November 3, 2005

Nevada's Online State News Journal

 

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Nevada History:

818      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

CHAPTER XLVII.
ELKO COUNTY.

BY REV. GEO. H. GREENFIELD.

[From The History of Nevada, edited by Sam P. Davis, vol. II (1912)]

 

 

            Early history of men and affairs in the north-eastern part of Nevada is not lost in the mazes of time. It has been preserved and is still in the memory of living men. We are not required to search ancient manuscripts or musty pages. The transcribing of historical records has not altered the story. Elko County is not ancient history. The old residents of the County who crossed the plains in 1849 to 1853 in ox-carts still live. Following the trail of Jedediah S. Smith the first white man to enter what is now Elko County came Kit Carson, the Donner party, and John C. Fremont. There followed in their trail a few years later those who came to California during the gold excitement. But few of them still live to tell the story.

            Nothing is more fascinating than an interview with these sturdy pioneers who have thrilling experiences to relate. To hear from their own lips what future generations can get only by tradition is one of the opportunities of the age in which we live. No historian can ever do justice to the adventures of the first settlers. One by one they are passing. Soon their voice will be hushed ; but while they live, we shall do them reverence and honor them for the noble sacrifices they have made in redeeming the land. Every day we partake of the fruits of their labor. The Indians are submissive because they subdued them ; our hills and valleys are productive because they tilled the soil and turned the streams. They came before the bands of steel made our nation one united Commonwealth. As we cross our desert in palace cars, it is difficult to conceive of the hardships that presented themselves to those who came in ox-carts fighting wild Indians.

            Wild West stories are of the past. Those good old days of long ago before the coming of the wire-fence are but a memory. Those pioneers, as Kipling said, "built their barns and strung their fences in a little border

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station tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop." Those were the days that tried men's souls. What they have done for us is one of the debts we shall never be able to pay.  For the purchase of land we can pay the price, but for what these large souls have left us we can never pay. Two distinct routes of pioneer travel traverse Elko County, one along the Humboldt river and the other over the Overland Pass known as the Ruby Summit. This trail extends over the line into White Pine County.  Along that highway, marked by sobs and groans and broken hearts, that highway made bare by the tramp of weary feet, there are still a few landmarks left to tell the frightful story.  No history of Elko County would be complete without reference to the pioneers who, crossing the well-watered valleys of Eastern Nevada on their way to the Pacific Coast, carried in mind these snow-capped peaks and mountain streams, and within vision of bright possibilities for such fertile soil, returned again. There were but few if any who remained in Elko County when they first passed through.  California was the goal, and Nevada the bridge over which they passed. But those who returned to the valleys of Elko County established themselves so vitally in its history that their names should not be buried in oblivion.

            Elko County with its population of 10,000 lies in the extreme northeastern corner of Nevada, Idaho lies to the north ; Utah to the east ; White Pine, Eureka, and Lander Counties to the south, and Humboldt County to the west. This vast empire covering an area of 1,000,000 acres is larger than the combined states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.  One tenth of the acreage is in the forest reserve controlled by the government. The assessed valuation of the property of this County is $20,000,000, exceeding that of any other county of the State.  On the assessment roll of the present year are 217,000 sheep, 71,760 cattle, and 11,250 horses.  Two banks in the County Seat carry deposits of $2,000,000. They are capitalized at $10,000 each, while the bank at Wells is capitalized at $50,000.  Splendid school facilities are afforded in its sixty district schools.

            By legislative acts from 1869 to 1875, Elko County was formally outlined and at the latter date was given its present boundaries.  It was created out of Lander County.  Later another portion was taken from Lander County and given to Elko, thus increasing its size.  The last act of the Legislature affecting the size of the County gave to Eureka County a portion in the

820      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

southwestern corner including the mining district of Galena. With the County Seat at Austin, several hundred miles away, men often took justice in their own hands.  Frequent hangings took place rather than journey so far to the County Seat.

