Author cites new evidence in Genoa vs. Dayton debate

Stanley Paher reignited the ongoing argument between Genoa and Dayton on Wednesday night with what he said was new research into the which-came-first debate.

Called "The Real Truth About Nevada's First Towns," the writer and publisher's presentation addressed the long-running controversy over which was the first settlement in Nevada. He also showed rare photographs of the area's former railroad lines.

Paher, a vocal proponent of Genoa in the debate, cited his latest research in the talk to about 70 people at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

He described 84 pioneer diaries which allude to a settlement in Carson Valley at Mormon Station, but do not mention Dayton at the mouth of Gold Canyon. They are collected in the 2001 book "First Impressions, the Trail Through Carson Valley, 1848-1852" by Robert Ellison. Twelve diaries expressly name the settlement at Mormon Station, he said.

"It's an 84-to-zero football rout in favor of Mormon Station, you might say," he said.

Several historians disagree, including state historian Guy Rocha and Associated Press writer Martin Griffith. They cite the late May 1851 diary of Lucena Parsons which describes John Reece, credited with founding Genoa, on his way through. At the time, Gold Canyon was already full of miners.

"We know from diary accounts that there were more than 200 miners in Gold Canyon prior to the Reece party's arrival at Mormon Station," Rocha said.

Paher argues there were people at Mormon Station - which became Genoa in 1855 - before Reece. For example, he said the party of Nelson Slater arrived in Carson Valley in early May 1851, having come from Salt Lake City.

"My man was at Mormon Station at least three weeks before Dayton's woman," he said.

Rocha agrees Slater was at Mormon Station in May 1851, but notes he didn't stay. He suggests the debate may boil down to a definition of "settlement." While Genoa was an intentional settlement, Dayton was more of an accidental one. Miners were scattered in the canyon, digging for gold and silver. The community was more of an afterthought when businesses settled in to supply miners and passing immigrants.

"In the end, it may be two points of view that will never be reconciled," Rocha said.

Paher, owner of Nevada Publications and author of "Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps," said the discussion will continue.

"I think more and more information will come from Eastern newspapers like the Aug. 22, 1850, Philadelphia Ledger which describes Mormon Station as a fully functional settlement," he said.

He'll give another presentation at 7 p.m. on April 30 in Genoa Town Hall. Tickets are $3 for members of the Douglas County Historical Society and $6 for nonmembers. For details, call 782-2555.

The Nevada State Railroad Museum offers a free presentation on the second Wednesday of every month. The April lecture will start at 7 p.m. on April 14. Bill and Sandra McGee will give a presentation called "The Divorce Seekers," based on 1940s dude ranches. A chapter in their book on the topic covers the Virginia & Truckee Railroad, which divorcees rode to get to the ranches.

For details, call 687-6953.

Contact Karl Horeis at khoreis@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

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