Mottsville cemetary gets new flagpole
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.
Recently, several Carson Valley residents with an interest in the Mottsville Cemetery decided to enhance this hallowed ground with a simple flagpole.
Bill Mendes, who owned and operated Carson Valley Meats for 33 years, donated the 35-foot iron flagpole from the recently closed Gardnerville slaughterhouse.
“I wanted to be sure we had a flagpole to fly the American flag,” he said. “I was awful close to Papa (Fred) Dressler and Melvin Schwake who are buried at Mottsville and my wife bought some plots there. I said I didn’t want to be buried in a cemetery without a flagpole.”
During casual conversation among friends, fencing contractor Dave Tyndall told Mendes he would move the pole for free. After it arrived at the cemetery, board member Aldo Biaggi painted the huge pole and Tyndall and Dennis Wills installed it.
Mendes also donated a United States flag that had been given to him by former U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon.
“It’s a beautiful flag that has been flown over the White House,” Mendes said.
Mottsville Cemetery board member Knox Johnson, who was on hand at the installation ceremony, said the act of moving the flagpole was no small gesture.
“It was great of Bill to donate the pole,” he said. Johnson took pictures of the installation.
Mendes said another Valley resident had already approached him for the flagpole after Carson Valley Meats closed down.
“I almost gave the flagpole to Senator Jacobsen,” he said. “I think he might have wanted it for the Fredricksberg Cemetery, but I wanted to be sure we kept it at Mottsville.”
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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