Drawing the line on history’s inconsistencies
It amuses and amazes me how inconsistent history is from one source to the other. I try to be absolutely sure of my text before I hand it over to the editor, but with every history book I read, I don’t know where you draw the line in some cases.
For instance, take “Ole Virginny’s” (the man for whom Virginia City is named) last name. I’ve seen it written two ways in probably a dozen books. One will call him James Finney, the next James Fennimore. Another says Fenmore. An abandoned tombstone from the Dayton Cemetery now in the museum calls him “Fennimore,” while the new grave marker at the cemetery calls him “Finney.”
Where do you draw the compromising line?
It’s the same with the Grosh Brothers. I live on Grosh Avenue in Dayton, but I’ve seen it written Grosche. The spelling “Grosche” is probably written in more history books I’ve read than any other spelling. But in the 1881 “History of Nevada, Thompson & West,” a letter signed by the Allen and Hosea Grosh’s father spells it “Grosh.” The Grosh brothers may have discovered the first rich silver veins on the Comstock, but both died in 1858, and their location records have not been found.
Well, I’m all for getting the story right because there is less chance of history getting way off course and we lose the truth of it all.
Another story I’ve read in history books is about the Gridley sack of flour and the reasons it existed. The most common story is that it was a loss of a bet that the sack of flour was carried up and down the streets of Austin (an early mining town). Another was because the loss of an election.
The sack of flour was used in other communities as a fund-raiser before it got back to Austin. At any rate, the sack of flour was sold and resold, raising $270,000 for the Sanitary Fund of the Civil War.
I suppose I could just pick the story I like best and stick with it. Get involved with history, and you can then draw your own conclusions.
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Consider becoming a member of the Dayton Historical Society or stopping by the Dayton Museum on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. Lyon County and limited grant money add to the coffers somewhat, but visitors help the museum obtain grants. Group tours are available by appointment.
The museum is open on weekends from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 1 to 4 p.m. It is open at random hours during the week, but closed Fridays. Call 246-7909 beforehand. For group tours, call 246-3256 or 246-0462.
Ruby McFarland is a 17-year resident of Dayton, board member of the Dayton Historical Society and docent at the museum.