Dayton area’s rich history never ceases to amaze me
For the Appeal
It’s always when I am asked to speak to a group that I realize how much history there is to tell about Dayton and the surrounding areas.
“OK,” you might ask, “What is there to tell after gold was discovered in Gold Creek in Gold Canon in a place emigrants once call ‘Pause and Ponder’?”
Or you might wonder: “What were people doing here in the first place?” or “Why was this a good place to stop and rest?” One can’t help asking why emigrants traveling in wagons or walking chose this route through this area over another.
Well, looking at the topography, it makes sense they chose the path of least resistance, avoiding mountains as much as possible, traveling through valleys. Some local valleys were pips, while other areas, like the 40-Mile Desert to the east, must have felt like the 400-mile desert before folks got through that part of their journey.
Anyway, “Pause and Ponder” was a good place to stop, rest, and recoup. There were good grass and water for the bone-weary animals, and a place for the trail-weary people to mend their equipment and bodies to complete their trip across the Sierra Nevada.
Some folks ended their journey right here. That’s when the history begins to spread out, creating the endless history of Dayton and surrounding towns.
I find it difficult at times to relate just a thumbnail sketch of the area’s history. Every family contributed to the hardships and gains of settling around here. You can’t explore one part without bringing in the families and people who lived and worked here.
I can start telling about one family and find I can’t finish without telling about another. It seems the whole area was an extended family, each having a part but contributing to the whole picture. Mind you, they all knew each other,too.
It was the settling of this place that started a cycle of great stories beginning with the discovery of gold. The people alone supply a plethora of human and humorous tales. I’ve tried to digest all of the stories.
There are visitors who come to the museum almost every weekend who ask: “Can you help me find out more about my family who lived here in Dayton?” Surprisingly, they are the ones who teach me about people about whom I had only heard. Sometimes I’m able to add to their genealogical research. Sometimes I’m in awe of who they are in relation to families living in Dayton.
At any rate, I’m open to talk to anyone who helps piece together local history.
• Ruby McFarland has lived in Dayton since October 1987. She serves as a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and a museum docent .