Camels once roamed Dayton Valley
November 26, 2008
The camels are coming! One supposes that used to be the cry of Dayton residents who lived here when camels roamed the historic trails near town in the 1860s -1870s. On Pike Street, just north of the Dayton Valley Community Center, stands the old-stone building of what used to be the site of a large camel compound. A Nevada State Historical Marker there tells another bit of Dayton’s fabulous history. The structure standing was Leslie’s Hay Barn, called by some, “the camel barn.”
The Army brought the camels west in the 1850s. For around two decades, camel trains were a common sight around this end of Nevada, hauling goods, salt and wood, to local mines and as far away as Walker Lake, from Virginia City to Dayton, Ft. Churchill and over to Austin. The historical marker indicates camel trains hauled items between Nevada and Sacramento, Calif., too.
Camels were not popular beasts of burden, scaring the daylights out of mules and horses. When their need diminished with other modes of traffic carrying salt and supplies, they were turned lose to run free in the desert. Although they thrived there, and their numbers increasing rapidly, they became a nuisance, scaring people when they startled horses pulling wagons or stagecoaches or lone riders.
In 1875, Nevada’s legislators passed a law prohibiting camels from running at large or on public thoroughfares. Most of the beasts of burden were captured and sent to Arizona with at least one pair left around this end of Carson Valley. (As the early Dayton area was referred to in her pioneering days). By then, few people reported seeing wild camels but in 1907, a sighting was reported. Others say camel “ghost” trains may still be seen on Old Fort Churchill Road between Dayton and Buckland Station. (See Toni Cipriano’s article in Lyon County Reflections, 1991, available at the Dayton Library.)
Come explore the Dayton Museum to see Nevada Historic treasure being preserved for future generations at Shady Lane and Logan in the town’s historic sector where self-guided walking tour brochures are available.
The Historical Society of Dayton Valley: NO REGULAR MEETING in December.
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The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. Hours: Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday, 1-4 p.m. Historical lectures 11 a.m., Saturdays. The web site is daytonnvhistory.org. Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-8382 or 246-0441.
– Ruby McFarland has lived in Dayton since October 1987, she serves as a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and docent at the museum.