Learning about the Kirman Fields
I have been spending time with Bob Ellison the last few weeks in preparation for this journal and several to come. I think we have some great history to pass to you. So, keep reading if you are interested in more about Banana Flats.
In this edition I want to discuss the flat land north of Stephanie all the way to Carson City. We drive by it everyday and barely give it a thought. I have always thought when driving by that there must be secrets there. Bob assures me that there are in fact many.
Bob was able to verify that as far back as Sept. 7, 1864, the land was owned by Timothy. G. Smith and was known then as Hot Springs Ranch. T.G. Smith was elected as the third sheriff of Ormsby County in that same year. Bob believes he held the ranch in partnership with his brother Charles C. Smith who was the first sheriff of Washoe County. According to Bob, T.G. Smith operated a large livery stable located where the Carson City offices are now next to the capitol. T.G. Smith would bring his horses down to graze in the fields and to rest them as he rotated them in and out of the livery. The property was ideally located between the immigrant trail and the supply route which follows where Vicky is today. (Remember the route used to cross the river at McTarnahan bridge).
T.G. Smith was shot and killed in the line of duty and died on Dec. 17, 1868. His death predates The Record-Courier archives, so I wasn’t able to find out much about the circumstance. According to Bob, when the Federal Land Commission started issuing patents on the lands and C.C. Smith was one of the first to apply for a patent of 320 acres called Hot Springs Ranch. The patent was issued on Aug. 3, 1869. Subsequently the widow of T.G. Smith applied for an additional 320 acres which butted up against the northwest corner of the Hot Springs Ranch.
Some years later the property becomes known as Kirman Field most likely owned by Richard Kirman Sr. Kirman Sr. was a partner in one of the largest cattle operations in the state, Kirman and Rickey. His son Richard Jr. would become the governor of Nevada from 1934 to 1938. Kirman Jr. apparently didn’t like politics and went back to banking and pioneering the hardware business.
At some point in history the land is purchased by the Dangberg Ranch and is used for feeding the stock. The Kirman fields were ideal for winter pasture, where during the summer the grass would be allowed to grow. Then once winter hit, livestock would be moved into the fields for winter grazing. Dangberg Ranch owned the property until it is purchased by John B. Anderson and Nevis Industries owned by Tom and Sam Nevis. The property then was passed to Robert Helms. The land then changes hands to Don Bently and the Park Cattle Co.
At some point, 750 acres are owned by John B. Anderson. These acres would become the Incline Village Sewer Districts ponds that still exist today. It was March 1979 when the ponds were first purposed. By June 1979 it was said the project was “a plan to construct a $4.5 million 700-acre Carson Valley Marsh, the world’s largest using reclaimed water.” The sales pitch was that it would enhance wildlife in the wetland area. Prior to the ponds the sewer district was dumping the treated affluent in Jacks Valley ranches during the summer and straight into the Carson River during the Winter. That all came to a halt when the state required the district to find another way of disposing the treated affluent water. Between 1979 and 1981 county commissioners entered into an agreement which allowed the project to be constructed. Incline Village Sewer District still owns the initial 900 acres and continues to operate the ponds.
In June 1978, Tom Nevis and Sam Nevis had developed a partnership with Paul Unruh. At that time the proposal was to develop a “new town destined to reach a population of 10,000 over 10 years.” They promised it would be named Fremont and it was to be located north of Johnson Lane and would be independent of the rest of the county and might be the first incorporated city in Douglas County. It was quickly shot down by the county commission and it has never been resurrected, thankfully. By 1987, Robert Helms had purchased 20,000 acres of the Dangberg ranch. Being in the construction business there was a concern he would attempt to develop much of the agriculture land. Mr. Helms stated in an article with Treva Zeller that “I think it is one of the nicest areas in Northern Nevada and I wouldn’t think of harming it in any way.” By 1993 Helms was filing for bankruptcy and the assets were being distributed to pay for the companies’ debts.
The area had several unique locations. The first one was the Buckbrush Gun Club. The club had a lodge and operated between the 1920s up until the late 1980s. I have been unable to determine when the club ceased operations. There were several prominent members of the Buckbrush Gun Club. Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen was involved in managing the club which is evidenced by an ad he took out in the R-C looking for a caretaker in 1976. Bob tells me that it was often the gathering place for ranchers and legislators to sit back and discuss upcoming legislation. I would love to have a cigar in the lodge with a nice rum and coke. Unfortunately, the lodge burned down, again I am unable to determine when the fire occurred. With the passing of the prominent members and the burning of the lodge it appears the club never recovered.
The lodge was located near the Saratoga Hot Springs pond. Those ponds are known through out the valley as quite enjoyable. It has been rumored that many parties happened in the area. At one point the area was well kept and trash cans were present.
Unfortunately, on November 18, 1996, the body of Robert Dale Jackson was pulled from the springs by six teens at 7:45 p.m. It was reported that Mr. Jackson went down to the springs with a friend at 4:30 p.m. The friend left and Mr. Jackson stayed behind. The teens found him and called the Sheriff. Lance Modispacher told Joanna Welch, the R.C. reporter, that there was no foul play in Jackson’s death.
At the time the ponds were owned by Don Bently and were frequented by the public. In the 1996 article, Mr. Bently committed to fencing in the property. Access is restricted and you should avoid it as it remains private property.
So, on your next visit to Carson City take a look towards the east and think of all the history that occurred in the area. It not only brought us the Ferris Wheel (page 4 of The Ferris Wheel, 1993), but it was the site of many political discussions and plans. I will be picturing the cowboys taking the herds back and forth from one pasture to the other and then off to market. Additionally, we get to be on the receiving end of Inclines Sewer District.
The next Journal will have more about Banana Flats and how that came about. Please forgive me if something about the ownership is out of sync. I am sure there are details and owners I possibly missed. Stick with me as we explore the archives and speak to our long time Valley residents.
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