            When the new County was created, Elko was made the County Seat.  It was further provided that 1000 votes should be necessary for the holding of an election. The total number of votes reported on May 31, 1869, when the canvass was made was 1,097.  On June 21, 1869, the first Elko County election was held under the direction of Commissioners appointed by the Governor.  In the nine established polling places 473 votes were cast at this first election.  A block of land was presented to the town government by the Central Pacific railroad company upon which to erect County buildings. Upon that site now stands the Elko County High School.  This fact accounts for the present name of Court street, the street on which the High School stands.  Another selection for the Court House was made on Idaho street.

            By a legislative act of 1874, a State University was created, the location of which was to be given to the highest bidder.  The population of Elko County at that time was only 3000 and the bonded indebtedness of the County only four years after its establishment was $112,470. Twenty thousand dollars of this amount was expended to secure the location of the State University. The citizens of Elko County donated the land, erected the buildings, and presented the University to the State. The University building stands on a prominent and conspicuous location on a rising hill and is now used for a County hospital.  Near by is the old University dormitory, a large, well constructed building opposite the public school building, the property of C. S. Tremewan.  When the University was removed to Reno, Washoe County paid Elko County $20,000 the original cost of constructing the buildings. The first County Commissioners were appointed by the Governor in March, 1869, John Wasson, M. P. Freeman, and Sol. Lewis received the appointment.  At the first election on June 21,1869, the following County officers were elected : District Attorney, Wm. M. Gillispie ; Sheriff, J. B. Fitch ; Clerk, J. W. Stainbum ; Treasurer, M. P. Freeman ; Assessor, Wm. G. Seamands ; Recorder, R. Hafford ; Superintendent of Schools, Dr. M. V. Hudson; Surveyor, E. H. Griswald ; Public Administrator, H. C. Cady.  On Novem-

ELKO COUNTY        821

ber 8, 1870, J. B. Moore was elected the first Senator and J. A. Savage and J. W. Ellyson the first Assemblymen.

            Eternal snows upon the high mountain peaks supply constant streams for the valleys below. The West Humboldt range, commonly known as the Ruby mountains, protect these snows from the hottest summer suns.  Rocks, trees, and canyons hold back the supply of water until it is needed to flood the arid lands below.  Natural reservoir sites and many mountain lakes prophecy still further development of land when Nevada's fertile soil is needed to supply the markets of the world.  High altitude limits production and land values, but diversified farming will do much in the future to add to the value of land.  The most important valleys of this county are, Lamoille, Pleasant, South Fork, Mound, Huntingdon, Newark, Ruby, Secret, Clover, Independence, White Rock, and North Fork. The Ruby mountains to the south of the County seat are high, rough, and rugged on the east and south.  They rise abruptly and are difficult of access.  On the north and west they are gradually approached by low foothills and long canyons.  An abundance of water furnishes good sport for the fisherman for the waters abound in mountain trout.  These mountains are heavily timbered in some places with mountain mahogany, pine, cedar, quaking asp, spruce, and fur.  Being difficult of access, only what is easily reached is brought down to the valleys for cord wood.  The lakes on the high mountain peaks are some of them 10,000 feet high.  Around them are the eternal snows which never melt.  High, rugged cliffs rise abruptly from their shores and the water is very deep,

            Clover Valley was settled as early as 1865 by United States army officers who observed the possibilities of the south end of this valley while doing duty at Fort Ruby near the old overland trail.  Clover Valley has always been a good cattle country.  The residents have prospered and in recent years have beautified their ranches with neat modern homes and five in comfort and luxury.  The Clover Valley Association has under its care a public hall, a cemetery, and a public park.  A small, neat church building adds to the advantages of this magnificent valley.

