Sam P. (Sam Post) Davis.

The history of Nevada (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 69)
Online LibrarySam P. (Sam Post) DavisThe history of Nevada (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 69)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ng "bjrWT.B ath er. NY


History of Nevada










u. c.






We can hardly state that Nevada has had a large share in the raising
of horticultural products on a commercial scale up to the present time.
As a consumer, however, her nearest neighbor on the west has benefited
very materially from the large quantities of fruits, and particularly small
fruits, shipped in and well paid for by Nevada's generous purchasers and
good livers.

That she has not reached the limit of her possibilities for fruit-growing
is very certain, and much progress is being made along horticultural lines.
The early settlers with the gold fever excitement could not be expected
to have the temperament necessary for the careful planting, pruning and
cultivating of trees. Then again they found the native grass growing
abundantly everywhere and with it made money easily, so why risk the
unknown and untried. But as in all aggregations of people there were
a few with the experimental or investigational type of mind and it is to
these that we must look for the beginnings of things in a horticultural

In the Truckee Valley the names of Walts, Snare, Plumb, Ferris, Sul-
livan, Gault, Ross, Peckham, McCarran, Mullins, Ferris, Wheeler and
Lonkey, have been associated with the growing of fruit to a greater or
less extent for many years. In no case, however, does the amount of
land devoted to fruit exceed ten acres, and in every instance the crop is
raised as a subsidiary product of the farm. As would naturally be ex-
pected the orchards located on the foothills have more success in escap-
ing the numerous and severe spring frosts of the region. In the foothill
country a full crop may be relied upon without "smudging" about once in
three years while in the lower parts of the valley a good crop is secured
about one out of every five years. Although smudging by means of old
manure piles, wood and rubbish had been carried on for a number of


years with more or less success, it was not until orchard-heating experi-
ments were carried on by the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station in
1910 that much attention was given to the possibility of saving the crop
of fruit annually by means of oil-heaters. The Walt Bros, took up the
matter in a practical way and demonstrated that they could save their
crop and still leave a fair profit after all expenses of heating the orchard
had been deducted. The market has been a local one and little or no
grading or wrapping or packing of apples has been done. Buyers have
not been in the habit of coming to Nevada because of the uncertainty of
the crop and the small acreage. In seasons of abundant crops the local
market has been glutted from lack of storage facilities and it has been
found necessary to turn everything into cider and vinegar or feed to
stock. In a few favored localities in regard to soil, elevation and exposure
strawberries have done well, but the high price for the labor of picking
has prevented the raising of this crop commercially. Ten acres grown at
one time by Mr. Mullins in the Wedekind District, is the largest area
devoted to this crop. Raspberries are grown to a considerable extent
and find a ready local market. Usually, however, the patches do not
exceed an acre, though it can be relied upon as a sure and profitable crop.
Peaches, plums, pears, blackberries and cherries are grown to some
extent but not extensively enough to be considered commercially. It is
of interest in this connection to mention the status of the nursery busi-
ness. Some twenty years ago there were two well established nurseries.
One was located at what is now one of the principal residence districts
of Reno, and occupies the land lying between Sierra and Ralston Streets
and Walnut and Maple Streets. The trees on the north side of Maple
Street and the coniferous trees in the lots have grown up from the orig-
inal specimens in the nursery rows. This nursery was owned by a man
named Connor who, though, a good gardener, lacked business ability.
The other, then known as the Arlington nursery was located on the out-
skirts of the city on the south side of what is now the Patrick ranch.

Owing to the great diversity of the climate, ranging from a few degrees
of frost toward the southern boundary near the Colorado River to forty
degrees below zero in the extreme north and on some of the central
desert plains, the State must be divided into more or less distinct horti-
cultural sections. These sections we will designate as: (i) the Sierra
Nevada section; (2) the Humboldt River section; (3) the Southern or


Semi-tropical section. In addition to these there will be found numerous
ranches fifty or more miles from the railroad and scattered throughout the
mountains in almost every part of the State. Many of these produce
most excellent fruit in small quantities for local consumption. Indeed it
could not be otherwise as even the apples would have to be of a cast iron
variety to withstand the transit over the mountain roads, not to speak
of the more perishable fruits like peaches.

