One of the oldest communities in Nevada, Dayton was once known as Chinatown because of its large number of Chinese immigrants. In spite of their numerical importance, the Chinese tended to live in neighborhoods with humble wood buildings that were vulnerable to fire and the elements. Faced with prejudice and the failure of Nevada's economy in the late nineteenth century, almost all of the Chinese left for other states. Few Nevada towns have any visible remnants of a Chinatown.
Dayton became a commercial center for surrounding agricultural areas and in the 1850s for the placer miners to the north; it served as the seat of government for Lyon County from 1861 to 1910. Although it predated all other Comstock settlements, tiny Dayton never grew large, seeing its fortunes wane as Virginia City and Gold Hill grew into large cities. Nonetheless, Dayton's mills, using water from the nearby Carson River, provided an important component of the success of the area. Today Dayton is experiencing renewed growth as suburban development from Carson City spreads eastward.
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