            Ruby Valley is the longest in the State.  The ranches are all along one main highway seventy-five miles in length.  The oldest settlers now living in this valley are Thomas Short, William Griswold, and Isaac Woolverton, the latter having come in 1869.  For many years Thomas Short had possession of the Cave Creek ranch in the southern end of the

822      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

valley.  Here a great underground lake is hid away behind the hills.  A river of clear ice-cold water has cut its way through the rocks. This case was explored very early in the settlement of the valley by a soldier who was so elated over his first success that he attempted the second time to go further into the secrets hitherto concealed from human eyes. His body was found at the opening of the entrance to the cave the next day. A few years later A. G. Dawley and Thomas Short, in search for the origin of some valuable mineral they had located, attempted a thorough exploration of the cave by taking within the narrow opening material out of which to construct a boat. They passed from one huge cavern to another perhaps a quarter of a mile beyond the first opening when at last they were confronted by a large chamber resembling a pipe organ arrangement. This they termed the "Great Organ." Of late years no one has had the courage to enter. The entire cave has not yet been explored. This underground river and lake is one of the natural curiosities of the State and is of more than passing interest.

            The first white man to bring out a report of what he had seen within this cave was Hon. A. G. Dawley, now residing in Elko County. For twenty years he was county clerk and treasurer of Elko County. In 1864 he came to this valley and has been closely identified with its development ever since. Two large lakes hold the water brought down from the melting snows. They are known as Ruby Lake and Franklin Lake. In the extreme southern end of the valley is the site of old Fort Ruby which was located near the old pioneer trail to Reese River and westward. In this vicinity, as early as 1861, the Overland Mail and Telegraph Company established stage stations. One year later a military fort was located here with two companies of the Third California Volunteer Infantry. This fort continued until 1869, when the troops were moved to Fort Halleck, which was established July 27, 1869. Fort Halleck lies across the divide on the north end of Ruby Valley. In 1886 A. G. Dawley was appointed by the government to auction the buildings of this fort and the troops were moved to Fort Douglas. The adobe walls of the old buildings of the Fort still remain. Others were removed to Ruby Valley. The present residence of Isaac Woolverton was one of the officer's residences.

            This valley was the first one to be settled in the county. The first cabin built in Ruby Valley was erected in 1859 by William Rogers, better

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known as Uncle Billy. The first flour mill built in Elko County was constructed on the Overland Ranch in 1870 and is still in use. In 1864 the first farming in the valley was done by Colonel Moore and Lieutenant Gillman. As early as 1865, 1,000 acres were planted in grain in this valley by the Overland Stage Company on land leased from Mr. Griswold. Here until the completion of the Central Pacific in 1869 the Overland Mail Company had a very important station near Fort Ruby. The only relics now extant of this old fort are a bomb and a U. S. branding-iron in the possession of the museum of the Elko Y. M. C. A. In Secret Pass, on the north end of Ruby Valley, there has recently been discovered some exceptionally fine mineral water in what is now called the Ruby Mineral Springs. These springs were discovered in the fall of 1904 by two prospectors, one of whom, A. S. Coleman, is now vice-president of the corporation. The location is one of the most desirable in the State for this enterprise. The scenery is rugged and the climate ideal. The elevation is about 6,000 feet. Snow-covered peaks near by, over 12,000 feet above sea level, add greatly to the picturesqueness of the scenery.

            Secret Creek, at high water, used to cover the springs part of the time; the creek has recently been diverted and the mineral water runs from the solid rock into the creek. The Ruby Water Springs Company has been incorporated to put the water on the market. This natural carbonate mineral water was analyzed by State Chemist, Professor Dinsmore, at the University of Nevada. His analysis showed it to be highly carbonated and unexcelled by any mineral water in the United States. It contains a small amount of Iron, Aluminum, Chlorine, Silica, and Potassium and a large amount of Sodium, Magnesium, and Calcium. The water has a sharp, though pleasant taste and is as clear as crystal. A short distance above the springs are large waterfalls from which power will be generated to operate the works and get the product to market. With a flow of about seventy-five thousand gallons of water per day this location will become one of the best health resorts in the West. It is now proposed to construct a sanitarium on the site.

