Sunday, June 29, 2008

Carson City's Lone Mountain Cemetery

Most people don't usually think of a cemetery as a place for history, but some of Nevada’s most prominent historical figures can be found at the Lone Mountain Cemetery in Carson City.

Lone Mountain can trace its beginnings to the early 1860s and the earliest days of Carson City. Many pioneering Carsonites—as well as several governors and other 19th century state leaders—were laid to rest at Lone Mountain.

According to historian Cindy Southerland, who several years ago compiled an inventory of the cemetery, the 40-acre burial ground consists of seven separate cemeteries including sections for Masons, Oddfellows, Catholics, and children.

While it might sound odd, Lone Mountain is an interesting place to explore, particularly if you have Southerland's inventory as a guide. For instance, the Catholic section, located at the southeast end of the cemetery is home of several prominent Nevadans such as Mathias and Marcella Rinckel.

Mathias Rinckel, who was born in Germany in 1833, was an early resident of Carson City, having established a successful cattle ranch in the area in 1863. In 1876, Rinckel built a grand home for his wife, the Rinckel Mansion at 102 North Curry Street, which is still standing.

Mathias Rinckel, who died in 1879, also helped finance Carson City's first two opera houses as well as construction of St. Teresa de Avila Church. Marcella Rinckel, who died in 1933, was active in the women's suffrage movement in the state.

The former Oddfellows section, found in the northeastern portion of Lone Mountain, contains other familiar names including Abraham Curry, who is considered the father of Carson City.

Curry, who was born in New York in 1815, arrived in Carson City in 1858. With partners John J. Musser, Benjamin Green, and Frank Proctor, he purchased about 1,000 acres in Eagle Valley and laid out the community of Carson City.

Additionally, Curry built the Warm Springs Hotel (located near the site of the present Nevada State Prison) as well as the prison, the Carson City Mint building and the Virginia and Truckee Railroad shops.

His political accomplishments included stints as a Territorial Assemblyman from 1862-63, a Territorial Senator from 1863-64, warden of the state prison and superintendent of the mint.

Curry died in 1873 and, despite his achievements, was buried in a modest grave with a wooden marker because his family did not have the financial means to do otherwise. The original marker disintegrated over the years and it wasn't until 1964 that a more suitable one was erected.

Other prominent early Nevadans that can be found at Lone Mountain include:

• Henry Marvin Yerington, superintendent of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad and namesake for a western Nevada community. Yerington, who died in 1910, also constructed the first flume to send timber from Lake Tahoe to the Comstock mines.

• Denver S. Dickerson, who served as Nevada's 11th governor from 1908 to 1910. Dickerson was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1906, then assumed the top job upon the death of Governor John Sparks in 1908. He was defeated when he sought a full term but later served as superintendent of the state police and warden of the state prison. He died in 1925 and is one of five governors buried at Lone Mountain.

• Abe Cohn, a Carson City businessman known primarily for his commercial association with legendary Washoe basketmaker Dat so la lee. Cohn, who died in 1934, sold Dat so la lee's magnificent woven baskets for 40 years.

• Hank Monk, a stage driver who was immortalized by writer Mark Twain for a white-knuckle ride from Carson City to Placerville that he provided to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune. Monk supposedly traveled the 109-mile distance in less than ten hours.

• Jennie Clemens, daughter of Orion Clemens, who served as Nevada's Territorial Secretary in 1863, and niece of writer Mark Twain. Jennie Clemens died of spotted fever in 1864 at the age of nine.

• Anne Hudnall Martin, a remarkable woman who served Carson City as a school teacher for 13 years, then as owner and editor of the Carson Daily Morning News.

A copy of Cindy Southerland's excellent publication is available at the Carson City Library. A condensed version that describes the history of Lone Mountain Cemetery and selected burial sites was also produced.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Unusual Nevada Newspaper Names

Eureka Sentinel Building

More than 800 newspapers have been published in Nevada since the mid-19th century. Most have sported traditional names—like Lahontan Valley News or Las Vegas Review-Journal—but a few have had decidedly more colorful monikers.

The following, taken from the classic book, “The Newspapers of Nevada,” by Richard E. Lingenfelter and Karen Rix Gash, are perhaps the most bizarre newspaper names ever to grace the printed page. Perhaps with good reason, none are still published.

1. Spark of Genius: The modestly named Spark was a monthly, eight-column newspaper published in Austin in 1879. It was the brainchild of Vienna Dollarhide, a local schoolteacher, and its stated goal was to inspire the "literary genius of the youthful climbers of the ladder of learning." The ladder may have been too steep for her readers, however, since the paper folded after only a few issues.

2. Measure For Measure: This Battle Mountain weekly, started on November 23, 1874, derived its nomenclature from a Shakespearean play of the same name. Erudite publisher-editor William J. Forbes attempted to be original when naming his publications; his previous papers were the New Endowment (in Salt Lake City) and the Trespass (in Virginia City). Measure For Measure tried to measure up to its readers’ expectations until Forbes' death in 1875.

