Many African-American families were early inhabitants of Sheridan
February 22, 2005
Not to far down Foothill Road, and adjacent to Centerville, there is a Nevada Historical Marker number 122, which indicates where the town of Sheridan is located.
The town supposedly began in 1855 with the help of Moses Job who named the mountain peak that cast its shadow over the town of Sheridan, Jobs Peak.
Prior to this in 1861, the small town already had a blacksmith shop, a store, a boarding house and two saloons.
It was considered in the biennial report of 1889-90 as the metropolis of the Carson River West Fork farmers.
A marriage bureau was established in Sheridan. It wasn’t long however before it became a land office. Most of the land applications were coming from Gardnerville. The problems of growth in Douglas County have been around since 1899.
It seems that Gardnerville and the surrounding areas were considered boom towns. As referenced in an article of that time, in The Record-Courier, the people did not wish this to happen.
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“What Carson Valley wants is steady, sure, prosperous growth and development.” Then as now, the County Commissioners were trying to determine what was the best way to accomplish this. At least the town of Sheridan was not marred by over development.
One of the early ranchers in the Sheridan area was Ben Palmer, an African-American. Since this is Black History month, it was fitting to include a little bit of his history in this article.
Palmer was also a drover, and in 1855 he bought 320 acres in this area, probably very near Autumn Hills. By 1857 his property ranked 10th in value within the entire county, he was listed as one of the largest taxpayers.
As a cattleman he drove 1,500 head from Seattle to the Carson Valley. It was a tremendous feat even by today’s standards.
During this time, Nevada was known as the Mississippi of the West, Ben Palmer, and his wife were not allowed to vote. However, they played a major part in Carson Valley politics. Palmer sat on several county boards.
There were three other African-American families around the Sheridan area. Charlotte, Palmer’s sister married Daniel Barber and they settled on 400 acres adjacent to Palmer.
Winfield and Sophia Miller also had large acreage near the Palmers. All of the them employed African American, White and Indian ranch hands without any discrimination problems.
Ben Palmer died in 1908 and is buried in the Mottsville Cemetery, along with his family. Winfield died in the 1860s. Sophia lived on for many more years. Many of the streets in the Carson Valley are named after these families.
Sheridan today is a lovely small community with several well maintained historical sites. It is where the Sheridan Fire Department is located that serves most of the Foothill area.
The history of this area is intriguing, while researching information about Sheridan I ran across several unsolved murders. There were rather risque gambling casinos even as far away as Markleeville.
There is not a mountain pass, canyon, trail or high mountain peak that does not host a historical secret.
All of which adds mystique to the area of Foothill and the Carson Valley.
— JoEtta Brown can be reached at JoetBro@aol.com.