            Lamoille Valley, settled in 1866, has proven to be the most aggressive valley in the county. The Lamoille Mercantile Company, of which Judge Talbot is one of the leading factors, has established a business of large proportions. The Lamoille Creamery, built in 1907 at a cost of $15,000,

824      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

is one of the most modern and up-to-date business institutions in the State. It has an annual output of $21,000 worth of butter. A new church building has recently been constructed by the Presbyterians at a cost of $5,000. A thriving settlement has sprung up at the crossroads at the entrance to a long canyon. Several promoters have located the water-rights in this canyon for the purpose of conveying electric power to the city of Elko. The first to see the possibilities of this location was W. T. Smith. When he abandoned it others took it up. But not until the present time has sufficient capital been available to assure its success. Now enterprising business men have hold of the rights and are rapidly pushing the project to completion. In the valley of the South Fork of the Humboldt is a small mercantile business, a creamery and some very prosperous ranchers.

            North of Elko is a valley of vast proportions traversed by the road from Elko to Tuscarora. This valley is named Independence from the fact that it was first discovered by a scouting party of United States soldiers on the Fourth of July. Beyond this on the west side of the North Fork Mountains is White Rock Valley. Still farther north is Duck Valley, in which is located the Western Shoshone Indian reservation, about 125 miles north of Elko, with an Indian population of 569. This reservation was set aside by President Hayes in 1878. President Cleveland added three townships in Idaho in 1886. Levi Gheen was the first superintendent. He is said to have spoken Shoshone so well that he instructed the children of the Indians in Indian. The twelve school buildings cost $30,000 and the sixteen agency buildings $15,000. The reservation covers 290,000 acres, half in Idaho and half in Nevada, a well-stocked store is nearby. The Presbyterian denomination, under its missionary, A. E. Danly, is now constructing a church and manse here for the spiritual and moral betterment of the red man.

            In the mountains to the east of White Rock the North Fork of the Humboldt takes its rise and flows down the east side of the mountain through the valley of the North Fork until it empties into the main stream of the Humboldt near Halleck. Through Independence Valley flows the only river that runs out of the State of Nevada. This is the Owyhee. It empties into the Snake and eventually into the Columbia. This entire northern country is devoted to cattle, horses and sheep and is the best grazing county in the State. Lamoille and Starr Valleys

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have developed the bee-industry. George Bowers, of Lamoille, has 250 stands of bees with an output of five tons a year of the best honey the world produces. In Pleasant Valley is located the Elko County Dry Farm Experiment Station, under the auspices of the State University. In 1909 the county purchased the ranch from John Thompson for $2,000. The farm is maintained by the State and has already proven its worth. The board of directors are A. W. Hesson, Professor True and George Bowers.

            Very early in Elko County history the mining industry was given prominence. In 1867 the Tuscarora mines were discovered by the Beard brothers. Never, however, has the output of the entire county been as gratifying as at present. The surface has not yet been prospected. So promising are the present locations that no one dare prophecy concerning the future. When the white man first came the Indians directed him to deposits of free gold. Since then men have been seeking the precious metals until many good producers have been found in various parts of the county. Home capital has developed many of the mines and most of the money now produced by the county remains to enrich it. Conditions are rapidly changing. Once men came to Elko County to make a stake and spend it elsewhere. Now desirable public institutions and handsome residences with all modern conveniences and sanitary environments offer attractions to people to remain at home. Sixty millions of dollars worth of the precious metals has come from Elko County and has added much to our mineral wealth.

            Recent legislation to prevent wild-cat schemes has materially aided the mining industry of the county. More new properties are being worked to-day than for the past ten years. Gold Circle, discovered in 1907, is located forty-five miles west of Tuscarora. Since its discovery seven mines have been developed and three stamp mills have been built and operated. Seven companies are working at the present time. At Edgemont, about ninety miles north of Elko, are located the mine, mill, and cyanide plant of the Montana Gold Mining Company, which owns practically all the west side of the Bull Run Mountain. There are six miles of underground workings, which have produced about $1,000,000, chiefly gold. A main working cross-cut tunnel is now being driven to develop the property at an additional depth of 500 feet. This will give a total depth of 1,500 feet below the surface workings. The tunnel has

 826     THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

been driven 3,000 feet and is to go 1,000 feet further. Work is now in progress.