3. True Fissure: With a name reflecting its mining-town roots, Candelaria's True Fissure started on June 5, 1880, as a Republican weekly. It served the role well, helping owner-editor John Dormer get elected Nevada's secretary of state in 1882 and reelected four years later. By then, Candelaria was in decline, and the paper folded on December 4, 1886.

4. The Cupel: The Cupel took its name from the cup used by an assayer. This daily was published for four months in 1874. Unlike most of the state's defunct papers, which died for economic reasons, the Cupel's demise was due to an act of nature. On July 24, a flash flood swept through Eureka, destroying or wrecking 30 buildings, including The Cupel's offices. While Editor William Taylor survived the disaster, reporter Roger Robinette drowned, as did 15 others. The rival Eureka Sentinel (offices pictured above), however, survived and lasted for another century.

5. Co-operative Colonist: This newspaper was founded to promote a socialist utopian colony being developed at Nevada City, four miles east of Fallon. Published sporadically from March 1916 to September 1918, the Co-operative Colonist was first edited by C.V. Eggleston, one of the colony's boosters, and later by R.E. Bray after Eggleston was ejected from the colony for being more interested in personal profit than communalism. The paper folded when the colony disintegrated in 1918.

6. Las Vegas Hangover: A case where the name says it all. The Hangover was a Las Vegas-based weekly entertainment magazine published from January 1946 to February 1946. Publisher Harriet Merry claimed circulation in 11 Western states, but that was apparently not enough to prevent the Hangover from "passing out" of existence.

7. Potosi Nix Cum Rouscht: Nevada's strangest named newspaper, the Nix Cum Rouscht, was a handwritten manuscript sheet, published in February 1861 in the Southern Nevada mining camp of Potosi by the town's founder, J.E. Stevens. The paper lasted only one issue—possibly due to writer's cramp or because no one could pronounce its name or knew what it meant.

8. Rochester Paycrack: Another newspaper named for a mining term (a "paycrack" is a rich vein of ore), the Paycrack was published for less than a year in the mining camp of Rochester (100 miles east of Reno). The paper was owned and edited by Joe T. Camp, described as "one of the last of Nevada true tramp printers" by Lingenfelter and Gash. Camp, who carried his press with him from town to town, started no less than seven newspapers in Nevada between 1910 and 1920. None lasted longer than two years.

9. Betty O'Neal Concentrator: The Concentrator commenced publishing on February 9, 1924, to serve the citizens of the mining camp of Betty O'Neal, located 14 miles south of Battle Mountain. Financially wobbly from the start, the Concentrator was first published by N.W. Cockrell and then was taken over by the paper's creditors. In its final days it boasted it was "the only newspaper edited and published by the citizens of any mining camp in the state." But even that didn't help it stay afloat; the Concentrator folded in mid-1925.

10. Aurora Borealis: The cleverly named Aurora Borealis, first appeared in the mining camp of Aurora on November 18, 1905. Published by the owners of the nearby Bodie Miner, the weekly Borealis was published for seven months, and then faded with the town's fortunes. The press used to print the Borealis ended up in Mina, where it was used until 1930 to produce the Western Nevada Miner.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Legend of the Lost Breyfogle Mine

One of Nevada’s most enduring legends involves a miner named Charles Breyfogle and a lost gold mine.

While there are several variations of the Breyfogle story, most begin with him prospecting near Austin in the early 1860s (although some claim he was selling real estate or working as a blacksmith or toiling in a quartz mill).

Apparently, in about 1863 he either set out alone on a prospecting trip or headed out with one to three companions (again, each story seems to tell it differently). The group headed south of Austin to the Amargosa River Valley.

One night while they were sleeping, hostile Indians attacked the camp but overlooked Breyfogle, who had decided to sleep a little bit away from the others (maybe they snored). He awoke to see his companions being killed and managed to slip away unnoticed.

Because of his hasty escape, Breyfogle was only able to grab his bedroll and boots but had no water or food. He wandered around the desert for several days without any supplies before stumbling onto a small spring.

While drinking the water, he noticed a deposit of quartz laced with shiny, golden strands and recognized it as gold. He chipped off a handful of samples, made mental notes of the location and set off to find civilization. His plan was to return to make a formal mining claim.

Breyfogle headed south and arrived at another watering hole, Stump Spring, where he decided to wait, hoping to catch a ride with the next wagon party that might pass through.

Unfortunately, a group of Shoshones showed up and took him prisoner. According to one account, he was treated as a slave, made to gather wood with the women and perform other menial tasks. After several months, a Mormon wagon train stopped by the village, took pity on Breyfogle and bargained for his release.

Here, once again, the stories vary. In bad health, Breyfogle, who had somehow was able to hang on to his gold samples, was taken to a ranch at Manse Spring, near modern day Pahrump, where he regained his strength and shared the news of his discovery.

Interestingly, several web sites claim Breyfogle was taken to Helen Stewart’s ranch in Las Vegas, which would not have been possible since Stewart didn’t own the ranch until after 1880.

After he had recovered, Breyfogle returned to Austin, shared the news of his discovery, and organized the first of several fruitless expeditions back into the wilds of southwestern Nevada to find his gold strike. Reportedly, for the next 26 years he searched the area roughly northeast of Death Valley and in the vicinity of Beatty, trying to rediscover his mine.

It is believed that he died sometime in the late 1880s or early 1890s, still insisting that his gold discovery was real.

Among those who apparently believed that Breyfogle had stumbled onto something was George Montgomery. In January 1891, he discovered gold in the hills (now called the Johnnie Hills) north of Pahrump while allegedly looking for Breyfogle’s lost mine.

Montgomery developed a small mining operation at the site, which became known as Johnnie (also spelled Johny or Johney). Within a few months, about 100 miners labored at the site and, in 1895, a small stamp mill had been erected.

The town quickly declined after that but was revived in about 1905, when new investors reopened the mines. According to a story in the Pahrump Valley Times, Johnnie grew to several hundred people before the mines stopped producing. By about 1914, Johnnie had essentially become a ghost town.

Today, not much remains of the old mining camp besides a few rock foundations, abandoned mine shafts and an old structure or two on private property.

While many believe the Johnnie mining district includes the site of Charlie Breyfogle’s discovery, others still believe it is out there waiting to be rediscovered.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Hiking the Spectacular Santa Rosas

I had long heard that the Santa Rosa Mountains north of Winnemucca were stunningly beautiful and seldom visited. I’d heard that the range had some great hikes through lush wilderness areas where you don't trip over other people while you're there.

After finally getting there a few years ago, I found that it was true.

The Santa Rosa-Paradise Peak Wilderness area encompasses about 31,000 acres along the crest of the Santa Rosa Range, which is only about 30 miles north of Winnemucca.

The range has been described as a “forgotten island of wilderness” by nature writer Michael C. White. It boasts one of the largest waterfalls in Nevada at Falls Canyon as well as several majestic peaks that are more than 9,000 feet high (Santa Rosa Peak, 9,701-feet; Paradise Peak, 9,443-feet; and Singas Peak, 9,415-feet).

While there are about a half dozen major trails leading into the wilderness area, one of the most accessible routes is the Singas Creek Trail on the eastern side of the range (Paradise Valley side).

To reach the Singas Creek trailhead, drive about 22 miles north of Winnemucca on U.S. 95, then turn right on State Route 290 (the road to Paradise Valley). Continue for about 17 miles to the signed turnoff for Singas Creek Road.

Turn left on Singas Creek Road (the Ranch 3C owned by Dave and Tom Cassinelli is adjacent) and follow the dirt road for about six miles and park at a wide turnaround. A high clearance vehicle is required.

You start by climbing a small hill and winding through the sagebrush on a narrow trail. About 100 feet or so from your starting point, you’ll pass a wilderness area sign.

The trail follows an old roadbed and passes through shady groves of aspens and clumps of sagebrush and wildflowers.

The path grows steeper as you climb higher into the range. Soon, you reach a small, seasonal stream that gurgles from the hillside and spills across the trail. The sound is relaxing and the setting is quite peaceful.

You continue through the often-dense vegetation. If you look behind, you can catch views of Paradise Valley, named, according to local stories, when a prospector named W.B. Huff arrived there in the 1860s and, impressed by the region’s beauty, exclaimed, “What a paradise!”

The Santa Rosas were apparently among the earliest mountains in Northern Nevada to be explored. Trapper Peter Skene Odgen led an expedition into the range in 1829 while searching for any rivers that might contain beaver colonies.

If you continue climbing on the trail to higher elevations, you pass out of the aspen forests and traverse less vegetated slopes. The trail drops down into a depression created by Moray Creek, crosses several more small season streams before beginning the up and down climb to the Summit Trail (about a half-mile from the starting point) that runs along the crest of the range.

The nice thing about the Singas Creek Trail is that you can hike as much as you want. If you continue on the Summit Trail, you can cross over the range and exit at a trailhead on the west side at Buffalo Canyon, although that’s an all-day or even overnight hike.

Other fairly easy hiking trails found in the Santa Rosa range include:

• North Hanson Creek – This is the only other major trail accessed from the east side of the range. The trail head can be found by following the same directions as those to Singas Creek Road, except instead of turning onto that road continue north into Paradise Valley. Take a left at the main intersection in town and continue 1.5 miles to the end of the road. Turn left on a dirt road and go a half-mile, then turn right on a dirt road and follow the fence line. Continue into the foothills until you reach a fork in the road. Cross a creek to the west and drive to a parking area. Then, starting hiking.

• Falls Canyon – This trail, like a handful of others that are much longer and/or more difficult (such as Rebel Creek, McConnell Creek, Horse Canyon, and Buffalo Canyon) is found along the western side of the Range, off U.S. 95. To reach the trail, drive 38 miles north of Winnemucca on U.S. 95, then turn right at the sign for Horse Canyon Road. Continue 3.5 miles to a parking area. The waterfall here is pretty impressive and located only about a half-mile from the parking area via a fairly easy trail that parallels a creek.

Good sources of information about the Santa Rosa-Paradise Peak Wilderness are “Nevada Wilderness Areas and Great Basin National Park, A Hiking and Backpacking Guide,” by Michael C. White and “The Hiker’s Guide to Nevada,” by Bruce Grubbs.