Nevada Gold was first discovered in 1849 by Abner Blackburn and several other placer miners at the mouth of Gold Canyon where it empties into the Carson River at Dayton. Shortly after the discovery, an influx of prospectors, placer miners and opportunists began working its way up Gold Canyon in pursuit of the elusive yellow dust and nuggets. It would be another 10 years before silver would be identified as the most amazing mineral discovery of the century at the upper end of Gold Canyon.
Enterprising Spafford Hall saw an opportunity to make his fortune catering to the needs of the local miners and travelers passing through to the “real” gold fields in California. Hall constructed a substantial log store alongside the California Trail to become known as Hall’s Station. This was the first business established in what would later became known as Dayton, and Hall was the first permanent settler.
To provide entertainment to the miners, ranchers and employees at the station, Hall decided to throw Nevada’s first New Years Eve dance at the station on Dec. 31, 1853. He invited a total of about 150 men from a radius of 50 miles. Nine of the 12 women then living in this remote outpost of western Utah Territory showed up for the bash. I’m sure there was not a wallflower among them. They ranged in age from little girls to grandmothers. Miners, cowboys and ranchers waited their turn for a chance to dance with the ladies. They danced on the rough log floor to the music of a makeshift dance band playing “Oh Suzanna,” Virginia reels and other popular tunes of the times.
The affair lasted until the wee hours of the morning. When at last the party broke up and the revelers went out to get their horses for the long ride home, they found most of the horses were gone. It seemed that sometime during the fandango, a band of Washoe Indians drove off the horses to a place near the present site of Moundhouse a few miles west. There, the Indians, who were fond of fresh horsemeat, were having their own New Years Eve party consisting of a horesmeat barbecue.
A search was begun by the hungover partygoers in an attempt to track down the missing animals. They set out on foot in the cold January air with headaches and a chill in their bones with a bitter contempt for the Washoe horse-nappers. It wasn’t until late the next afternoon that most of the horses were recovered. Two of the animals were never found and were considered to have been eaten. Late New Years Day 1854, the participants of Nevada’s first recorded New Years Eve Dance dance made their way home from the most memorable dance party they were likely to ever attend.
My Father, Raymond Cassinelli, had a dance band in the 1940’s and often played for New Years Eve Dances at the Odeon Hall in Dayton. The Odeon Hall is located about 1 city block from the site of Stafford Hall’s Station where Nevada’s very first New Years Eve Dance was held 90 years Earlier. I recently donated his accordion to the Dayton Historical Museum.
This article is by Dayton Author and Historian Dennis Cassinelli who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his blog at denniscassinlli.com. All books sold through this publication will be at a 20 percent discount and Dennis will pay the postage.