Founded in the early 1850s, after gold was discovered in the area, Dayton is one of Nevada's most historic mining communities. A trip through the town reveals a quaint and historic downtown with a handful of well-preserved buildings.
However, on the east edge of town, adjacent to Dayton State Park, is a less-well-known historic site that helps tell the story of the town. Nestled in a grove of graceful cottonwoods is the Rock Point Mill, one of Dayton's oldest remnants of its mining glory days.
Charles C. Stevenson, who was Nevada's governor from 1887 to 1890, built the mill in 1861. Constructed at a cost of $75,000 (a considerable sum at the time), the mill had 40 stamps that crushed silver and gold ore carried over the mountain from Gold Hill via an elaborate tram system.
At the peak of the Comstock mining boom, the mill was enlarged to include 56 stamps and more than $170,000 in modern equipment. The mill was one of three important ore-processing plants in Dayton, and was instrumental in the development of the Comstock mining district.
In 1909, the Rock Point Mill was destroyed in a fire, but its owners immediately rebuilt it using galvanized iron. The second mill remained in use until about 1920, when it was closed for good and dismantled.
Today, a couple of small wooden signs at the site offer a few details about the history of the mill. Many of the ruins date to the second mill built on the site, including its cement foundations. Others, such as the stone walls, date from the original mill, one of the first to process ore from the fabulous Comstock Lode.
Old photographs (such as those found in Stanley Paher's book, "Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps," which can be obtained at nearly any bookstore in the state) reveal the size and scope of the Rock Point facility. Photos exist that show the fire of 1909.
Visitors can wander the ruins on a series of marked trails. At the top of the hill overlooking the ruins is a large, round concrete structure that was once part of the mill complex. From there, you can get a marvelous view of Dayton Valley.
At the base of the mill you can find a small rock hole (it looks like a cave) cut into the rock wall. Portions of a wooden wall and door frame the hole, which goes back about 5 feet.
West of the mill foundations, which are quite large and extensive, is a small grove of mature cottonwoods - which are particularly colorful in the fall - and the remnants of a small earthen and concrete dam, which once must have captured water for use at the mill.
Across the highway, the main area of Dayton State Park is a picturesque spot on the banks of the Carson River. It has shading cottonwoods, developed picnic areas and a campground with 10 sites for tents or self-contained RVs (up to 20 feet).
Additionally, it offers drinking water, RV dump station, flush toilets and picnic areas. It is open all year.
-- Richard Moreno is the author of "Backyard Travels in Northern Nevada" and "The Roadside History of Nevada.