Chautauqua actor, author to visit Dangberg |

Chautauqua actor, author to visit Dangberg

Staff Reports
Chris Bayer as Lucky Bill Thorington” in ‘The Major and the Gambler,’ to play at Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park on Wednesday.
Special to the R-C |

In a one-man show, Chris Bayer will portray both Major William Ormsby and Lucky Bill Thorington in “The Major and the Gambler” at Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Major William Mathew Ormsby was born in 1814 in Mercer County, Pa. He was a teamster, failed horse dealer, citizen-at-large, visionary and a founding figure in Nevada history and the state’s capital, Carson City. He was killed in 1860 during the Pyramid Lake Paiute uprising.

The other subject of Bayer’s portrayal, William B. “Lucky Bill” Thorington, was born in 1812 in Chenango County, N.Y. Thorington was a resident of Carson Valley in the 1850s and was known from Salt Lake City to San Francisco as a gambler and a “Robin Hood” who helped needy neighbors and immigrants alike. He was convicted and hung in 1858 for being an accessory to murder after the fact, although there was never any evidence proving his guilt.

During the 1850s, Major Ormsby and Lucky Bill were arch rivals on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. Both were pivotal players in the development of Nevada Territory and Carson City, each spearheading his own proposal for a new territory. Their story is one of intrigue, plots and violence, and a story little remembered today.

Chris Bayer is an author, historian, musician and storyteller with a deep love of the history of Carson Valley and Carson City as well as Northern Nevada and California. He has a passion and talent for bringing history to life while sharing well-known and little-known facts that leave his audiences with a clearer picture of the entire story.

The event is sponsored by Soaring NV, Douglas County, Bently Ranch, Dr. James the Dentist, NV Energy, Ridge Tahoe Resort, Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce, Carson Valley Inn, Carson Valley Times, Carson Valley Accounting, Horse Tales Magazine, Allied Sanitation and the Frances C. and William P. Smallwood Foundation. This event is also made possible with the assistance of Nevada Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The cost is $5 for adults, free for members and for 16 years and younger.

Also scheduled at Dangberg is an appearance by David C. Antonucci, who will speak on his book, “Fairest Picture: Mark Twain at Lake Tahoe,” at 10 a.m. Saturday.

In 1861, Samuel Clemens, the man who would become Mark Twain, hiked to Lake Tahoe to stake a claim for a timber ranch. He spent many blissful days on the lake but carelessly allowed his campfire to escape, creating a spectacular wildfire. He later wrote about his experiences in his 1872 memoir, “Roughing It.”

Antonucci’s book follows Twain’s footsteps from Carson City to the locations where he camped and relaxed at Stateline Point, Tahoe Vista, and Carnelian Bay; the same places that inspired him to declare Lake Tahoe, the “fairest picture the whole earth affords.”

Antonucci gives entertaining and informative presentations on science and history to environmental groups, news media, conference groups, historical societies, and community organizations. He is also a regular lecturer at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center. His presentation will include rich supplemental graphics, such as photos, maps, video clips and diagrams, and is suitable for general audiences, with the book available for sale and signed by the author.

His presentation, part of the park’s Dangberg Summer Festival, is sponsored by Soaring NV, Douglas County, Carson Valley Accounting, Horse Tales Magazine and the Frances C. and William P. Smallwood Foundation. Alpen Sierra Coffee Company will provide complimentary coffee and 88 Cups & More will provide baked treats. The outdoor event invites visitors to bring their own seating. Dogs are not permitted.

Dangberg is hosting its final Chautauqua performance of the season on Aug. 23 by Juanita Westbrook as “Cathay Williams: Buffalo Soldier.” The final speaker of the season will be author Melba J. Ray-Leal, who will give a presentation about her book, “Women and the Pony Express,” on Aug. 19.

For a full schedule of events, go to