December 26, 2005

Nevada's Online State News Journal     


Nevada History:

[From Thompson & West's History of Nevada 1881, With Illustrations And Biographical Sketches Of Its Prominent Men And Pioneers, pp. 38-41]








Entries Closing Pioneer Record Book—Carson County Organized—First Officers of Carson County—First County Court Records—Mrs. Sandy Bowers, the Washoe Seeress--1856--Naming of Genoa—Division of the County into School Districts—Orson Hyde's Curse.

            IN the little book of pioneer records appears the following entries of land claims and other transactions, the last in the book, which was superseded by the organization of Carson County.


            January 3d—W. P. Cozard—should be Cosser.

            January 12th—A. L. Kenyon.

            January 20th—I. N. Hix.

            January 23d—Reese & Co., turn over to Thomas Knott a large amount of property to pay him $4,000, for services in making for the firm a saw-mill, gristmill, threshing-machine, etc.

            January 23d—J. and E. Reese & Co., sold to William B. Thorrington $23,000 worth of property to pay him for that amount of money previously loaned to them. The Eagle Ranch in Eagle Valley was included in this property sold to him.

            February 10th—J. and E. Reese convey balance of property to pay their creditors.

            March 12th—W. P. Allen and E. A. Parkerson. March 24th—Nicholas Ambrosia.

            August 30th—Julius Peltier sells to R. D. Sides,

[This is the last entry in the book].


            The territory embraced within Carson County according to the Act of January 17, 1854, included all of what is now Washoe, Douglas, Ormsby, Storey and Lyon Counties; over half of Esmeralda, three-fourths of Churchill and a little of southwestern Humboldt. The Legislature, on the second day after creating the county, divided Utah into three Judicial Districts, Carson being the third, and Hon. George P. Styles, United States Judge for Utah Territory, was named to preside over it. The new county was also declared to be entitled to a representation in the Legislature, in consequence of which Weber County lost a member in that body. *The Act creating the county having authorized the Governor to appoint a Probate Judge, whose duty would be to organize it, Orson Hyde, a Mormon Elder, was selected for that position, who left Salt Lake with such design on

seventeenth of May, 1855. Judge Styles, Joseph L. Haywood, United States Marshal for Utah Territory, and Enoch Reese, of the firm of J. and E. Reese & Co., with an escort of thirty-five men, accompanied Orson Hyde. They arrived at Mormon Station on the fifteenth of June, and were followed by other Mormons who moved into Carson County during the summer.


* See compilation of Utah Statutes 1855, pages 258 and 398.

            The first move by Judge Hyde towards an organization of the county was to call an election for September 20, 1855, to fill the various county offices, that resulted in the choice of the following parties :-


            (1) James C. Fain, Sheriff.

            (2) Henry W. Niles, Surveyor.

            (3) Chas. D. Daggett, Prosecuting Attorney.

            (4) Chas. D. Daggett, Assessor and Collector.

            Richard D. Sides, Treasurer.

            (5) Henry W. Niles was appointed Clerk, Oct. 2d.

            (6) H. M. Hodges, Constable.

            (7) James A. Williams, Constable. Bonds, $600.

            Nicholas Ambrosia, Justice of the Peace. Not being able to write, signed his bonds with his mark.

            Henry Van Sickle, Justice of the Peace. Bonds, $1,000.

            James McMarlin, Justice of the Peace. Appointed December 3, 1855, for Gold Cañon.

            (8) Henry D. Sears, Wm. P. Allen, James McMarlin, Selectmen ; $1,000 bonds given by each.


            The first entry upon any of the old Carson court books, was upon the County Court Records, which bears date October 2, 1855, and states that Orson Hyde had appointed H. W. Niles Clerk of the Probate Court and ex officio of the County Court. This is followed by a note to the effect that J. C. Fain had purchased in California the county books of record at a cost of thirty-five dollars, and was allowed three per cent. a month for use of the money advanced for them. His bill of ten dollars charged for packing them over the mountains was audited after deducting four dollars for taxes. This is the only case on record of the receipt of any county revenue in those days ; but legend hath it, that some one paid a bushel of potatoes into the treasury, and then repenting him for so doing demanded their return. October 3d, is entered the proceedings in the first lawsuit, in which James McIntyre sued Asa A. Knouse in an action " of debit and damages " for $187.75, that resulted in a judgment against the plaintiff for $38.50. On the twenty-seventh of the same month, at a special term of the court held for that purpose at the house of John Reese, there was granted, " The sole and exclusive right to take out any portion of the waters of Carson River which


            (1) May 12, 1856, Russell Kelley appointed in place of Fain, resigned.

