at one point reaching 10,000 in population. Mark Twain spent some time there mining. With a shortage of wood, most of the town was built of brick
At one time Mono County was second only to Nevada County in gold production. Mono County was formed in April 1861 and Aurora was named as the county seat. Aurora's mines were so rich that miners came from all over the west. Travel in the spring was much easier than in the winter or colder months. In the Spring of 1863, Aurora had 760 houses, 20 stores, and 22 saloons. Like most mining boom towns, the population had a small number of women and children compared to a large male population.
|1876 Map of Aurora and Bridgeport. Note that Bodie just west of Aurora barely within the California state line is not listed.|
Although California was convinced Aurora was well within the California border, Nevada Territory believed Aurora was within their jurisdiction and they claimed it as the county seat of Esmeralda County. Both California State and Nevada Territory governed the fast-growing gold mining town at the same time while they waited on the results of a U.S. Government survey that had been requested to determine exactly where the California and Nevada boundary fell. Its California assemblyman was the speaker of the house while the Nevada legislative member was elected as president of the Nevada Territorial Legislature. During this time, the records for each county were kept separately.
|Esmeralda County Courthouse built in Aurora in 1874|
In September 1863, the survey results determined that Aurora was situated approximately three miles within Nevada Territory. The Mono County officials packed up the offices and all the records for their county and moved them to Bodie, a mining town a few miles to the west that was safely within the border for California and Mono County.
|1895 Map of Mono Co. California and Mineral Co. Nevada. Note that the map shows Bodie, but not Aurora.|
After a special election in April 1864, Bridgeport was named as the county seat for Mono County.
In the meantime, Aurora remained the county seat for Esmeralda County until it began to go the way of all cities built upon gold and silver mining. As the town began to fail, the county seat was moved to Goldfield. Aurora soon found it itself in a new county, Mineral, with the county seat in Hawthorne 27 miles to the east. As the town completely failed, it became a ghost town. The brick buildings were dismantled, and many of the used bricks from Aurora ended up in Los Angeles homes.
Although my latest book in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Haunted by Love, takes place about twenty years after Bridgeport became the county seat for Mono County, it is easy to understand how its early history as the supply hub and agricultural center in a region of boom and bust mining towns led to its stability. My story is set both in Bridgeport at the Leavitt House, a popular hostelry servicing travelers in the Eastern Sierra-Nevada region, and in Robinson Creek area, part of the Big Meadows that supported cattle, sheep and hay-raising, as well as wood from the foothills immediately to the west. With its economic base being established on agriculture and shipping, it remained an established city in the region long after Aurora had begun to fade into a has-been former gold town.
Today I am giving away one copy of Big Meadows Valentine, the first book in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884, series to one person selected from among those who leave a comment on this blog by midnight, PDT Tuesday, September 20th.
Zina Abbott is the pen name used by Robyn Echols for her historical novels. The first four novellas in the Eastern Sierra Brides 1884 series, Big Meadows Valentine, A Resurrected Heart, Her Independent Spirit, and Haunted by Love are now available. He Is a Good Man was published as part of the Lariats, Letters and Lace anthology.