A lesson handed down to us by immigrants
May 8, 2006
May and with the first of the month spring calvers, like ourselves, put their cows and yearling heifers in with the bulls starting next year’s calf crop. Snow pack is still heavy. The river is up running fast and high. Water is easy to spread out thick across the pastures. Warmer weather has brought the grass on nicely and this year’s calves are growing fast. Beef prices are holding steady. Not much to complain about. New buds are on the trees and RVs are sprouting on the highway.
Exploring and traveling seems to be what one does with warm weather and daylight staying on longer. Historical exploration is something that happens almost everyday on our place. The concrete irrigation boxes have initials and dates set in the forms. Some are recent some are generations old. Out buildings have artifacts like old newspapers stuffed into walls. Machinery stored in the shop has engines of literal horse power not gasoline conversion. History is spread out all over the ranch. Indian grinding stones are unearthed when plowing. The horse drawn carriage hides under dust and cobwebs. The Emigration Trail of 1854-75 is marked around the reservoirs.
Rope burns were one of the things my husband pointed out to me the first time he drove me up into the mountains to show me where the ranch reservoirs were located. Around Red Lake, a relinquished reservoir off of Highway 88, rope burns are clearly visible on certain trees from when the Emigrant Trail wagon train passed through. This section of the Trail was so steep and narrow the emigrants wrapped ropes around the trees and used them to pulley up the wagons when horses and oxen could not do it alone.
This Emigration Trail is described by Jess Machado, stated in the Nevada Appeal as once considered the foremost authority on the Emigrant Trail.
“In 1854 trains came through Hope Valley and up over Kit Carson Pass that totaled for the season 800 covered wagons, 1,900 head of oxen and cattle.
It is recorded that the ratio of people was 16 men for every woman and three women for every child. Coming this route took them on average 123 days over a period of 2,100 miles beginning usually at St. Joseph, Mo., into Placerville or Sacramento averaging 17 miles per day.
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Remember, not everyone had a covered wagon; some had buggies or surreys, even wheelbarrows – they came with what they had.”
The generations that came to build this ranch in 1872 near the end of the Emigrant Trail fame were German immigrants and came not in covered wagon, but on the train into Reno.
From there a rancher from Carson Valley with a hay wagon large enough to carry this multiple-generation family gave them a lift to the St. Charles Hotel in Carson City. From Carson City this family went as far as Carson Valley where they bought a farmstead and established their home.
They were immigrants proud to learn English, take their citizenship test and swear an oath of allegiance to the United States of America.
They came to find a better place than their original war-torn country. They never considered any immigrant would do less to be a citizen of their new county.
They also understood why so many would come and try.
n Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher.