A glimpse at the life of a pioneer woman in early Dayton
November 7, 2007
In the year 1853, one of the remarkable women of the Dayton area arrived here with her husband, James Ellis.
Laura Ellis was a remarkable woman in that she was able to solve problems. She kept a journal of the happenings of the pioneer days.
There was a log cabin trading post that at one time was on what is now Main Street. It was the first house ever built in Nevada east of Carson City. James McMarlin built it in the fall of 1849. Other authorities say it was built by Spafford Hall.
To get back to Laura Ellis, she was active in the area and had her finger in a lot of pies, so to speak. One such thing she had a hand in was a contract between two young folks who wanted to get married. There wasn’t anyone who could perform the ceremony, so Laura drew up a contract dated “Carson River, July 4, 1854.”
Her contract said, “By those present we hereby certify, in the presence of witnesses that we will from this time henceforth, to the end of our lives, live together as man and wife, obeying all the laws of the United States as married persons. In witness, we set our hands and seals, this fourth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty four. (Signed) James Dover – Rachel F. Albrecht.”
James Ellis was one of the witnesses on the contract.
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That wasn’t the only time Laura changed or wrote a contract.
Numaga, a friendly Indian chief, was sent with a note to Mrs. Ellis to give his tribe arms and ammunition for them to fight the Washoe tribe. Laura instead gave the chief an order for flour from the McMarlins trading post. It averted an intertribal war.
In the Mountain Democrat Newspaper from Placerville, Calif., there was a report of a fatal accident involving James B. Ellis. It reported that Mr. Ellis of Gold Canon was instantly killed when his rifle accidentally discharged as he was taking it from his wagon. The article noted that he was well liked and he left a wife and two children “to mourn his melancholy fate.”
Laura went on with her life and then married George Dettenreider. They lived on a ranch in Dayton. Both of Laura’s children died at an early age. Laura was indeed a sturdy pioneer woman.
The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan Street in Old Town Dayton, and is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Check the Web site: daytonnvhistory.org. 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 has lived in Dayton since October 1987. She serves as a board member of the Dayton historical society and a docent at the museum.