Marking your date in history

Of all the days we celebrate, I feel our birthdays are the most important. Thank God I keep having them. Dayton diarist of yesteryear, Emma Nevada Barton Loftus, thought people's birthdays were important too. She noted birthdays of those she loved every year in her accounts, including birthdates of those who had passed on.

Emma's birthday was Oct. 2, 1874, and Jack, Emma's husband, was born on Oct. 4, 1862. She always made note of what people did for her birthday. She wrote:

"Saturday, Oct 2, 1937

"72 degrees on the porch. Wind blew all day and then it got a little cooler. I cleaned my kitchen, bathroom and screen porch and irrigated all the yard. I am 63 years old today, and I am going strong yet. I went down after the Gazette. It started to rain, so Mr. Braun brought me home in his car. It's still raining and blowing out. Little Janet Lee Hammond gave me two nice pairs of stockings for my birthday. First snow appeared on the Sierra Mountains and Hope Valley. Lake Tahoe got a severe rain storm."

The next day Emma noted that Mrs. Sensi gave her an apron and Jack two pair of socks. Wilma and Tom (Allingham) gave her a box of stationery, silk stockings and a box of candy. She always appreciated anything people did for her and was quick to acknowledge it in her diary.

I've talked to people who knew Emma and they all say the same thing - she was just the sweetest person they knew. There are a few newcomers who knew her when she got older, and they thought she was a mean old woman. Not so. She was just getting confused and feeble and resented that she couldn't do what she had always done.

However, Maybelle Walmsley said that Emma was always kind but added, "don't cross her."

She said her brown eyes would just snap, and you knew she was displeased.

Anyway, I digress. There were not too many birthdays she missed. The Hankammer children who lived with her son Chester Barton always got gifts from Emma. David Allingham, Wilma's oldest son, tells how he loved staying at Auntie Emma's house and sleeping in her feather bed. He said she made pretty good cakes too.

The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. It's also the location of the Dayton Chamber office. It is open during the week upon request and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Check out the Web site: Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-0462 or 246-0441.

The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets at noon on the third Wednesday of the month at the Dayton Valley Community Center. Visitors welcome.

• Ruby McFarland is a 17-year resident of Dayton, a board member of the society and a museum docent.


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