Head west, young woman, head west
For the Appeal
I just finished reading the diary of one of the bravest women of the Old West. It told of her journey from Janesville, Wisc., to what is now Oakland, Calif. What courage, tenacity and bravery those pioneer women exhibited. I wonder how many women today could endure the hardships suffered on the trip west. Cholera, smallpox, death, roadside graves and hostile Indians added havoc to their lives daily.
The Parsons started their trip west on March 18, 1850. From the beginning, they were not without struggles as they trekked along immigrant trails. Scarce grass and poor water for the animals was ever present and a late spring made it harder to proceed.
On May 28, 1851, their wagon party pulled into what is now known as Dayton. Here’s what she wrote, including her spelling, of her day on May 30, 1851: “May 30. I had a great desire to see the gold diggings so I went out this morning with my menfolks and the rest. The diggings are in a rough rocky canyon on the west side of the Carson River. We went up the canyon some 3 miles and past many at work washing the gold. They take a pan nearly full of sand & stones till they get it all pored off but the gold, this sinks below. I washed a little & got a little gold. Weather – pleasant.”
(Lucena’s original handwritten diaries are preserved at Stanford University but a copy is available at the Dayton Library).
Lucena and her husband and the wagon party camped in the Dayton area and continued to pan gold until June 10 when the wagon train continued on its way to California.
For some reason, shortly after Lucena left Gold Canyon, she stopped writing in her diary. Her account of the trip is a wonderful story of what women in the early days endured following their family’s west.
For a fun summer outing, come to the museum and see us soon. With extra time, you can take a historical walk through Dayton following the tour hand-out that we have.
The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. Hours are Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.-4 p.m. The web site is daytonnvhistory.org Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-246-8382 or 246-0441. The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets the 3rd Wednesday at noon. Please call for location. Visitors are 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.