The Eastern Sierra Nevada Section. This section includes the country
lying along the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and
ranging from Verdi and Reno through the rich fertile Truckee
Valley southwards to Pleasant, Washoe, Eagle and Carson Valleys. For
convenience, although further inland, we will include the land under the
government reclamation project at Fallen and Mason and Smith Valleys
further south. The section receives its water supply from the Truckee,
Carson and Walker Rivers and from numerous smaller local mountain
streams. From that time until recently there were no nurseries in the
State. The Reno nursery has several thousand young Carolina poplar
trees, but aside from this, all orchard trees, small fruits and ornamental
trees and shrubs are brought in from other States. We must here include
the interesting career of the old hermit, Laurent Bennyton. He escaped
from the French army with his uniform and muskets and landed in Phil-
adelphia. It is also reported that he was an exiled priest. He was a man
of considerable education and a member of a wealthy and well-known
family, the Bennytons of Paris. Working his way west he landed in
Virginia City in the early days. From there he became a man of the
hills and a hermit evidently prospecting in the Virginia range of moun-
tains but finally locating in a barren nook with no visible spring, two
miles south over the ridge from Vista, the entrance of the Truckee River,
through the mountains on its course to Pyramid Lake. Here he remained
for forty-two years and produced a horticultural oasis, the like of which is
perhaps unique in the world's history. Surrounding this man of solitude
and few words, we find evidences of a successful battle with the soil and
meagre water facilities of the desert. Living in a hovel, the entrance
consisting of a hole to crawl through, a goat for milk, and a few chickens,
he has surrounded himself with apple, pear, peach, apricot and almond
trees as well as a few grapes. The striking horticultural feature is that
the almond trees predominate, there being over a thousand trees, old and


young, which bear well every year. When we consider that these are
the only almond trees anywhere in the Truckee Valley or the northern or
central parts of Nevada we must give great credit to the old hermit who
has opened our eyes to the possibilities of similar locations. The water
from the melting snow was conserved in miniature reservoirs which
caused a gradual seepage to the groves of trees. Here we find little wells
four feet deep and two feet wide from which he dipped the water into
buckets and packed it on his shoulders on ingenious water carriers to
each tree, naming it, and talking to it with such remarks as the following :
"This is all I can give you today, perhaps I can spare you a little more
tomorrow," or "You were very good to me last year, I will give you all
I can." His trees undoubtedly received a very small amount of water and
the secret of his success is a great object lesson in dry farming methods.
The holes for the trees were dug five feet deep and nearly as wide, and in
them he placed rotten sagebrush and grass and everything that would
tend to hold moisture and give it up to the tree gradually. His surplus
crop was taken on his back over a trail sixteen miles long to Virginia
City. This long trail he constructed himself with only a pick and
shovel. Other evidences of his mania for hard labor are to be seen in the
building of a road over two miles long down a canyon to the Truckee
River and a fence about four miles long built of sagebrush and rocks
cleared from the enclosed territory.

When we consider that all this and much more has been accomplished
with the sole labor of a pair of hands we are obliged to marvel at the
man's fortitude.

His load to and from the city was often 100 pounds, consisting chiefly
of flour on the return journey. He scorned a lift, preferring the inde-
pendence and the solitude. The bulk of the fruit, however, was dried and
this, with almonds and a sort of wine from his grapes, formed his chief
sustenance. One morning in the spring of 1912 he was found lying out-
side the hovel very sick, and was taken to the County Hospital in Reno,
Nev., where he died a month later at the age of 87 years.

In his effects were found his old soldier clothes still in good condition,
for he is said only to have put them on on rare occasions. His old flint-
lock muskets are in the hands of a neighboring farmer. We must give
much credit to this noble and religious character for having demonstrated
perhaps unconsciously, one of the best experiments on the conservation of


moisture and the possibilities of Nevada for the growing of fruits, espe-
cially almonds, under apparently almost desert conditions.

The Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station has also played a part in
the horticulture of the State. It was organized in 1887 and the first appro-
priation, fifteen thousand ($15,000) dollars, was received from the Fed-
eral Government in April, 1888. For a short time the experiments, chiefly
in meteorology, were conducted on the University Campus, but soon a
farm was secured near the present State Asylum and an orchard planted.
The work consisted merely of growing the trees and identifying the varie-
ties of apples and no records were kept. In 1900 the experiment station
farm was removed to its present site adjoining the State Fair Grounds in
Reno. The farm was given to the State by Washoe County and the old
farm was turned over to the asylum for the growing of vegetables and
fruit for the inmates.

From 1900 to 1903 no horticultural work was carried on. In 1903 the,
writer planted out an orchard and many trees and shrubs, the record
of which can be found in the Reports and Bulletins, published by the
station. Leaving the Truckee Valley and passing along the Eastern
Sierra Nevada Mountains to the south we pass through Pleasant Valley
to Washoe Valley which has upheld the reputation of Nevada as a pos-
sible fruit growing State at all the expositions and fairs for many years.
The names of Lewers, Winters, Howard, Cliff and Neidenriech are asso-
ciated in this valley with the raising of fruit but we have only space
enough to consider the ranch of Mr. Lewers. Mr. Ross Lewers, a well
educated Irishman, after coming round Cape Horn, landed on the Coast
in 1850, and engaged in mining and lumbering in California. In 1860
he came down with his sawmill to Franktown from Honey Lake Valley.
When sufficient high land was cleared he planted fruit trees in 1864.
These trees are still bearing well. His first order of 300 trees given to a
California nurseryman, landed in Virginia by mistake. No owner being
found they were sold for the freight and planted in Six Mile Canyon, near

The next order was given to the well known firm of Thomas Meehan,
at Philadelphia and Paul's nursery at Washington, D. C. He also started
a small nursery and raised his own trees from seedlings. After estab-
lishing a picturesque home overlooking Lake Washoe and surrounded
by pine trees, he returned to Ireland for a companion. His wife was an


ardent lover of flowers and a keen observer and reader and surrounded
herself with the largest assortment of perennial flowering plants grown
in the State.

There are about forty acres of orchard containing some seventy vari-
eties of apples, a dozen of pears, a few peach, plum, cherry trees and
strawberries, raspberries and loganberries among the small fruits. A
unique feature of the place is a very large English walnut tree which
bears some fruit every year and sometimes a fair crop. There are also
two fine white oaks now twenty years old with trunks nine inches in
diameter. All the fruit raised is of excellent quality and superb in color-
ing. The soil is a rich black granitic loam abundantly supplied with
potash. His market for many years was at Virginia City and Washoe,
the highest price received being $2.50 to $3.00 per box of apples. After
the Virginia and Truckee Railroad was built Mr. Lewers shipped to Cali-
fornia and was able to compete successfully on the San Francisco market
often receiving 25 cents a box more for his apples than the California
product. It is the only orchard in the State known to the writer where
fruit has been scientifically stored and packed before being placed on the
market. Still further south in Eagle Valley in the vicinity of Carson and
in the Carson Valley, near Gardnerville and Genoa, there are a number
of old orchards which raise considerable fruit for home consumption or
the local market. Mr. Dangberg at Minden has also set out a consider-
able acreage to young trees. Fifty miles inland from the Truckee Valley
in the Carson Sink Valley where the Truckee Carson Government recla-
mation Project has been established there are a number of old ranches
nearly all of which have more or less land planted out to fruit. The
names of Thommey, Brown, Harriman, Douglas, Allen, Ferguson, are
associated with small orchards. Large numbers of young trees have been
planted out by the new settlers as the possibilities of profitable fruit grow-
ing are excellent. Still further south, in Mason and Smith Valleys, we
find a large number of ranches growing considerable fruit.

The Humboldt River Section. This includes the ranches watered by
the Humboldt River and her tributaries and extends for hundreds of
miles from the Ruby or East Humboldt Mountains to Lovelock.

