Not Dayton's first experience with economic slowdown

I don't have to tell anyone who is on a fixed income that hard times are upon us. Need I point out gas and grocery prices? It seems that all the monthly expenses have soared out of sight.

Everyone seems to be adjusting their lifestyle to fit the problem of fewer products per income. So it has been with Dayton since anyone came to stay in the 1850s.

In the early days of this area there were no houses to speak of and most of the miners living here lived in tents. After enough settlers gathered in this area, saloons and hotels sprang up to create a town.

It was described by adventurer Alf Doten, as "a neat little town." The area thrived with the discovery of silver and the hard rock mining in Virginia City.

Dayton had many stamp mills and arristras to crush the ore brought from the mines. Then the mines began to play out around 1880 and those $4-a-day wages were gone and there were few jobs in the area.

A few men found jobs building railroads. Of course the ranchers and farmers in the area were affected by the slow down in the mines.

The population of Dayton declined sharply and never more saw the numbers of the early mining days. Around the turn of the century the area felt another slowing of the economy and that's when the Italians took advantage of the lower cost of farms and ranches in the area and bought out the first settlers.

Dayton stayed pretty much the same through World War I up until the depression years, 1928-41.

Although the remaining people in Dayton didn't seem to feel the pain of the depression as much as other areas. Emma Nevada Loftus described the times in her diaries. Chester, Emma's son, often had someone staying in the jail who had no money or job. They could stay until they could get enough money to travel on.

There was enough food as folks raised an ample garden and fished and hunted game to supplement their supplies. The whole town acted as an extended family and nobody went hungry.

For part of the depression, prohibition was in existence, but it didn't seem to keep some of the folks from over-imbibing. It wasn't until April 1933 that 3.2 beer came back to the country. Emma described her feelings in Dec. 27, 1932.

She wrote, "It is terrible hard times here. No one around and no one has any money."

The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. The Web site is Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-8382 or 246-0441.

• Ruby McFarland has lived in Dayton since October 1987, she serves as a board member of the Dayton historical society and a docent at the museum.


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