            (2) May 12, 1856, Orson Hyde appointed in place of Niles, resigned.

            (3) November 24, 1855, filed his bonds for $1,000.

            (4) December 3, 1855, appointed.

            (5) March 3, 1856, S. A. Kinsey appointed, in place of Niles, resigned. December 27, 1855, Judge Hyde having acted as his own clerk during the interval.

            (6) May 12, 1856, Daniel Woodford appointed in his place.

            (7) — Woodford killed at Slippery Ford by Indians in the summer of 1857.

            (8) Selectmen duties were, to act as Associate with the Probate Judge, make provision for the poor, orphans and insane.


they may desire, in a ditch or canal, for mining and other purposes, in the vicinity of Gold Cañon," to J. C. Fain, John Reese, Stephen A. Kinsey, John Mc-Marlin, James McMarlin, Christopher Merkley, Morris Fitzgibbon, and Orson Hyde.

            November 2d, occurred a criminal prosecution, more particularly noted in the chapter on the Bar of Nevada, and on the same day was admitted to practice before the courts of Utah as attorney and counselor at law, Dr. Charles D. Daggett, and Sol. C. Perren. At that time the laws of Utah provided that the only qualification necessary to enable persons to practice law, was the possession of a " good moral character," but the client could not be forced to pay for such services officially. The only transactions that followed within 1855 was the establishment of five dollars per day as the amount that the Judge and each Selectman was to be entitled to for their services.

            With a glance at population and condition of the county at the close of 1855, we will pass on to the more important events of the ensuing year. With Orson Hyde had come Alexander Cowan, his wife, Mrs. Ellery, and a nephew named Robert Henderson, a lad about eleven years of age. It is believed that Mrs. Hannah Reese and the fourth wife of Judge Hyde, came to Carson Valley at the same time. The advent of a female in 1855 was an event of importance, because of the few of them that had settled in the country. There were but two at Mormon Station, where a population of about 200 resided. There were but two at Gold Cañon, where about the same number of people were engaged in mining and trade, and probably but fifteen females in all who lived in what is now Nevada in the fall of 1855, and five of them are still residing in the county. The lives of some of those women would make a thrilling page in history, which would prove that truth is stranger than fiction, and we regret the necessity of passing them all with a mere mention, except one at which only a glance is taken. The one at present is known as the " Washoe Seeress;" a woman now fifty-two years of age, down whose cheeks a tribute in sadness trickled as the writer's questions uncovered the memorial ashes of past hopes dead, revealing the wreck of a long and eventful life, verging upon its close. Her maiden name was Riley Orrum; she was born in the Scottish Highlands, and was married at fifteen to Stephen Hunter, who took her to Salt Lake, Utah, in 1850, where he became a polygamist, and she left him. Three years later she was married to Alexander Cowan, with whom she moved, as before stated, in 1855, to Carson County. The first winter after her arrival was spent by her in Gold Cañon, keeping a boarding-house; the next summer in Washoe Valley, where a ranch was taken up, and in 1857, when the Mormons were recalled, she refused to return to Salt Lake and polygamy with her husband. She continued to reside in summer at Washoe Valley, and kept boarders in winter at Gold Cañon, until in 1858, when she married Lemuel S. Bowers, better known as "Sandy Bowers." At the time of her last marriage she was the owner of ten feet on the Comstock lode, adjoining ten feet owned by Bowers,  that later developed such wealth, and was known as the " Sandy Bowers claim." This rich development was in 1860, and in the following season they visited Europe, remaining away for three years, traveling through the Old World, from where they returned to live in the Bowers mansion, in Washoe Valley, that  had been nearly completed during their absence, at a cost when furnished, of $407,000. In 1868 Mr. Bowers died, and his estate was appraised at $638,000. The full charge of her mine and mill was left to a -superintendent after the death of Mr. Bowers, and in a  short time that property had run her $30,000 in debt, and the balance of her possessions soon faded away before the onslaught of dishonesty, and now she is  an old lady and dependent upon her earnings as Seeress, for a living. This is a brief outline, reader, let your imagination fill up the intervals.          

