Tag Archives: Nevada

Pyramid Land & Stock Company

Patrick Flanigan -- Wren's History
Patrick Flanigan — Wren’s History

Patrick L. Flanigan was one of those rags to riches to rags stories. In 1877, at the age of 17, he came west to Reno where he found employment milking cows. Five years later he obtained a loan from the Washoe County Bank to purchase 1500 sheep. Thus, like many before and after him became an itinerant sheep man and moved his sheep from place to place where ever he could find feed and water. (When the Taylor Grazing Act came into effect in 1934, put an end to this practice.) Flanigan, like so many others, lost over 50% of sheep during the harsh winter of 1889-90. Continue reading Pyramid Land & Stock Company

Fort Sage

Von Schmidt's 1872 Map.
Von Schmidt’s 1872 Map.

A military encampment located in the eastern portion of Honey Lake Valley on the Nevada side. “Fort” is a misnomer since it was actually a military camp and not a fort. Military records refer to it as Camp Sage, but provide no dates of operation or an exact location, only township and range. The camp served as a rest stop on the military supply route from Reno, Nevada to Fort Bidwell, California. In June 1872, Perry Jocelyn was in charge of Company D, Nevada Calvary, marched the troops on foot from Reno to Fort Bidwell—a distance of 250 miles. The route went north and east of Reno over the Fort Sage Mountains, to the west side of the Smoke Creek Desert and then criss-crossing the California-Nevada border until it reached Surprise Valley. It was a difficult journey. Jocelyn found that out first hand, on the first day of the seventeen-day march, five soldiers deserted in the middle of the night. An attempt was made to locate them, but they were never apprehended. Unfortunately, Jocelyn’s diary only contained the following notation about the place: “June 2, 1872 – Rev. at 3. First wagon mired within one hundred yards of camp. At 8 o’clock train has not advanced more than one half mile. Cross large hill where it is necessary to double the teams. Newcomb’s ranch just on the other side with lake nearby. Four miles further with still heavier hills, Fort Sage is reached. The whole distance eight miles.” Continue reading Fort Sage

Buffalo Meadows Salt Works

The salt works, January 1980.
The salt works, January 1983..

One of the most interesting enterprises around the region was the Buffalo Salt Works in the Smoke Creek Desert. It is so easy today to take many things for granted, but back in the early days of settlement of the mid-1850s, those hardy souls did not have that luxury.

First of all, it boggles my mind, how B.F. “Frank” Murphy and Marion “Comanche George” Lawrence discovered and claimed the salt marsh in the summer of 1864. For most of its existence Murphy was the main operator of the Buffalo Salt Works. Two types of salt was produced. The first being table salt that 99.8% pure. A lesser grade was sold to mining operators with a smelting plant that utilized the salt.  The salt was obtained from wells, the brine pumped into vats, and left to dry.  In 1888, it was reported that 200 tons of salt was produced annually. Continue reading Buffalo Meadows Salt Works

Wild Horse Mine

Wild Horse Canyon, September 27, 1984
Wild Horse Canyon, September 27, 1984

If you recall earlier this year about the mining activity at Rosebud on the eastern edge of the Black Rock Desert, there was also considerable mining activity much closer to the Honey Lake Valley in the nearby Smoke Creek Desert. In 1882, the Cottonwood Mining District was established on the Fox Mountains on the east side of the Smoke Creek Desert. Due to its remoteness and lack of any substantial high grade ore, little mining was development. Continue reading Wild Horse Mine

October Preview

Apache Tears Mine, Smoke Creek Desert
Apache Tears Mine, Smoke Creek Desert
Untold Stories 10/1/16
Deer Hunting 10/2/16
2017 Calendars 10/3/16
Susanville’s Kirmess Festival 10/4/16
The Scottini Family 10/5/16
Ox Teams 10/6/16
Susanville’s Banking Crisis 10/7/16
Where are we? 10/8/16
Pat O’Dea – The Kangaroo Kicker 10/9/16
Susanville – Pine Street 10/10/16
Dixon’s Willow Creek Dam 10/11/16
Lassen County – Hackstaff 10/12/16
Susan River Ranch 10/13/16
To be announced 10/14/16
Your Topic 10/15/16
Indian Basket History 10/16/16
Missouri Bend School 10/17/16
Moran’s Quest 10/18/16
Conklin’s Sawmill 10/19/16
Lassen County – Rongstock Canyon 10/20/16
Anna Stiles 10/21/16
Durbin Nursery 10/22/16
Walker’s Then & Now 10/23/16
Scottini’s Arrastra Mill 10/24/16
Standish’s Landmark Store 10/25/16
Westwood in the movies 10/26/16
Longville – Plumas County 10/27/16
Lucerne School – Lassen County 10/28/16
That old photograph 10/29/16
Fun, Fun, Fun 10/30/16
November Preview 10/31/16

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Isaac Roop Highway

The Association's letterhead.
The Association’s letterhead.