In Star Valley we have the names of Cazier, Smiley, Riddell, Hardy,
Wells, Lane and Gray, and in Clover Valley, those of Conway, Weeks,
Johnson, Wiseman, Schoer and Gibbs. None of these orchards exceed


four acres in extent. Some bear every year, but the majority are so situ-
ated that the spring frosts have to be contended with. At Toynes in
Mound Valley we find apples, pears, peaches, plums and small fruits, in
abundance for home use.

The Southern and Semi-tropical Section. In this section we in-
clude the southern part of the State as represented in Nye, Lincoln
and Clark Counties. The truly semi-tropical part of the section
is situated in Clark County, which is the southern half of what was once
Lincoln County. The chief horticultural districts are in the Muddy or
Moapa Valley and the Las Vegas, Pahrump and Pahranagat Valleys.

The lower part of the Moapa Valley at St. Thomas was settled as early
as 1851 by Mormons, who came from Utah. Thinking they were still
within the Utah boundary they paid their taxes to Utah officials. When
the Nevada tax collector discovered them he demanded that they pay
three years' back taxes. This they refused to do, burnt their houses, and
abandoning their ripening crops, departed for Salt Lake City. In about
1870 a new lot of settlers, both Gentile and Mormon, came into the
valley and located at Logan (then called St. Joe), Overton and St.
Thomas. To them must be attributed the discovery of the wonderful
fertility of the soil of the region for the production of alfalfa, grains,
vegetables and fruits. Associated with its early history are the names
of Belding and Seabright, Bonelli, Syphus Mills, Church, Thomas, Jones,
Cobb, Gibson, Gans, Willow, Lund and Judd and Major Holt For a long
time the nearest railroad was over a hundred miles away, so that almost
everything grown was disposed of in the valley or to the miners in south-
ern Nevada and northern Arizona, Bonelli, the keeper of the ferry across
the Colorado River, then at Rioville, was an all-round naturalist. Cotton
was grown quite extensively in the early days and made into clothing.
Apples, pears, peaches, plums, prunes, cherries, apricots, almonds, nectar-
ines, pomegranates, figs, grapes and peanuts. Sugar cane was found to
grow exceedingly well, but there was then no market for perishable
crops. All kinds of vegetables grew profusely and in many cases were
harvested even before the same crops were sown in the north. In 1905
the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, extended a branch
of the Oregon Short Line so as to pass through southern Nevada en route
to Los Angeles. The prospect of a good market for their crops brought
new hope to the old settlers and made the valley accessible to seekers


after land who soon began to come in considerable numbers. Some of
the old settlers seeing a good chance to sell out at a favorable price gave
up the hard struggle and retired to spend the few remaining years of
their life under easier and more sociable surroundings.

On March 2, 1905, the Twenty-second Session of the Nevada State
Legislature approved an act to select a site for the Establishment of a
Branch Experiment Farm in the Tropical Regions of Nevada. The
Commissioners appointed by the Governor to select the site were Col.
H. B. Maxson, P. S. Triplett and Professor Gordon H. True. They se-
lected eight acres of land at Logan in the Moapa Valley. A report cover-
ing the details of the Commission's work was published by the 'State in
1906. Experiments on the adaptability and the best methods of growing
grain, hay, vegetable and fruit crops and with live stock have been car-
ried on. The history of this work of the Experiment Farm is to be found
in the Reports of the Board of Control for 1907-1908, and 1909-1910.
These are also published by the State. At the Stewart ranch adjacent to
the town of Las Vegas, in the Las Vegas Valley, we have one of the
oldest ranches in the State of Nevada. There are old trees and vines,
planted about fifty-five years ago, that are still bearing profusely. A
single apricot tree sometimes bears a ton of fruit. The ranch is watered
by means of an immense spring of tepid water coming directly out of the
desert. Within the last few years artesian wells have been established
and new land is being put under cultivation. In the Pahranagat Valley
in Lincoln County, and the Pahrump Valley in Nye County, fruit has
been grown on isolated ranches for many years, but little is known of
the possibilities of the region.

A few ranches near the foothills of the Charleston Mountains produce
considerable fruit and vegetables, particularly the old White ranch at
Manso, and the MacFarland ranch at Indian Springs.

