Pioneer woman’s bravery, visit to Dayton captured in diary
I just finished reading the diary of one of the bravest women of the Old West. It told of Lucena Parson’s journey from Janesville, Wis., to what is now Oakland, Calif. What courage, tenacity and bravery these pioneer women, including Parson, exhibited.
Parson’s original handwritten diaries are preserved at Stanford University, but a copy is available at the Dayton Library.
I wonder how many women today could endure the hardships suffered on the trip West. Cholera, small pox, 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: “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 canion on the west side of the Carson River. We went up the canion some 3 miles and passt many at work washing the gold. They take a pan nearly full of sand & stones & in the meantime pore off the water & the stones till they get it all pored off but the gold, this sinks below. I washed a little & got a little gold. Wether – pleasant.”
Parson and her husband camped with their wagon party in the Dayton area and continued to pan gold until June 10. when the wagon train pulled out on its way to California.
For some reason, shortly after Parson 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 families West.
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 and Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sundays 1- 4 p.m. Check out daytonnvhistory.org. Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-0462 or 246-0441.
n Ruby McFarland is a 17-year resident of Dayton, a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and a docent at the museum.