The Tale of the Thran House
Since first laying eyes on this stately house on the corner of Hwy 88 and Dressler Lane in Gardnerville, I’ve loved it and yearned to learn about its history. So, when local author Karen Dustman sent a recent email I couldn’t wait to share her research with you. It is reprinted below courtesy of Clairitage Press.
“I’m going to build you a grand house in Carson Valley, like we have in Germany!” proclaimed Dietrich Thran to his wife. And a “grand house” Thran built, indeed! Completed about 1910 to 1911, the house featured stained glass over the front door, stately pillars out front, and a gigantic room upstairs for dancing.
Born in Germany July 15, 1864, Dietrich Thran arrived in Carson Valley when he was 17 years old. He applied for naturalization as soon as he could, becoming an American citizen in Oct. 1886. Dietrich worked for other ranchers and saved his pennies, and by late 1894 (at the age of 30), he was ready to find himself a wife. He returned to the Old Country and in May 1895 he came back to Carson Valley — bringing with him seven other Germans, including a fiancée!
Marie Dieckhoff, Dietrich’s intended, was all of 16 years old. They wasted no time: just one month after she set foot in Carson Valley, Marie was saying her “I dos.” She and Dietrich were married on June 29, 1895, at the home of Herman Thran, Dietrich’s brother. As a wedding gift, Dietrich presented her with a beautiful horse and buggy all her own. (He really knew how to charm a gal!)
Dietrich (popularly known as “Dick”) rented the Tucke Ranch that summer, and he and a friend purchased an expensive California thresher together for $1,000. Just one year later, Dick became a dad for the first time: little Emma Thran joined the family on Nov. 2, 1896. Baby Richard soon followed, in Dec. 1897.
Dick continued to do well, and by fall, 1897, he had purchased the 160-acre Marsh Ranch for $6,000, at the corner of today’s Highway 88 and Dressler Lane. The Thrans took possession of their new ranch the following spring.
Though the acreage was large, the living accommodations were anything but. Dick, Marie, and their growing family moved into a house so small that today it is used as a tractor shed. And “growing” their family was: their third child, Carl, arrived in Sept. 1899, and little Marieken (who would grow up to marry Chris Cordes) followed two years later, in 1901.
The Thran family — and their four children — originally lived in this small building — today a tractor shed.
In 1908, Dick had a large barn constructed on his ranch (built, it’s believed, by noted barn-builder Henry Hanke), complete with a concrete floor for the milking side. But still, the Thran family continued to reside in the small shed-like structure. (Priorities, you know!) Finally, in April 1910, the Thran family went back to Germany for a four-month visit. Seeing the large and beautiful German homes, Dick promised his wife, Marie, he would build a similar home for her in Carson Valley. And true to his word, he did! Their graceful two-story home on Dressler Lane was constructed about 1911 (possibly also by Hanke).
The Thrans’ dairy operation continued to thrive. Eventually, the family was milking some 65 cows. They also raised pigs and chickens and sold eggs. The shed the family had lived in for over ten years was converted to a house for the separators, and later, a chicken coop.
Dick Thran passed away in 1937 and Marie in 1946, and the family home was passed down to their three boys. Son Carl never married and continued to live in the house all his life. After Carl’s death in 1980, the property was purchased by Jack and Marie Martin, who still live there today. But oh, the deferred maintenance they discovered when they took over!
“When I first walked through the old house, I cried,” said Maria. “I said, ‘We’re living here?’” The beautiful front columns were rotted and infested with bees. The roof was so decayed blue sky showed through. And inside walls were soot-covered from the coal-burning stove. “One of the workers was out on the balcony and put his foot through the balcony floor,” recalls Maria.
The large upstairs room, once used for dances, was cluttered with — well, stuff. “Over the years, when they had something they didn’t know what to do with, they just put it upstairs,” explains Maria.
But one special treasure was discovered in the original old shed. All dirty and greasy, it was a steamer trunk, filled with old auto parts. Maria rescued it from the trash pile and made sure it was saved, cleaned and refurbished.
It just might be the same trunk that accompanied 16-year-old Marie Dieckhoff all the way from Germany to her new life in America.
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