Project remembers Candy Dance co-founder

Minden resident Kari Beckett Karwoski wears an outfit preserved from the days when her great-great-grandmother was alive.

Minden resident Kari Beckett Karwoski wears an outfit preserved from the days when her great-great-grandmother was alive.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Wearing a costume that her great-great-grandmother would pick out for a formal event, Minden resident Kari Beckett Karwoski helped add Jane Ann Raycraft Campbell to the long list of women who’ve made a difference in Carson Valley.

Campbell, Tempy Robinson, Lois Stodieck Jones and Eileen Cohen were honored on March 11 by the Women in History Remembering Project sponsored by Douglas County Historical Society.

“I had to take this hat for a walk,” Karwoski said in the hallway before the event.

Campbell and her niece Lillian Virgin Finnegan were among the Ladies of Genoa who founded the Candy Dance in 1919.

But Campbell was a fixture in Douglas County from before Nevada was a state.

A member of the prodigious Raycraft clan, she was the fifth of 11 children. The family crossed the country when she was a child and arrived in Genoa in 1864, according to the front-page obituary appearing in the Jan. 22, 1937, edition of The Record-Courier.

Within four years of their arrival, the family established a hotel and livery stable where the former Trimmer Outpost is located in Genoa.

“This is where Jane’s expertise in hosting, cooking and welcoming travelers and locals came about,” Karwoski said. “The hotel was known for unsurpassed meals, Western hospitality, and was a favorite location to stop for all kinds of travelers at the time.”

She helped her mother manage the hotel and was a leader in social and community functions.

She married logger James L. Campbell around 1889 and took over managing the hotel before she and her husband purchased the Mountain House Station, 18 miles south of Gardnerville in the Pine Nut Mountains.

Jane and James seemed to be cut from the same cloth,” Karwoski said. “They both exhibited a strong work ethic, numerous ventures and always had a task at hand. Together they would follow in James’ family path taking possession of Mountain House from her brother James in 1895.”

During the Goldfield boom, the couple returned to Genoa and purchased Walley’s Hot Springs, making significant improvements to the property.

While they were away, the Raycraft family built the structure, now known as the Genoa Town Hall.

The couple sold Walley’s in 1907 and purchased the old Haines Ranch north of Genoa, where a restored barn still stands.

Besides farming, the couple took in boarders, mostly teachers working at the town’s school.

“A more secretive boarder was someone who made a significant mark on the history of the ranch,” Karwoski said.

Mary Pickford stayed only a few weeks at the hotel in 1920 while she was establishing residency so she could divorce her husband and marry Douglas Fairbanks.

“A stage and screen actress, and pioneer in the U.S. film industry, Pickford is one of the most easily recognizable women in history,” Karwoski said. “Jane and James secretly boarded her at the house, so she could secure her divorce.”

She marveled that keeping a secret like that would be very difficult today.

“I said to my son, ‘can you imagine, no cell phone, no social media, and it still came out,’” she said.

Nearly 60 people came out for the March 11 ceremony, including several Campbell descendants and those for honoree Lois Stodieck Jones, presented by daughter Margaret Biggs.

Born off Waterloo Lane on Aug. 19, 1914, Jones was a 1932 graduate of Douglas County High School.

After graduation she went to college for two years. She was a featured soloist for the University of Nevada, Reno, presentation of Handel’s “Messiah.”

“She also sang at many weddings, funerals and social events in the community,” Biggs said. “As Lois Storke said, ‘Christmas was really not Christmas for me until Lois sang ‘Oh Holy Night,’ in that lovely sweet clear voice on Christmas Eve.’”

She was a lifelong member of Trinity Lutheran Church, taught Sunday school and was the musical director for 30 years.

She was a founding member of the East Fork Gallery, along with Jim and Geraldine Lawrence next door to what was then the Aladdin Flower Shop, but later housed Coventry Cross Thrift Store.

Jones was one of the drivers behind transforming the old Genoa Courthouse into a museum.

The historic building had been a school for 39 years after the county seat was moved to Minden.

Biggs said her mother used the courthouse’s original plans and county commission minutes to restore it to as close to the original as possible, including moving the staircase to the middle of the building.

“She found a painter who knew how to feather paint the wood frame of the stairs,” she said. “The end result was a beautiful building and a remarkable display of Carson Valley history.”

Jones put together a history of Ferris Wheel inventor George Washington Gale Ferris, who claimed inspiration from watch a water wheel work in Carson Valley.

She worked on the ranch her entire life.

“The grandkids were pretty impressed when she got out the .22 rifle and shot a bird in her peach tree,” Biggs related. “‘So do you want me to throw that dead bird in the garbage, grandma?’ one asked. ‘No, she said. ‘It’s a warning to the others when they see it hanging there in that tree.’ She was right. As much as the magpies and blue jays complained, Lois had peaches.”

Historian and researcher Debbe Nye said she first learned about Robinson from her gravestone in the Genoa Cemetery.

Minden resident Eileen Cohen was the sole living honoree at Saturday’s event. She was presented by her friend Christine Blackburn.

Cohen, a long time Carson City teacher who completed 28 oral histories as an early member of the Nevada Women’s History Project founded by Jean Ford.


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