by Ruby McFarland
In 1935, Fort Churchill became a Nevada state park. Prior to that, it lay in ruin for 64 years after being decommissioned by the U.S. government.
When railroads appeared in Nevada, the fort's importance diminished, and it was turned over to the General Land Office. Remains of soldiers buried in the post cemetery were moved to Carson City.
Churchill was a short-lived fort built to protect settlers from the Paiute Indians. It was built as a permanent installation, with buildings constructed of hand-shaped adobe walls on stone foundations facing the central parade grounds.
The fort was named for Gen. Sylvester Churchill, inspector general of the U.S. Army.
The post was a Pony Express Station and an overland stage stop.
During the Civil War, it was a main supply depot for troops patrolling the emigrant overland routes to California.
The fort was elaborate for the times, with two-story officers' quarters, barracks, headquarters, commissary, laundry and hospital. It was the center of a controversy due to the excessive costs of its construction, but the matter was covered up by the outbreak of the Civil War.
Fort Churchill was important to Dayton because soldiers protected the settlers and kept the emigrants moving toward California.
A visit to the fort's stone remnants is a must, especially if you are looking for something for the kids to do this summer.
While you are at it, make the trip to Dayton. Consider becoming a member of the Dayton Historical Society or stopping by the Dayton Museum.
Limited grant money and Lyon County add to the coffers somewhat, but visitors help the museum obtain grants. Group tours are available by appointment.
The museum is open on weekends from 10 a.m .to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. Sundays and random hours during the week.
Call 246-7909 to make sure someone is there. To arrange group tours, call 246-3256.
Ruby McFarland is a 17-year resident of Dayton, a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and a docent at the museum.