Dayton’s history rich in agriculture
By Ruby McFarland
In Fannie Gore Hazlett’s writings, she chronicles the events of early days in Dayton. (Published in the Nevada Historical Society Papers, Volume 111, 1921-22, Reno, Nevada.)
One passage from her history of Dayton says what I have said all along while I’m researching Dayton history. She wrote: “A book of good size could be filled with the events of this little town during the eventful years of Comstock fame and Comstock decline.” She also thought people should keep diaries for posterity.
Most of the early stories about the area were about miners. Little was said about the farmers or ranchers living here. Samuel S. Buckland owned one of the larger farms east of Dayton, supplying fruit and vegetables to settlers and beef to the soldiers stationed at Fort Churchill. It has been said that Americans owned the ranches and farms in the early days. As mining slowed, Italians bought out the settlers and by 1900, Italians owned most of the farms and ranches in the Dayton area. Many Italians became naturalized citizens once they established homes here.
In Emma Nevada Barton Loftus’ diaries, there was clearly a division in the community between the Italians and the rest of the population. Although it was never said, the Italians stayed pretty much to themselves.
Not until after World War II did the entire community become one with each other. The war touched just about every family in Dayton. Bobbie Hankammer, one of the children Chester Barton helped raise, made the Navy his life’s work. Bert Perondi joined the Navy too. There were a few who didn’t come home.
The Italians continue to ranch and farm locally, although the march of the subdivisions threatens to put them out of business. A couple of ranches have felt the push of the developing community, and houses now stand where cattle once roamed.
It’s sad to see the rich farming areas covered with asphalt and houses. I’m not sure that it is progress. I think exceptions should be made to anyone who loves the land and wants to farm. Let’s hope the farms and ranches don’t all disappear.
The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. It’s also the location of the Dayton Chamber office. It is open during the week upon request and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Check out 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 is a 17-year resident of Dayton, a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and a docent at the museum.
Editor’s Note: In last week’s column Ruby McFarland wrote about Nevada’s admission to the Union. State Archivist Guy Rocha, ever the myth buster, had a bit more information to share on that. He writes “Presidents James Buchanan signed the legislation making Nevada a territory on March 2, 1861. President Lincoln would be sworn is as president the next day, March 3.
“Key Republican members of Congress pushed the legislation creating Nevada Territory including Congressman Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania and U.S. Sen. Milton Latham of California.”