Chinese immigrants were brought to the Dayton area circa 1855 to dig a canal from the Carson River to the mouth of Gold Canyon to help placer miners search for gold.
When the canal was completed, many Chinese remained to mine tailings left by other miners. They were also woodcutters, laundry workers, gardeners and railroad builders. They were employed in menial jobs due to discrimination, particularly by other miners, and the people in mining communities like Dayton.
The Chinese offered services not otherwise available. Laundry and a place to get a hot bath were among some of them. Later in Nevada, many restaurants were owned and operated by Chinese entrepreneurs.
Men didn't do laundry in China, where women did the hot task. Working in laundries in mining towns was difficult and demanding. Along with long hours, working with hot tubs of water was dangerous. Men took on these jobs in the early days before women immigrants joined them.
The Chinese were not lazy, but worked hard and lived frugally, taking no handouts.
We have in the Dayton Museum a stove used by Chinese to heat water. It includes many of the heavy "sad irons," as they were called. Often the owners and workers lived in or near the laundry. Many such laundries existed in Western mining areas. One could attribute the Chinese with bringing cleanliness to the West.
I don't think we can say enough about the contributions Chinese immigrants gave to the development of this country. Although they were discriminated against, they were industrious and were able to overcome countless hardships to become respected American citizens. Many went back to their homeland, but those who stayed have a place in history.
The Dayton Museum is on Shady Lane and Logan Street in Old Town Dayton. It's also the location of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce 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.
- Ruby McFarland is a 17-year resident of Dayton, a board member of the Dayton Historical Society and a docent at the museum.