Preserving the Mottsville Cemetery important to history

GARDNERVILLE - A stroll through the Mottsville Cemetery is like thumbing through a history book.

There you'll see the familiar family names of Carson Valley - Lampe, Brockliss, Van Sickle, Biaggi, Dressler, Schwake and more. Equally noticeable are the unmarked graves leading to questions about who these people were and why their final resting places are unmarked.

The sandy Mottsville Cemetery sits in the Sierra foothills with dozens of 100-year-old Black Locust trees shading the sandy graveyard floor. In the century the trees have spent growing to their current craggy, wind-beaten state, certainly many a drama has unfolded beneath their branches. Grave markers go back to deaths in the 1860s.

Dr. Eliza Cook, the first woman doctor in the valley, who lived from 1856 to 1947, is buried there next to her Dressler relatives. Not only was Cook a licensed physician, traveling by horse and buggy to patients' homes, she was also known for her skills in the kitchen, canning and baking and making a favorite lunch of ham, baked beans and applesauce. Dr. Cook was quite talented in the thread arts also, embroidering and tatting with great skill. She died at the age of 91 in her home near Mottsville and her modest marker belies the greatness valley residents attributed to her.

Also buried in the Mottsville Cemetery is one of the first family groups to settle in the valley, arriving in 1853.

Ben Palmer and his sister Charlotte Barber - who historian Ray Smith said were probably the first black residents in Nevada - were known for their hospitality and charity on their large ranch south of Genoa.

Palmer was renowned for his cattle driving skills and in 1857 he drove 1,500 head of cattle from Seattle to the valley to replenish his herd - no small task. He paid a reputed $5 a head for the cattle, which took three months to reach Nevada.

Palmer and Barber and their children are all buried at Mottsville. The headstone for Ben Palmer reads "Ben Parmer," which was the name his neighbors gave him.

Another marker at the Mottsville cemetery is for Bill Thompson, who was a friend of Mendes.

"Bill was a good friend of my husband," said Earlene Mendes. "He was an electrician and all around good guy."

Thompson's stone reads: "Bill Thompson, 1915 - 1979. He packed a hell of a lot of living into his 63 years. He was his own man."


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