Laura Tennant: Historical kiosks recognize Dayton as town that grew on California Trail

Pike Street in Old Town Dayton is the site of the original Emigrant (Overland) Trail, recognized in history today as the California Trail where thousands of emigrants trekked through our town on their way to the California goldfields in the mid- to late 1840s into the 1870s.

This bit of Dayton history has often been left out of Nevada history books, but that misnomer will be no more when two new 24-inch-by-36-inch colorful, professionally illustrated interpretive kiosks, one containing Dayton history with an illustration of miners in Gold Canyon and the other, the same sized map of towns on the trail from West Wendover through Nevada to the Sierra, highlights Dayton’s role in Nevada history and will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Saturday at a permanent site in front of the Dayton Valley Community Center.

Without the generosity of the Historical Society of Dayton Valley, Dayton Valley Days and the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, these professionally created interpretive markers would not be highlighting our history since it would have been difficult to raise $4,000 without their donations. In the long run, though, many residents had donated funds to these organizations in the past so preserving Dayton history is always a community affair.

Oregon California Emigrant Trail kiosks across Nevada

Twenty of the OCTA markers are already in place in Nevada towns on the trail beginning at West Wendover and the kiosks’ addition in Dayton is exciting and saves the town’s historic significance in Nevada history for future generations.

When the project began

The idea to get Dayton officially recognized on the OCTA kiosks on the California Trail began around two years ago when I met former Dayton High School teacher Steve Knight at a lecture at the Gold Hill Hotel. Learning that Knight is a member of the Oregon California Trail Association, I asked him if we could get a simple trail-marker on Pike Street in Old Town Dayton, which was founded on the original Emigrant Trail. I had noticed that the OCTA had mounted some markers with inscriptions on two small railroad track pieces on what is left of the trail east and west of Dayton in non-populated areas but no markers had been placed on Pike or Main streets where they were visible to the public.

However, Knight had a better idea and he showed me the awesome historical emigrant trail outdoor interpretive signs (kiosks) that were erected in almost every town on the Trail but Dayton.

So, Knight urged the OCTA group to meet in Dayton, and I asked about installing the larger historical markers on Pike Street and they agreed that Dayton should have one of the interpretative kiosks in our old town. I cringed when he said the display would cost about $4,000, yet, I had raised that much in the past for Dayton history preservation and I approached the HSDV Board of Directors, Chamber’s Board and Dayton Valley Days and they agreed this would be a worthwhile project.

Two years have passed

So I started working on this project with OCTA members Knight and Jon Nolan about two years ago and finally, with the help of David Moore, former Nevada Magazine editor, the text documenting Dayton’s earliest history was finished and approved by the OCTA and the illustrator John Peters in Utah with Interpretive Graphics went to work to create an unbelievable scene depicting Nevada’s first gold discovery that put Nevada on the map. I would say it took more than a month of working with Peters to verify the final design and I believe it is stunning, and I thank Peters for his high-quality workmanship.

Moore and I spent a month or so editing the text back and forth through emails to summarize Dayton’s early history precisely and accurately and worked with Peters to make the illustration and history the best it could be.

The HSDV, Dayton Valley Days and the Chamber also reviewed the production of the kiosks and gave their final approval and we can hardly wait to see them erected in front of the Community Center on Pike Street for all to enjoy.

Laura Tennant is a Silver City native and Dayton historian. Comments are welcome. Call 775-246-3256, e-mail or write P.O. Box 143, Dayton, Nev. 89403.


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