            Nestling in the hills of antiquity where Indian legends abound is the famous camp of the Jarbidge. Nature could not have added more to the attractiveness of this location. It is in strong contrast with the camps of southern Nevada. An abundance of timber and water, good feed and wild game make it a veritable pleasure resort. The camp is only four years old. Boom days have passed and permanent work established. Many of the mines are being actively developed at the present time.

            Also in the northern part of the county is Contact, a camp producing copper, silver and gold. A contemplated railroad connecting Idaho points with the Western Pacific at Wells will enable this camp to market its ores. From the Copper Queen on Lone Mountain, twenty-eight miles north of Elko, ore is now being shipped by the Ely Consolidated Mining Company to their smelters in Salt Lake City. Home capital is developing Sprucemont, south of Wells.  Mardis and Charleston, north of Deeth, have several producers, on one of which a ten-stamp mill was built last year and is now in operation.

            No camp presents greater possibilities than old Bullion, reached by easy drive over a good level road from Elko, only twenty-five miles southward. Here the Nevada Bunker Hill Mining Company is driving cross-cut working tunnels that will open up these properties 800 feet below the old workings. Ore is now being shipped from this camp to the Salt Lake City smelters. All of these camps are being legitimately developed and an enormous increase in the output of Elko County mines will be manifest in the next year.

            Between Salt Lake City and Reno, a distance of over 500 miles, the largest city is Elko, the county seat of Elko County. It has a population of 2,000 and is 5,000 feet above sea level. Five hundred and sixty-seven votes were cast at the last election. At the present time there are about 400 dwellings, and the city is growing very rapidly. It has been stated that the name "Elko" was given to the county seat by Mr. Charles Crocker, one of the directors of the Central Pacific Railroad. Mr. Crocker simply added an "o" to "elk," because of the large numbers of elk in the surrounding hills at the time. This gave the town the name "Elko." In 1868 the Central Pacific, which was constructed from the

ELKO COUNTY        827

west as well as from the east, reached Elko. For some time the present site of the town was the eastern terminus of the road. Thus was established the town that has grown to its present proportions, the location having been determined by this mere coincidence of the delay in continued construction. On May 10, 1869, the golden spike completing the road was driven at Promontory.

            The oldest landmark in the town of Elko is the old building formerly used as the Pioneer saloon. It was recently moved on the old Chase estate to make way for the construction of a three-story brick building, still known as the Pioneer Building. When the railroad was completed the Overland Stage Company put on a stage-line between Elko and Hamilton and Elko became the leading shipping point on the railroad. One month after the driving of the golden spike that marked the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad, Elko's first newspaper was published. On June 19, 1869, was published the first copy of the Elko Independent, which is still run under the same name and is owned by Hon. W. W. Booher. The advertisements and locals of that issue indicate most prosperous conditions and a most sanguine people. Elko was then a tent-city of about 2,000 people. Lots jumped within a few months from $500 to $2,000. Such buildings as were necessary for emergency were rapidly constructed. Elko became firmly established as an emporium of trade and it was then prophesied that it would soon become the leading city between Sacramento and Omaha.

            The first child born in Elko of which we have any record was George Elko Gantz, born July 7, 1869. The oldest living Elkoite is Judge L. E. Morgan, now in his eighty-ninth year. In 1849 he joined the Odd Fellows lodge at Unadilla, Michigan. This makes him the oldest Odd Fellow on the Pacific Coast. He has served two terms as county treasurer and eight years as justice of the peace. J. F. Triplett, now living in Elko, claims the distinction of acting as guide for the first stage that came through the Humboldt Valley in 1858. Elko is well represented in all the fraternal organizations of the State. A charter was granted to the Elko Lodge No. 15. F. and A. M., in 1871. At this time they held their meetings in a brick house near the Humboldt steel bridge. At present this lodge numbers 145 members. The charter for the Eastern Stars was granted in 1908. It is one of the flourishing lodges of the county. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows dates back to 1870.

