The first discovery in Jefferson Canyon, the Silver Point, was discovered in August 1865 by R. Chanrock and A.V. Wilson. Additional rich discoveries in 1871 and 1873 finally led to the construction two ten-stamp mills in 1874. With the completion of the mills, a town finally developed with two sections: Lower Town, near the mills, housed a hotel, boarding house, mine offices, and a handful of homes. The main business district, however, developed ¾ of a mile above the mill, and had a Wells Fargo office, the Dayton stone store, the Ferguson Brothers Hotel, seven saloons, three restaurants, two stables and bakeries, a brewery, butcher shop, barbershop, lumberyard, homes, and a population of 250. A toll road was constructed to Belmont, and supplies were brought daily from Wadsworth.

Jefferson reached its peak in 1875, when its population exceeded 800. By that fall, however, the mills only operated periodically, primarily to process ore from Barcelona, and the population began to fall. The Jefferson mine and mill finally ceased operation in 1876, followed by the Prussian mine and mill in 1878. Jefferson was almost entirely silent; supposedly four miners remained for the next few years.

In the early 1880s, work began again. In January 1883, the Jefferson Silver Mining Company was established and began working claims, also restarting the Jefferson mill. Other mines reopened, and Jefferson soon drew about 150 people back. The Wells Fargo office too reopened, joined by a few businesses, but by 1885 a quick decline began. On July 4th of that year, the Jefferson Silver Mining Co.'s property was sold and the mill dismantled and moved to Park Canyon. In April 1886, the Prussian mill was also dismantled and relocated to Ophir. By 1887, Jefferson was again nearly empty, this time for nearly two decades.

In April 1906, the short-lived Jefferson Canyon Consolidated Mining Co. and Queenie Consolidated Mining Co. arrived, but little work was actually done. Two years later, a group from New York purchased all of Jefferson's mines and formed the Jefferson Mining Company. That company constructed a 100-ton mill for $90,000, meant to treat piles of ore that had been left behind during the earlier searches for richer ore. Meanwhile, Colonel John McAlliser founded the McAllister Milling & Power Syndicate, which built its own mill and laid out another townsite called Millville. Neither of these ventures lasted, and soon Jefferson was yet again abandoned.

Following the onset of World War I, Charles Stoneham (owner of the New York Giants) purchased property in Jefferson in 1917 and equipped the 1908 mill for flotation. Little was produced, and it closed before the end of the year. The next year, the mill was reopened by the Jefferson Gold and Silver Mining Company, who added a cyanide settling tank and further expanded the mine to a depth of more than 1000 feet. 60,000 tons of ore was processed from tailings before that company folded in February 1919.

The final revival at Jefferson began in 1928, when the Elsa Mining Company reopened the mill and installed new equipment. Like other companies before it, the Elsa soon folded. In 1931, the Bright Star Gold Mining Company spent $350,000 to construct a new 75-ton mill, but the cost caused that company to fold as well. The last unsuccessful company to attempt work in Jefferson was the Copon Silver and Gold Mining Company, which arrived in December 1933. After it failed, Jefferson finally fell silent for the last time after producing a total of $2.3 million. Today, over 1¼ miles of extensive ruins remain in Jefferson Canyon, making this ghost town well worth the trip for any enthusiast.