We at the Douglas County Historical Society are honored to announce that a huge amount of local history was recently donated to us by a member of the Harris family. In the late 1860’s, Maurice (Mose) Harris came west from New York and purchased the Klauber Medalbaum Store in Genoa. The mercantile soon became known as the Harris Store. In 1877, Mose married Anna Norgaard a new arrival to Carson Valley from Denmark. Anna spent most of her time in the store, while Mose and his six-horse team peddled goods to mining and logging camps. Mose Harris was a kind and gentle man and often misplaced his trust in customers and employees which eventually destroyed the business.
After the collapse Anna used her personal savings to open another small store in Genoa. Anna went to District Court and became a sole trader, allowing her to buy and sell property, loan money, etc. (Keep in mind this was the late 1800s and she was a woman.) Mose continued to deliver goods to Carson City, Virginia City, Alpine and Mono county towns, mining and logging camps.
Anna Harris was a shrewd business woman; she opened what might be considered the first bank in Douglas County in her store. Each person was given a buckskin bag; attached was a tag where the amounts deposited and withdrawn were noted. Anna realized the business center of the community was Gardnerville, so she purchased a large tract of land on Main Street in Gardnerville in 1895. Today the property would be all the property where the Historian Inn is located and north where the new stone Harris Store was built.
Mose and Anna Harris were the parents of five children who all helped in the store. Mose Harris died in 1896; Anna settled the estate, closed the Genoa store and soon opened the new store in Gardnerville with the help of her children. In 1898 Anna married Fritz Behrman. In 1900, Anna started a brokerage business in Gardnerville, she bought and sold real estate and loaned money at low rates.
Although a successful business woman, Anna was always ready to lend a helping hand to the less fortunate. Her many acts of kindness and charity will never be known. She shared food with travelers down on their luck and with the local Native Americans. When the pantry of the Methodist parsonage was low, she provided the supplies for winter. Many people in poverty and distress found unasked for aid from this kind woman.
Anna’s mother and two sisters also came to Nevada. Her younger sister Paulina (Lena) married Arendt Jensen. They worked for the Harrises in the Genoa store and soon opened their own mercantile in Gardnerville.
Many large items have already been put on exhibit in the mercantile on Main Street and in the Women in History and Family Life & Culture Exhibit on the main floor. A lovely Victorian wash stand is now on exhibit in the mercantile downstairs. In the parlor, two beautifully framed large portraits of Mose and Anna Harris have been hung above the piano along with three lovely Victorian era chairs.
The Harris donation is also a treasure trove of historical documents and photos from the 1860s to 1970. They cover a wide range of important historical events in Carson Valley and Nevada. If you have old local documents and photos, please consider donating the original or a copy to the historical society. Your family history is the history of Douglas County and Nevada. It needs to be preserved so current and future generation can learn and enjoy our exciting history.
Our sincere thanks to DCHS Collections Manager Gail Allen for all her input into this column.
All monies donated to DCHS are 100 percent tax deductible and go to keep our doors open. The Douglas County Historical Society subsists primarily on donations, a small annual appropriation from Douglas County, and occasional grants from public and private sources. We are here solely to preserve the history of this wonderful valley and to make sure you have the opportunity to enjoy it. If you have any questions about anything mentioned here, please call the Douglas County Historical Society at 782-2555 or visit our website at www.historicnevada.net.
Contact Ellen Caywood by email at email@example.com.