Chautauqua recalls Minden’s Dangberg roots

Former Friends of Dangberg Home Ranch president Mike Hall performs a Chautauqua of H.F. Dangberg Jr.

Former Friends of Dangberg Home Ranch president Mike Hall performs a Chautauqua of H.F. Dangberg Jr.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

While there were a lot of folks who had a hand in the founding of Minden, sources agree that without H.F. Dangberg Jr., the town would not exist as it does now.

On June 30, to open the first of the free Friday morning Chatauqua presentations, former Friends of Dangberg Home Ranch President Mike Hall portrayed Minden’s founder at his former home.

“My family not so long ago was one of the most powerful and influential families in Northern Nevada,” Hall said as Dangberg. “We were the largest landowners in Carson Valley.”

The resources of the family ranch were sunk into not just building a town, but also a flour mill, wool storehouse, two banks, the CVIC Hall and the Minden Inn, all in the first few years after Minden was founded in 1906.

Key to the town’s early prosperity was the V&T Railway, which required some finagling to extend a spur south to a town that didn’t exist.

Those resources were accumulated by family scion H.F. Dangberg Sr. who was born in Germany in 1830 and migrated to the United States at age 18. Dangberg traveled across the country in 1855, stopping in Gold Canyon before the discovery of the Comstock Lode, and then on to Carson Valley where he staked a claim to what would be known as the Klauber Ranch, located southeast of what’s now the intersection of Highway 395 and Muller Lane. That claim was jumped by Lucky Bill Thorington after Dangberg left it idle a little too long, so he moved south to where the Dangberg Home Ranch is today.

That’s where he brought his bride Margaret Gale Ferris in 1865, fathered H.F. Jr., John, George and Clarence and a daughter.

On his father’s death in 1904, Fred Dangberg pulled together the threads required to establish Minden.

A proposal to bring the railroad to Carson Valley had been floated in the 1870s, but it wasn’t until Dangberg took the bit in his teeth that it became a reality.

“The difference between the good people of Gardnerville and Fred Dangberg was that they were waiting for it to happen,” Hall said in character. “I was going to make it happen. I was going to make it on my terms to benefit my family.”

While the Dangberg family owned most of the land required for the right-of-way, there was a segment in the north Valley owned by Richard Kirman that needed acquiring. Dangberg used the family resources to purchase the property, according to Hall. He then needed to get a bill passed in the 1905 Nevada Legislature where he was serving as a senator. And finally, he had to convince railroad Superintendent H.M. Yerington that it would be worth his time.

A year after his father’s death, The Record-Courier reported work had begun Sept. 28, 1905, with as many as 400 workers grading and building bridges. At the time, the Gardnerville paper assumed the railroad would not only extend to the town, but on to points further south. That didn’t happen.

Instead, by March 1906, when the Minden Flour Milling Co. cooperative conducted its first meeting, it was pretty clear the railroad would end at the new town.

“Minden was built on our land and promoted by us, town laid out by us and it would not exist without the Dangberg Land & Livestock Co.,” Hall said. “

Maps of the new town were laid out, including the square that ended up being Minden Park and by the time the railroad arrived, the mill was electrified and ready to start grinding wheat.

In an effort to show off the town and even sell some lots, the first Carson Valley Day was organized in 1910. Dangberg turned to the 1915 Legislature to have the county seat moved from Genoa to Minden and build a high school. In order to overcome resistance from Gardnerville, which was still the larger town, lawmakers decided to build the high school in Gardnerville, where it currently serves as the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center.

But getting the courthouse was near the last gasp of the frenetic effort that established the town. Five years later, a lawsuit filed by a truck firm would eliminate the V&T’s freight monopoly.

Niece Grace Dangberg said that the family sold several parcels to cover her uncle Fred’s personal debts, which is how she said the Minden Inn ended up being sold.

Born Dec. 10, 1866, Dangberg Jr. died May 13, 1946. Services were conducted May 16, 1946, in Minden Park.

“If it hadn’t been for H.F., there would never have been a Minden,” The Record-Courier reported an elderly woman said at his service. “This town will always be his monument.”

Dangberg was a charter member of the Rotary Club of Minden.

Hall’s was the first of the Friday morning Chatauquas.

Events Coordinator Kim Harris said she was surprised at the turnout on June 30.

“We have people who don’t want to drive at night or have kids who go to bed early,” she said.

For more about events at the Dangberg Historic Home Ranch, visit


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