            The following entries appear in Book A of Deeds, pages 7 and 96:—  

            Squire Mott, son of Hiram Mott, was married at this father's house by Hon. Orson Hyde, on Sunday, the twenty-eighth day of October, 1855, to Mrs. Mary W. Wheeler, at 3 o'clock P. M., on that day.

            Henry Van Sickle, Esq., was married by Hon. Orson Hyde at the house of Niles and Sears, on Tuesday evening, November 6, 1855, to Miss Mary Gibson.

            In Wassaw Valley (Washoe), on the second day of October, 1856, at the house of Judge Orson Hyde, Stephen A. Kinsey to Miss Sarah Jane Thompson, by the Hon. Orson Hyde.

1 8 5 6.

            In the spring of 1856, Orson Hyde surveyed Mormon Station, making a town plat, and named the place Genoa. The county having been organized, a general move was inaugurated in 1856, with the design, evidently, to settle upon the agricultural part of the county by Mormons. A company left Salt Lake for Carson County, May 7th, of that year, and others came from time to time, until they were in a majority before election, that occurred on the ;fourth of August, resulting in a choice of the following county officers:-

            Richard Bentley (a Mormon), Recorder.

            Russell Kelly (became a Mormon), Sheriff.

            (1) Chas. D. Daggett, Assessor, Collector, and Treasurer.

            (2) Richard Bentley (Mormon), Surveyor.


                (1) The position of Assessor and Collector was received by appointment, December 1, 1856, and on the third of the ensuing March, the rate of taxation for 1857 was established at one-fourth of one per cent. for county purposes, and one-half of one per cent. for Territorial purposes, the same as it had been in 1856. If any tax was collected the records do not show it; and the old settlers say there was none.

                (2) Richard Bentley appointed Surveyor on the eighteenth of November, 1856, to serve during the absence of Orson Hyde, who returned to Salt Lake.


            (1) William Nixson and Permens Jackman (Mormons), Selectmen.

            (2) Chester Loveland (Mormon) Justice of the Peace.

            Nelson Merkley (Mormon), Constable.

            Seth Dustin (Mormon), Constable.

            With the Mormon train that left Salt Lake in 1856, Justice Drummond came as United States Judge of the Third District of Utah, and held a court in Mr. Motts barn, four miles up Carson Valley from Mormon Station. A Grand Jury was summoned that received his charge instructing them to bring in bills of indictment for misdemeanors, against all citizens of the county who had been guilty of gambling, concubinage, or other minor frontier offenses. The jury, after being left to themselves, took a good look at each other and becoming satisfied that to follow instructions would necessitate a wholesale commitment of those present, forthwith notified Judge Drummond that they had adjourned without date.

            Practically nothing was accomplished at this first session of the United States District Court in Carson County. A couple of men convicted of grand larceny were sentenced to imprisonment, but both of them escaped, and the Judge, disgusted, left the Territory, went to San Francisco, from where he returned to Washington with a report in regard to western Utah that was more expressive than complimentary.

            The Probate Court, on the first of February, tried one Charles Kensler for stealing twelve dollars in gold-dust from Mark Stebbins. The jury found him guilty and pronounced the sentence to be "six months bard labor with ball and chain." " The Court ordered the officer to procure a ball and chain and attach it to the prisoner, and hire him out to hard labor to the best advantage to the county for the term of six calendar months." It cost the county $116 to convict this man for stealing twelve dollars, and as none of the old citizens remember anything in regard to the matter, it is safe to presume that he also escaped.

            At this regular term of the County Court, held December 1st, at the residence of P. A. Jackman, it was " Ordered that the county be divided into four school districts as follows:-

            1st School District—To commence at the line of California and ending at the Warm Springs below Van Sickles.

