Diarist recorded 41 years of history of Dayton and the world

There is a treasure in our museum that I hope won't be forgotten. Emma Nevada Loftus wrote diaries every year, probably before 1917 to 1958. I say, "probably before," as her 1917 diary doesn't indicate that it was the first. It sounds like it is just a continuation of what she had been doing for years. But none the less, we have 41 years of diaries that not only recorded Dayton doings, but also important world events. For the most part you can track the weather for all those years. She was exacting in her reports of current events.

In as much as we know there have been drastic changes in the weather the past 100 years, Emma's diaries validate it. In the winter she tells how much snow is on all the passes in the Sierra. When it snowed in Dayton, she said how long and how much fell. The amount of ice on ponds was written about in inches.

It didn't matter that an event took place one year, she'd make mention of it year after year. Willey Post and Will Rogers died in a plane in Alaska and Emma told of that crash every year on that anniversary. The swallows comings and goings in Capistrano was mentioned every year. She would say, "Well, the little birds flew off to who knows where today." She was fascinated with their punctuality.

She loved Franklin D. Roosevelt and was touched by his disability and his ability to run the country. She made note of his birthday every year and after his death, she noted the date yearly. The compassion she had for people showed in the pages of her diaries.

They also indicated who the people of Dayton were and what impact each had on the community. Emma's son Chester Barton is almost a daily mention in her diaries. Because it was her son, it was biased in his favor. There was no question that she loved him dearly.

You can tell what diseases had an impact on the community during those 41 years. Typhoid was one of those illnesses that really laid the area down. Many people were hospitalized or died during the outbreak in the 1930s. She recorded all those things and I hope people realize what a wonderful chronicle of history we have in our care.

I keep thinking I'll write a story from her writings. I don't know when I'd find time. Perhaps in the future, someone will have the same passion I have and write a book about Emma's diaries.

The Historical Society of Dayton Valley has a new meeting time and location. New time: 12:30 - 1:45 p.m. New Location: Lyon County Library " Dayton Branch Conference Room; 321 Old Dayton Valley Road. We will continue to meet there the third Wednesday of each month. All are welcome.

The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. Hours: Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m.. The Web site is daytonnvhistory.org. 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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