In essence this is one of those instances where history repeats itself. During the 1850s Congress passed several bills for a transcontinental railroad and wagon road to connect California to the Union. Numerous routes were surveyed, though most ended at California’s eastern border, with the assumption the State of California would decide the best route. The Honey Lake-Fredonyer-Deer Creek route was deemed one the best, since there was no high elevation summits to cross, thereby reducing  the problems associated with winter, i.e., Donner. In 1859, with the discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada was a game changer. Politics and the influence of money the Donner Pass route was selected, a costly one at that.

Fast forward a hundred years later. In June 1956 Congress approved the Federal Highway Act, also known as President Eisenhower’s Interstate and Defense Highways. In 1957, Susanville resident F.W. Loosley saw an opportunity and proposed the Isaac Roop Low Pass All Weather Highway, as a viable alternative to Donner Pass. One of the most obvious was it would reduce construction costs and even more importantly annual maintenance, especially where snow removal was a concern. The proposed Roop Highway would go from Winnemucca, Nevada to Viewland, Lassen County, California via Gerlach. There it would merge initially with U.S. Highway 395 to Johnstonville and then connect with State Highway 36 over Fredonyer to Red Bluff. (This should not be confused with the Winnemucca to the Sea Highway.) It received widespread support in California and Nevada. The wheels of commerce, those along the then Highway 40 put pressure because the proposed interstate would bypass them, and they won.

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Honey Lake’s Sugar Beet Experiment

The Zarbock Brothers on their desert homestead near Stacy. Courtesy of Pam Zarbock Bell
The Zarbock Brothers on their desert homestead near Stacy. Courtesy of Pam Zarbock Bell

In 1910, the Nevada Sugar Company of Fallon, Nevada came courting Honey Lake Valley farmers in the Standish district, as well those homesteaders on the east side of Honey Lake to plant sugar beets. One of the reasons, was the Nevada Sugar Company was in the midst of constructing a $600,000 factory at Fallon.

As an enticement the company stated it would build a second factory at Standish if production was successful and needed transportation facilities. In 1912, with the announcement of Fernley & Lassen Railroad to be constructed through this section of the Honey Lake Valley solved that transportation issue.

It should be noted that in 1911 was the first irrigation season of the Standish Water Company’s pumping plant on Honey Lake’s eastern shore.  In that year they provided water for 1,000 acres that was planted in sugar beets, with the Nevada Sugar Company providing the seed. No  one locally knew anything about growing sugar beets, but they learned quickly. One of the biggest problems encountered  with beet production was the amount of labor required. The problem was compounded as there was a local labor shortage, and then there were those who did not want to work in beet fields. To alleviate the problem 25 Japanese laborers were brought in to assist. Their tenure was brief, even though it was reported they worked twice as fast at a cheaper price.

There were two other problems that ended the experiment. First there was not an adequate water supply and the beets were substandard. It was not only a problem locally, but in Fallon as well for in 1917 the beet factory there closed.

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Great Basin Architecture

Smoke Creek Desert, 1996.
Smoke Creek Desert, 1996.

There are anniversaries, and then there are anniversaries. It was a year ago, today, when I broke my hip and became a Nevada resident for six weeks.

Some may remember back in the early 1990s, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and myself hosted prehistoric/historic tours.  However, there were always issues as to historic sites, and BLM always said no.  One of those was Great Basin Architecture of abandoned ranches and homesteads, and they said h-ll no. Since BLM staff were paid, and I was a volunteer and after three years, I decided I had enough. Continue reading Great Basin Architecture

Surprise Valley Railroad – Part II

Map of the proposed Surprise Valley Railroad
Map of the proposed Surprise Valley Railroad

In the fall of 1915, Robert Strahorn brought new life to the project. Strahorn had a reputation for developing these type of projects. One of the biggest changes was the line would start at Flanigan, Nevada, on the eastern edge of the Honey Lake Valley and its terminus at Cedarville, California. By the spring of 1916, it appeared real progress had been made with right-of-ways secured from the Department of Interior and many of the landowners. In addition, it was announced that Lakeview, Oregon would be the new terminus. For those familiar with the country the railroad now had the daunting task to to cross the Warner Mountains at Fandango Pass. First a grandiose three-mile tunnel was proposed, but was reduced to a 4,820-foot tunnel, which still alleviated 700 difference from the top of the summit. Continue reading Surprise Valley Railroad – Part II

Surprise Valley Railroad – Part I

Sand Pass, Washoe County, Nevada, looking north at the Smoke Creek Desert, 2008.
Sand Pass, Washoe County, Nevada, looking north at the Smoke Creek Desert, 2008.

In 1903, the Western Pacific Railway was incorporated with its main goal to build a 810 mile line from the San Francisco Bay Area to Salt Lake City. They were successful in one aspect. On November 1, 1909, the last spike was driven on Western Pacific’s line at Spanish Creek Bridge near Quincy, California. When the railroad was incorporated, it proposed to build twelve branch lines. These “feeder” lines were extremely important to generate rail traffic, which would provide necessary revenue for the fledging railroad. One of these proposed lines called for a Surprise Valley Railroad. Continue reading Surprise Valley Railroad – Part I