Between 1889 and 1910, the Cassinelli family settled on a ranch across the Carson River from downtown Dayton. The ranch they acquired is now the location of the Ricci Ranch. Pietro and Theresa Cassinelli raised a family of 12 children while they lived in Dayton. Pietro and his brother, Bert and cousin Vitoria built a dam across the river and constructed ditches to irrigate their fields.
The crops they raised were taken to Virginia City, Gold Hill and Silver City to provide hay, potatoes, garlic, corn and other vegetables for people on the Comstock. Pietro Cassinelli was my Great Grandfather. His son, Pete owned the ranch where I grew up near Sparks. My father, Raymond, operated the Cassinelli Hog Ranch during World War II. In addition to ranching, Raymond and a group of his friends formed the Raymond Cassinelli Dance Band.
Before the War, Raymond went to San Francisco for a few years to study music and became an excellent accordion player. Raymond’s dance band with accordion, xylophone, piano and saxophone traveled around western Nevada and eastern California playing for dances and New Years celebrations during the late 1930s and early 1940s. I can remember them playing in Vinton, Stockton, various Grange halls, Virginia City and the Odeon Hall in Dayton. Raymond once told me that at one dance he played for in Stockton, the only people in the place who wore clothes were the members of his band.
After Raymond passed away a few years ago, my brother, sister and I decided to donate his accordion to one of his favorite dance halls. We had heard that the upstairs ball room at the Odeon Hall in Dayton may be converted to a museum someday. When this was the location of Mia’s Swiss restaurant, I took Raymond there to visit the old upstairs ball room. This brought back many memories for him of the days when he and his band had played there. He remembered that security was provided by deputy sheriff, Lester Barton. He kept order with a rifle equipped with a banana clip.
The idea of putting a museum in the Odeon Hall never did materialize. A few days ago, Grace Ricci called to ask me if I could bring some of the books I had written to the Dayton Historical Museum so they could sell them in their gift shop. I went to the ranch where she lived that was once owned by my ancestors to talk to her about the books. While I was there, I asked if the Dayton Museum would be interested in a donation of Dad’s old accordion.
I took the symphonic console accordion made by Guerrini Co. in San Francisco and some photographs to the museum to put them on display. The Dayton Historical Museum is located at Shady Lane and Logan Alley in Dayton. The building is the second oldest school house in Nevada, built in 1865. One of the photographs I gave to the museum was the Dayton class of 1906 taken alongside the building that is now the Museum. In the photo there are eight members of the Cassinelli clan who were students there in 1906. One of them was my Grandfather, Pete Cassinelli, Raymond’s father.
The Dayton Museum contains hundreds of artifacts from the Dayton area including local ancient Indian artifacts, mining equipment, old farm and ranch equipment from the Dayton Valley ranches, and now the accordion my father used when touring with his dance band over 70 years ago. The museum is open from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and 1pm to 4pm on Sundays. The museum is closed December, January and February, except by appointment.
The Historical Society of Dayton Valley is responsible for not only the schoolhouse museum but also for the historic Dayton firehouse and 1860s jail. In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Lyon County, they have acquired and plan to restore Dayton’s 1881 C&C Railroad Depot at Main Street and Highway 50. This is the only Carson and Colorado Railroad depot still in existence in Nevada.
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