828      THE HISTORY OF NEVADA

The Rebecca Lodge is of more recent date, having received its charter in 1898. The Knights of Pythias was organized in 1883 and is the only lodge in Elko that owns its own hall. It meets in a brick building, built by Elko Grange No. 9, and is one of the historic landmarks. Four years ago the Woodmen of the World was established. They hold regular meetings and have a large membership.

            An abundant supply of good water has been secured in Elko by tunneling the hills of Kittridge Canyon, eight miles away. The water is stored in large reservoirs near the town. A new one is now being constructed. In public buildings the county seat of Elko County leads the entire State. In 1909 the old public school building of two stories brick, which was constructed in 1875, was torn down and a new modern school house erected to take its place. The new one cost $40,000. On September 20, 1869, the cornerstone of the first Courthouse was laid. This building stood on the corner of Sixth and Idaho Streets until 1910, when it was torn down to make room for the present building. Additional ground was purchased and a handsome building was constructed at a cost of $150,000. The following year, on the opposite corner, the Presbyterian Church constructed a large and beautiful building, harmonizing with the Courthouse in architecture. This building cost $20,000. It is a combination church and Y. M. C. A.

            One of the most important events in the recent history of Elko was the construction of the Western Pacific Railway. The track-laying machine laid the rails in Elko on the day before Christmas, 1908. On August 20, 191o, the first passenger train on this road passed through Elko. It was a newspaper-special and carried representatives of nearly all the papers of Nevada. The first regular passenger train passed through two days later. The Western Pacific received a purse of $10,000 from the business men of Elko to establish here their shops and roundhouse. At the same time they made Elko their freight division point and established here their main offices of the eastern division of which R. M. Ogilvie is superintendent. The Western Pacific employs 170 men in Elko and has a monthly payroll of $20,000. This road, running south of Salt Lake, runs through Clover Valley and parallels the Southern Pacific from Wells to Winnemucca. There is less than a one per cent. grade on the entire system.

            In the fall of 1912 the present sewer-system was installed at a cost

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of nearly $50,000. The sanitary and climatic conditions of Elko makes it a desirable residence for those suffering from throat and lung troubles. The Hot Springs Hotel, near the outskirts of the town, is a veritable health resort. Here rheumatics are treated very successfully. All blood and skin diseases yield very readily to treatment in these medicinal springs. A large pool is constructed for the use of pleasure-seekers. Well equipped private baths are provided for those who desire privacy and opportunity to regulate the temperature of the water at their own pleasure.

            Carlin, the freight and passenger division point of the Southern Pacific, is situated just twenty miles west of Elko. This town was first settled in 1868 by J. A. Palmer. The present population of the town is about 650. Business is good and everyone is prosperous. A commodious school of modern equipment furnishes excellent facilities for instructing the pupils. The Methodists have a substantial frame building, the pulpit being supplied from Sparks. A railroad club has a library, reading room, pool room, and bathrooms. These are furnished and maintained by the railroad, which employs 175 men and has a monthly pay roll of $15,000. Wells, on the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific, has a population of about 400. There is a Presbyterian church building and a manse. Two good hotels furnish accommodations second to none in the State. The Nevada State Herald is published here. The oldest pioneer of Wells is Uncle Abner Wiseman. Tuscarora was settled in 1867 by prospectors in search of placer-gold. In 1868 an adobe fort was built by the settlers to protect them from the invasions of the Indians. A Methodist meeting-house furnished a religious home for all denominations for many years. It is now practically abandoned. Deeth is another railroad town between Wells and Elko. It is the shipping-point for Starr Valley, a very productive settlement. Here a weekly newspaper, The Commonwealth, is published by A. B. Gray.  A few other towns along the line of the railroad, the principal one of which is Montello, are shipping points for ranches and mines north and south of the railroads.