Douglas County history unfolds in Remember When column
Among the many varied jobs I do at The Record-Courier, the one I find the most enjoyable is doing the Remember When column. It gives me a chance to read the history of Douglas County, as it unfolded, from firsthand information. Granted, journalistic style in the early years was written heavily saturated with personal opinion, but it has given me a great appreciation for just how valuable a newspaper is to a community in recording events, the opinions of the times, the pros and cons of certain issues, a real snapshot of how and why things are the way they are today.
The time frame I have enjoyed the most has been the early 1900s when I find references to some of my favorite places and things like the building of the town of Minden, the arrival of the V&T Railroad, the completion of Topaz Lake and all the problems those projects encountered as they grew to completion. And, with the building of one town, the slow decline of other towns as commerce and mining meccas. As Minden-Gardnerville grew, Genoa slipped from prominence as the county seat of government, the schools and industry became more centered around Minden and Gardnerville.
The Record-Courier has always reached far beyond the borders of Douglas County in its reporting, from the turn of the century’s current events, up to today, giving sister counties, Alpine, Mono and Lyon, as much interest as events happening in the close proximity of the Valley. It was plain to see that Minden and Gardnerville were growing to accommodate trade from ranching and mining towns like Markleeville, Bodie, Aurora, Bridgeport and Smith Valley, and it was those towns that helped accelerate Carson Valley growth. The V & T extended its line from Carson City to Minden with promising talk of going further south and east. The Southern Pacific was offering competition as it extended lines to Mason Valley, luring trade from the surrounding mining towns.
The paper announced the arrival of modern convenience as electricity became a household necessity, telephones were becoming more common, roads were built to accommodate vehicles and horses were retired to be replaced by mechanical means as ranching modernized production. Organization of volunteer fire departments, weather, industry, social events and more; the whole evolution appears in the pages of The Record-Courier, almost 130 years of growth and change. Other papers preceded The Record-Courier but none have survived as long under the same masthead.
Stories of the people that settled the area come to life on a personal level as births, deaths and marriages, accidents, illnesses, fires and floods are all recorded in newsprint. Names still common to the Valley today: Dangberg, Dressler, Springmeyer, Settelmeyer, Scossa, Hellwinkel, Cardinal, Stodieck, Fettic, Cordes and so many more. The list is endless and a testament to the generations who have remained in the Valley. Common names of common places today, Lampe Park, Gilman Avenue, Chichester Estates and others, come to life on the pages of The Record-Courier as the namesake people in everyday life gave more meaning to the places that bear those names today.
Past issues of The Record-Courier are public record, available on microfilm at the Douglas County Public Library, free for anyone to read. It’s a fun adventure to explore our past, to discover the valuable heritage left to all of us by those who came before us. Other sources of information can be found at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center and the Douglas County Historical Society. Because all of these resources are readily available, the history of our area has a solid foundation and it can keep on keepin’ on.
— Jonni Hill can be reached through The Record-Courier at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 782-5121, ext. 213,
or after hours