Cheryl Anne Stapp
Dog Town Diggings
More than one gold rush mining camp was dubbed “dog town” by its inhabitants—miner’s slang for coarse, thrown-together encampments of rough-hewn huts and tattered canvas tents, where living conditions were miserable. But a little discomfort never deterred die-hard gold prospectors, and in the late 1850s, they were abuzz with rumors of gold being washed out near Mono Lake.
Founded by Carl Norst in 1857, Dog Town in Mono County was significant as the site of the first major gold rush to the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. A camp sprang up immediately, attracting a few merchants and traders.
Some dog towns flourished and grew into real towns, and when this happened, residents adopted a new, more appropriate name. Not this one, though. Despite the fact that Dog Town was said to have produced the largest nugget ever found on the Sierra’s eastern slope, its deposits were not extensive and the “diggings” weren’t very profitable for most prospectors. Within a couple of years, men living there began to search for the next big strike among the various crevices of the mountains, eventually leading to the creation of boomtowns Monoville, Masonic, Bodie, and Aurora. Today, the first three are ghost towns themselves.
All that’s left of Dog Town is the ruins of dilapidated stone hovels, one lonely grave, and a commemorative plaque along U.S. Highway 395—about seven miles south of Bridgeport—that marks the site as California Historical Landmark No. 792.