Untangling tall tales from real history
For the Appeal
Ever wonder how tall tales get started? It’s hard enough to get a story straight in history because it depends on who is telling it. There are many tongue-in-cheek stories told about this area, and, as Mark Twain said: “Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.”
One particular tall tale in Dayton is the story that President Grant spoke from the balcony of the Odeon Hall & Saloon in Dayton. It never happened, his schedule was so tight he didn’t even stop here.’
Another that pops up now and again is the story of the town of Mineral Rapids, which was supposed to have been located where Dayton developed. Little is known of the city except it just never materialized but there’s a map in the Dayton Museum indicating it was laid out, including the names of the streets.
Information from Michael Maher, Nevada Historical Society librarian, said, “It never grew beyond a house or two and a vegetable garden.”
Fanny Hazlett’s Dayton history notes: “…in February, 1860, a company of people, composed chiefly of residents of Carson City, laid out the town below the original old site of Dayton (then Chinatown) and called it Mineral Rapids … only one new cabin was erected that year.”
Historian Myron Angel said it was “intended to eclipse Dayton but never did.”
I think it was someone trying to make a quick buck, as was the case in the early days.
In the book, “Abner Blackburn – Frontiersman,” there is a narrative by Blackburn telling about a man talked about around the campfires in the early 1800s. Since the story was told when Blackburn was in his declining years, he may have embellished it.
As his story goes, there was a fellow, Lou Devon, who was kidnapped by Indians and was made a slave to work at tasks performed by women in the tribe. He was watched closely and helped in the curing of hides and other women’s jobs.
He gained the tribe’s trust due to his hunting skills and was finally allowed to go hunting with the men. The chief gave him a bride named Leaping Fawn. They had a child, Sleeping Fawn. He later left the tribe, missed his family and returned.
While most mountain men’s roots could be traced, in later years, research indicates no trace of Devon’s roots. It was concluded that Lou Devon was a myth, nothing but a good campfire story.
There have always been those who added to a story. Devon’s story was that era’s TV, a way to while away the hours when away from home.
The Dayton Museum is at Shady Lane and Logan in Old Town Dayton. It’s also the location of the Dayton Chamber office. It is open during the week upon request and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Check out the Web site: daytonnvhistory.org. Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-0462 or 246-0441.
The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets at noon on the third Wednesday of the month at the Dayton Valley Community Center. Visitors welcome.
• 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.