Weak evidence for Dayton claim
October 13, 2011
In the ongoing debate over Nevada’s oldest settlement, Dayton spokesmen have long relied upon the Lucena Parsons 1851 emigrant trail diary to buttress their claim. The brochure issued by Dayton’s Chamber of Commerce proudly devotes to Parsons four paragraphs in an attempt to stake its claim as Nevada’s oldest.
It has now been determined that the original of that handwritten diary does not exist, and thus the earliest reference to the diary is at Stanford University Library in a 1928 typescript entitled “The Woman in the Sunbonnet,” edited by two Bay area women, Elizabeth and Elene Wilber. These sisters wrote poetry, music and plays with strong Western themes, and while doing so the two women embellished the diary by unwittingly including several geographical errors and a few historical misstatements in the transcript. Henceforth, this Parson diary transcript should not be relied upon by historical researchers, and the Dayton claim of oldest settlement is similarly tainted.
What exists at the Stanford library served as the sole basis in 1983 for Kenneth Holmes’ book “An Overland Honeymoon” which reproduces the Parson transcript. During 1984-1993 that same editor issued an 11-volume set of numerous diaries authored by covered wagon women, and when introducing the Stanford typescript Holmes noted that the copyright was never perfected.
This further renders questionable Parson’s diary as a historical document.