Dennis Cassinelli: Dayton’s Pony Express stations
In 1849, Abner Blackburn and other prospectors heading to the California gold fields discovered the first Nevada gold where Gold Canyon reaches the Carson River at a place that later became Dayton.
In the early 1850s, Spafford Hall constructed a log station and trading post to accommodate the needs of emigrants bound for California along the Overland Trail. Hall’s Station became the center of activity for the Dayton area and was the place where the first dance ever held in Nevada Territory occurred on New Year’s Eve 1853.
In 1854, Spafford Hall was seriously injured in a hunting accident and sold the station to one of his employees, James McMarlin. Later on, the station was purchased by Major William Ormsby sometime between 1854 and 1860. Ormsby was a supporter of constructing the overland stage route through Nevada Territory and wanted Hall’s Station to become a stage stop for the Pioneer Stage Line.
In April 1860, when the Pony Express started operation through the territory, Hall’s Station became Dayton’s first Pony Express station. Since the Pony Express route didn’t run through Gold Hill or Virginia City, any mail for the Comstock was taken off at Dayton and brought to the Comstock by a separate carrier.
Shortly after the Pony Express started operating, the Pyramid Lake Indian War began. Station owner Major Ormsby was one of the 76 men killed in the first battle of the war on May 12, 1860. This disrupted Pony Express mail service for nearly two months until riders were once again able to make the runs with any degree of safety. Many of the Pony Express stations east of Dayton were attacked by the Indians. Since several of the Pony Express stations out in the desert regions of the territory were burned during the time of hostile Indian attacks, the log structure at Hall’s Station was likely considered too vulnerable to remain the Pony Express station.
With the death of Major Ormsby, the Pony Express station for the Dayton area was relocated to a more substantial stone-walled building alongside the present location of the Union Hotel. This was the station for the Overland Stage stop and it then became the second Pony Express station in Dayton. It remained the station until the Pony Express ceased operation in 1861. The site of the original Hall’s Station was destroyed during the 1930s when it was excavated for a gravel pit and some gold mining activity.
There are historical markers near the site of Hall’s Station and on the Union Hotel and Post Office building. Both of the sites are now on private property. There’s a freestanding rock wall alongside the Union Hotel that was the original wall of the overland stage station and the Pony Express stop. Originally, the Union Hotel was located across the street near the Odeon Hall. When the hotel burned down in 1870, it was rebuilt alongside the old stone wall which has remained intact ever since. This massive wall can be seen along the west side of the hotel. A better view can be seen from the rear of the hotel where much more of the wall is visible.
Being a Dayton resident, I have taken photos of the remains of the Pony Express station walls to accompany this article. One shows the interior walls now encroached upon by trees and the doorway tall enough for horses to enter. The other photo taken behind the Station shows the brick Union Hotel on the right and the stone wall on the left that extends all the way to Main Street.
Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli can be contacted at email@example.com. All Dennis’ books sold through this publication will be at a 50 percent discount to reduce inventory and Dennis will pay the postage.