            2d District—Commencing at the Warm Springs and running below as far as Clear Creek (present north line of Douglas County), including Jack's Valley.

            3d District—Embracing Eagle Valley (Ormsby County).

            4th District—Wassaw Valley (Washoe Valley)."

            On the third of the following March, Jack's Valley was named as District No. Five. In 1857, a school house was erected at Franktown, in Wassaw Valley, that was sold in the fall to " Lucky Bill," who moved it to Genoa (Mormon Station), where it became a horse stable, and thus ended the first effort to organize a school system in western Utah.

            On the fifth of July, 1856, appears another entry upon the record books of the Probate Court, after which is an interval of three years and two months before another session is held, which convened September 12, 1859, with J. S. Child for Judge. That gentleman is still a resident of Carson Valley.

            On the sixth of November, 1856, Orson Hyde started on his return to Salt Lake. He traveled by a more southern route than the Humboldt, and reached his destination December 9th. His companions in the journey were Simon Baker, James Kathall, John Vance, Wm. Price, Durffe, Carter, Harsee, Woodland, and Butcher, the latter with a wife and two children. This pioneer organizer of Carson County died at Spring City, San Pete County, Utah, November 28, 1878, leaving behind him the following strange evidence of his peculiar character, feelings, beliefs, and experience, while operating in what is now Nevada:—


G. S. L. CITY, JANUARY 27, 1862.

            TO THE PEOPLE OF CARSON AND WASHOE VALLEYS--Ladies and Gentlemen : Not quite seven years ago I was sent to your district as Probate Judge of Carson County, with powers and instructions from the executive of this Territory to organize your district into a county under the laws of Utah—those valleys being then the lawful and rightful field of Utah's jurisdiction; but opposition on your part to the measure was unceasingly made in almost every form, both trivial and important, open and secret. Your allies in California were ever ready to second your opposition of whatever character or in whatever shape.

            In the year following (1856, I think,) Mr. Price and myself built a valuable saw-mill in Washoe Valley, made and purchased several land claims there for ourselves and our friends—made considerable improvements thereon; but being called away on short notice, this property, then worth $10,000, was rented to Jacob Rose for a limited term, at a stipulated price. On this rent he advanced one span of small, indifferent mules, an old worn-out harness, two yokes of oxen, and an old wagon. This is all that we have ever received for the use of our property in that valley, though we have sent bills for goods or merchandise; but no response, except on paper, and even that not of the most encouraging kind.

            We have been patient, and have not murmured. We have made little or no effort to sell our property there, because we considered that those who had it thought they were doing God and themselves a service by wronging the Mormons; and for me, I felt backward to do anything in the premises until the Lord should tell me what to do (it being on his account, or on account of his religion, that we were


                (1) H. D. Sears held over, and on the eighteenth of November, 1856, A. B. Cheeny was appointed to serve during the temporary absence of Sears.

                (2) Chester Loveland was appointed Probate Judge of Carson County, by the Governor of Utah, on the first of September, 1856, in anticipation of the withdrawal of Orson Hyde from Western Utah. In signing his name, he indicated his official title by adding the initials P. G.


deprived of any benefit from it.) That time has now come, and the Lord has signified to me, his unworthy servant, that as we have been under circumstances that compelled us to submit to your terms, that He will place you under circumstances that will compel you to submit to ours, or do worse.

            That mill and those land claims were worth $10,000 when we left them; the use of that property, or its increased value since, is $10,000 more, making our present demand $20,000.