Horticultural Legislation. An act to encourage the growth of trees
was approved March 7, 1873. Ten dollars a year for twenty years, was
paid by the county for each acre or half mile of forest or ornamental
trees planted a rod apart and kept alive in growing condition, willows and
cottonwoods planted above ditches and canals were not included. The
planting was to in no manner increase the taxable value of the land. This
law is no longer in force.


Horticulture is also included in the work of the State Agricultural
Society by an act approved in the same year.

On March 13, 1903, an act was approved to protect and promote the
horticultural interests of the State and to destroy insect pests in orchards
and elsewhere. Whenever a petition is presented to the Board of County
Commissioners of any county, and signed by twenty or more persons who
are resident freeholders and possessors of an orchard or both stating
that certain or all orchards or nurseries or trees of any variety, are in-
fested with scale insect of any kind injurious to fruit, fruit trees or vines,
or are infested with codling moth or other insects or pests that are destruc-
tive to trees or vines, and praying that a Commissioner be appointed by
them whose duty it shall be to supervise the destruction of such insects
or trees as herein provided, the Board of County Commissioners shall
within twenty days after the presentation of such a petition, select and
appoint a Commissioner for the county, who shall be known as the
County Horticultural Commissioner, the said Commissioner shall serve
for a period of two years from and after the date of his appointment and
qualification or unless he shall be sooner removed by order of said Board
of County Commissioners. There are eight sections to the act providing
the duties, districts and compensation of the Commissioners. An act con-
cerning the shipping of nursery stock into the State was approved March
25, 1909.

Section I. All nursery stock shipped from other States to points within
the State of Nevada, whether fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs, vines,
cuttings, or other nursery stock of any description whatever shall bear
on the outside of each car, crate, bale, bundle or package a label giving
the names of the consignor and consignee, together with a copy of an
inspection certificate of recent date. Such certificate of inspection must
certify that said stock has been inspected and found free from insect
pests or plant diseases of any kind. It must bear the signature of the
State Entomologist or Plant Pathologist or other duly qualified person
in authority in the State in which said nursery stock was grown.

Section 2. No corporation, company, or individual engaged in the trans-
portation of freight or express shall make delivery of any nursery stock
lacking such official certificate of inspection to the consignee or his agent
within the State of Nevada ; and any agent of any such corporation, com-
pany or individual who does make delivery of any uncertified nursery


stock shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof
shall be fined in any sum not less than twenty-five ($25) dollars nor
more than one hundred ($100) dollars, or by imprisonment in the County
Jail for not less than five nor more than thirty days, or by both such fine
and imprisonment at the discretion of the Court, and any fines collected
under the provisions of this act shall be paid to the State Treasurer.



JUSTICE G. F. TALBOT, President Carson City

DR. H. E. REID, Vice-President Reno

DR. A. E. HERSHISER, Treasurer Reno

JEANNE ELIZABETH WIER, Secretary and Curator Reno

Senator H. H. CORYELL, Member at Large , Wells

Senator A. 'W. HOLMES, Member at Large Reno

The first attempt to preserve information concerning the early history
of Nevada was made by the Society of Pacific Coast Pioneers in Virginia
City in 1872. Much valuable work had been accomplished when, in 1875,
the great fire on the Comstock destroyed the society building with all its
contents. A new hall was soon erected and another collection made, but
with the decline of the Comstock and the scattering of the pioneers, the
society was after a time disbanded; its museum collection was donated
to the State, and but little of this contribution remains intact at the present
time. A similar organization obtained for a time at Austin and was
known as the Reese River Pioneers.

Creation of the Nevada Historical Society. Not until thirty-two years
later was the interest in this historical work revived, and then on the
basis of a State-wide organization. In 1904 the Nevada Historical So-
ciety came into being as a private organization. It enrolled among its
charter members many of the most prominent men and women of the
State, some of whom have since crossed the Great Divide. General E. D.
Kelley was its first vice-president and its second president. Orvis Ring,

Online LibrarySam P. (Sam Post) DavisThe history of Nevada (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 69)