History comes to life through pioneer’s diary
October 31, 2005
I’ve told you about the diaries I’m reading written by Emma Nevada Loftus. I think it is time to tell you a little about Emma. She has a wonderful story to tell in her diaries, which date back to the early 1900s. Doing more research, I’ve found out about her life in general.
She was born Emma Nevada Parker in Gold Hill, on Oct. 2, 1874. I suspect she was named after Emma Nevada, the singer from Austin who was a celebrity in Virginia City. The Emma whose diaries I’m reading was one of six children. Her siblings were John, Simon, Ada, Ivy and James.
Early in her life, the family moved to Mason Valley. When she was nearly 16 years old in 1890, she met and married Thomas Barton. They had two children. One died when he was 31Ú2 months old; the other, a son, Chester, became the joy of Emma’s life. Her husband died in 1895.
A year later, Emma married Jack Loftus in Virginia City. Interestingly, both men she married were former residents of Fiddletown, Calif. Jack and Emma moved to Dayton, where he operated a business with C.C. Braun. The Braun and Loftus Mercantile was on the corner of Main and Pike streets.
In 1923, Jack became the Dayton Township justice of peace, a position he held until 1936. When he became too ill to perform the duties of the position, Emma stood as a witness to many marriages he performed in Dayton.
Emma was a housewife. but not an ordinary one. Although her entire world existed within a 50-mile radius of Dayton, she could tell you about world events of the day, recording them in her diaries. She was compassionate about all of the disasters, such as Will Rogers and Wiley Post crashing in Alaska, or other events like Charles Lindberg’s flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Also, she noted the Lindberg baby’s kidnapping and death along with the name of the man caught and brought to trial for the crime.
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Every birth and death of Dayton people living in her time is recorded in her diaries. They were used as evidence in trials. For the most part, it is hard to read them because they can be repetitious and one must read a lot to glean a story. I’ll reveal more when I finish reading her story in the diaries.
The Dayton Museum is on Shady Lane and Logan Street in Old Town Dayton. It’s also the location of the Dayton Chamber office. It is open during the week at random hours; 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturdays; 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Check out daytonnvhistory.org. Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-0462 or 246-0441.
– 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.