            Now if the above sum be sent to me in Great Salt Lake City, in cash, you shall have a clean receipt therefor, in the shape of honorable quit claim deeds to all the property that Orson Hyde, William Price and Richard Bentley owned in Washoe Valley. The mill, I understand, is now in the hands of R. D. Sides, and has been for a long time. But if you shall think best to repudiate our demand or any part of it, all right. We shall not make it up again in this world in any shape of any of you; but the said R. D. Sides and Jacob Rose shall be living and dying advertisements of God's displeasure, in their persons, in their families, and in their substances; and this demand of ours, remaining uncanceled, shall be to the people of Carson and Washoe Valleys as was the ark of God among the Philistines. (See 1st Sam. fifth chapter.) You shall be visited of the Lord of Hosts with thunder and with earthquakes and with floods, with pestilence and with famine until your names are not known amongst men, for you have rejected the authority of God, trampled upon his laws and his ordinances, and given yourselves up to serve the god of this world; to rioting in debauchery, in abominations, drunkenness and corruption. You have chuckled and gloried in taking the property of the Mormons, and withholding from them the benefits thereof. You have despised rule and authority, and put God and man at defiance. If perchance, however, there should be an honest man amongst you, I would advise him to leave; but let him not go to California for safety, for he will not find it there.

            On hearing the contents of this letter, you may send forth volleys of your wrath with your taunts, jeers, and scurrilous indignation; but you will only prove the more conspicuously that you are dealing with an Apostle of God, or that an Apostle of God is dealing with you, whom you have rejected. The hand of God is already beginning to be upon you for evil and not for good. The golden treasures of the earth are there to call together the worshipers of the god of this world, that you may there receive a common fate.

            I have no sordid desire for gold, and have manifested it by my long silence and manifest indifference; and should not say anything now had not the visions of the Almighty stirred up my mind.

            We warned and forewarned the people of Missouri, more than twenty years ago, of what should befall them for treating the Mormons in the way they did; but did they believe us then? Do they believe us now? No ! Yet what is their present condition? Blood and fire may tell. We likewise warned the people of the United States from Maine to Mississippi, and from Boston to San Francisco, of the wars and troubles that were coming upon them for allowing the Saints and Prophets to be driven, scattered and slain, their property confiscated and destroyed, and they never raise a hand to protect the Saints, to punish the crimes of our persecutors, or to redress our wrongs in any way. We told the President and his Cabinet, proclaimed it to the Congress of the United States, and told them that desolating wars which should end in the death and misery of many souls should begin in South Carolina. Did they believe us then ? Do they believe us now ? No ! Yet what is their present condition ? They have eyes, but they see not—ears, but they hear not, and hearts, but they understand not. Their blood flows like water, and their rage like the ocean, yet they have not read the half of the preface of their national troubles.

            We now tell the people of Carson and Washoe Valleys some things that will befall them, and the reason why they will befall them. But will you believe us ? " Behold ye despisers, and wonder and perish! I will work a work in your day—a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you." (See Isaiah, twenty-ninth chapter.)

            God is now beginning to deal with the inhabitants of the earth for the wrongs which they have done unto his people, and for rejecting his authority and counsel, given forth from Heaven through the Mormons. His dealings with them will be neither light nor on a limited scale. But those who do repent, and make right their wrongs, acknowledge the authority of God in the channel through which he hath sent it, may find mercy and protection in that channel, and nowhere else.

            I care not what our mill and land claims are, or were considered worth—whether five hundred thousand dollars, or five cents—twenty thousand dollars is our demand; and you can pay it to us, as I have said, and find mercy, if you will thenceforth do right, or despise the demand and perish.

            As usual, I feel quite indifferent about it, and what I have written I have written, and I excuse not myself.

            Without hypocrisy, deceit or falsehood, I remain as heretofore, a servant of God.    ORSON HYDE.

P. S.—This letter, though indited by me, was written and signed by the hand of my clerk; yet I endorse it by my own hand, and request its contents to be made as public as consistent.

As above,         ORSON HYDE.

S PRINGTOWN, San Pete County, U. T., 

March 11, 1862.

            H. MOTT, ESQ.—Dear Sir: I have planted my suit to recover the value of our property in Washoe Valley in the Chancery of Heaven. Your note of the sixteenth ultimo brought me the satisfactory information that the papers were duly served; and now, without further argument, I am willing to rest our cause, and submit it to a final decision. But one thing I wish you, for your own sake, to remember, and that is, the word of the Lord, and the words of his servants have almost invariably been regarded by a wicked and unbelieving race as mere "moonshine," or as something of far less consequence. I have rested my cause, and shall say no more for some time yet to come.

            Truly yours,     ORSON HYDE.