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Dayton story unfolds layer by layer

Ruby McFarland
Special to the Nevada Appeal

I’m sure you all must think, at times, that I’m obsessed with Emma Loftus’ diaries. To tell the truth, I probably am. It’s taken a couple of years, maybe three, to read them all five times. The first time was laborious. All I could see that the woman did was clean and wash windows. I thought about the diaries a lot that first time reading them and decided I was probably missing something.

I read them a second time and the story began to unfold. I was taken by the amount of people who were in Emma’s daily life. I decided to take the time to write down all the names of the people involved. I recruited a young lady to help me. She found it boring as she didn’t understand the history that was written in every page, just as I had done the first time I read them.

By the time I was through reading the diaries the second time, I was ready to really pick out the story. It began to tell the history of Dayton and the world from 1917 to 1958. I just wasn’t paying attention the first time. It not only told her story but all the people around her. It told me tons about Chester Barton, her son, and a lot about Helen Barton, Chester’s wife.

I decided to read them again so I could get the timelines right and how it affected the Dayton community as a whole. The town was a pretty good place to live and she recorded that fact loud and clear. It wasn’t perfect but like all small towns, people looked after each other, good or bad. They mourned the loss of their loved ones, were joyous in new babies being born, and sorry when folks moved away.

I had to read the diaries the fourth time because now that I knew all these folks, I had to know them better. I really became acquainted with Emma. She was a no-nonsense woman who was always ready to tell you what she thought. I’ve had those who knew her confirm that fact. Everyone agrees who knew her that she was kindly and caring, just don’t get on her bad side. She didn’t swear but you knew you were told off.

Then I read the diaries a fifth time because by this time I’ve decided to write Emma’s story and I wanted to make sure I’ve got the facts straight.

I know more than I ever thought I wanted to know about Emma Nevada Parker Barton Loftus. But you don’t know how I felt when I sat down and wrote “Chapter 1.” I hope I do her justice.

The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. Museum will be closed until the middle of February. 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.