Melodramas connect us to history
There’ve been two lynchings and no legal executions in Carson Valley’s long history.
A melodrama this weekend is based on the lynching of Lucky Bill Thorington, a famous gambler, sometime benefactor and the man who jumped H.F. Dangberg’s first claim.
The legend is that Thorington greeted Dangberg from the porch of his cabin with a shotgun, and asked “What are you going to do now Dutchman?”
According to Sally Zanjani’s excellent recounting of the early settlement of Carson Valley, “Devils Will Reign,” Thorington ended up being the victim of a group of settlers from Honey Lake. They accused him of helping house a horse thief and a murderer, and there wasn’t much Bill could do to defend himself by the time they arrived. There was never any indication that the actual subject of their search was ever found or punished.
The other lynching in Carson Valley occurred nearly 40 years later when Adam Uber was taken from the jail in Genoa and strung up for shooting a beloved Gardnerville resident.
That tale has been retold many times. In defense of the Gardnerville lynch mob, there had never been a legal execution because murderers kept digging their way out of the jail, which was not very secure.
While the melodramas make light of these are sad moments in Douglas County history, they do serve a purpose to help support our historical society.
We believe that our future is inextricably linked with our history, even if sometimes we take that history with a wink and a nod.