Dennis Cassinelli: The relatively long history of Dayton

As readers of my columns know, I have done a series of articles about towns in Nevada. The one town I have not written much about yet happens to be the town where I now live, Dayton.
It is Nevada’s first settlement and was founded in 1849. It was in the spring of that year when a frontiersman guiding a group of emigrants to California discovered gold nuggets at the mouth of Gold Creek Canyon near where it empties into the Carson River.
In 1861, the Nevada Territory was established. Also in 1861, residents changed the name from Chinatown to Dayton after John Day, the surveyor who laid out the town. Chinatown was the name used when Chinese placer miners worked in Gold Canyon.
In 1860, the Pony Express built a station in Dayton at Pike and Main streets on the route of the emigrant trail. Well-preserved ruins of the station are still visible today. Lyon County became one of the first original nine counties in Nevada. The county seat was located in Dayton until the court house burned down in 1909 and the county seat was moved to Yerington by 1911.
In 1869, Adolph Sutro started construction of the four-mile long tunnel from Dayton to the mines below Virginia City. The tunnel was completed in 1878. In 1881, the Carson and Colorado Railroad and the Dayton Depot were completed. The Carson and Colorado Railroad ran from Mound House to Keeler Calif. Unfortunately, the relocated Dayton C&C Depot has burned down.
Speaking of railroads, the Joe Douglas locomotive ran for several years from the town of Sutro to the Douglas Mill. The tiny restored locomotive is now on display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.
Several ranches along the Carson River were owned by Italian ranchers. These ranches became the “breadbasket” for the Comstock region. Vegetables, beef, pork and other food products were shipped by wagons to Silver City, Gold Hill, and Virginia City to become the source of food for these cities.
In the 1880s, my great-grandfather, Pietro Cassinelli, purchased one of these ranches and raised 12 children on his ranch. He and his family became one of the suppliers of food and livestock for the Comstock region during the waning days of activity on the Comstock. The old Cassinelli family moved to other places including Reno, Sparks and California in 1910. The Cassinelli Ranch where I grew up was in Sparks. The old Cassinelli ranch in Dayton is now the Ricci Ranch.
I have donated a photograph of the Dayton school class of 1906 that shows eight of the Cassinelli children. The photo can be seen at the old Dayton school at 135 Shady Lane. This is the oldest school house in Nevada still standing at its original location. I donated the photo along with an accordion that belonged to my father, Raymond, that he played for dances at the Odeon Hall and other places in the 1940s.
There are more historic buildings in Dayton than I can describe in a single article. Just to mention a few, there are the Camel Barn, the Fox Hotel, the Union Hotel, the Pony Express Station, Js Old Town Bistro, the Odeon Hall and others.
Dennis Cassinelli is a Dayton author and historian. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at


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