Perhaps in its original state, White River Valley was better adapted to stock raising than anyother industry. When the first white men came into the territory, thousands of acres of unfencedrangeland, clear springs of varying capacity scattered throughout the valley spreading and flowingoutward to create oases of lush meadowlands made it a veritable cattleman's paradise. Newcomerslooking for opportunity were quick to realize the possibilities and as has been recorded elsewherein this history, from the late sixties and early seventies a number of ranches had been establishedalong the White River stream as well as in that part of the valley that lies in what is presently Nye County. And centrally located in the valley were the two ranches to which the Mormon settlers cameusually designated as the Maddox and Tom Plane ranches.
The period from then through the turn of the century when the Mormon settlers came and forseveral years thereafter might be called the era of the big cattle empires. Most of the small ranchers built their herds from small beginnings but already thousands of cattle ranged in the Valley broughthere by a few influential promoters. One of these was J. R. Withington whose influence was felt throughout eastern Nevada. He was said to be the only millionaire in eastern Nevada and his wide interests ranged from mining and various business enterprises in the booming mining camp of Hamilton and others to ranching in White River Valley. He brought herds of cattle to the Maddoxand Tom Plane ranches which he had purchased in 1873 and it was to these two ranches theconfiscated church cattle were brought some years later when they were under the stewardship of Nichols and Parsons.
Another colorful figure responsible for introducing the cattle industry to eastern Nevada wasGovernor Jewett Adams. The story is told in the introduction to Industry of how he brought cattleinto Nevada a number of times and drove 5000 Longhorns to White River Valley from Texas in1882, the year he was elected governor of Nevada. In the course of his career he had a number ofpartners but the partnership best remembered by the early settlers of the Valley was his last one with William N. McGill, the Adams and McGill Company. The brand they used was DJ, D for DaveBiggs, a former partner, and J for Jewett Adams, and just as often it was called the D.J. outfit. In1898 they bought the Big Warm Springs ranch (Hotcreek) from James Riordan (uncle of the JamesRiordan who lived for many years on the Emigrant Springs ranch south of Lund) and made theHotcreek ranch their headquarters. John Hickman was a well-known foreman of this ranch for a number of years.
The big cattle drives in the spring and fall when 1000 to 2000 head of cattle were driven to Ely to the railroad were exciting times and anxious times for the herders. The drive from the varioussouthern ranges would take many days and was planned so that each day's drive brought them to water where they could be bedded down for the night. The cowboys took turns night-herding andthe night herders had to be especially alert for anything that might disturb the cattle and start astampede, which, strangely enough, happened oftener at night when they were bedded down thanin the daytime when the herd was on the move.
Many old time residents recall the excitement when these great herds passed by Lund, betweenthe town and the hills to the east, raising great clouds of dust out of which came the bawling of thecattle, a cacophony of sound, constant, unremitting, ranging from high C to low bass and punctuatedby the "yahoos" of the cowboys keeping the strays in line and urging the herd forward. The gap theyhad to pass through between the spring and the hills was quite narrow and the line stretched for milesand took hours to stream past the town.
As I have recorded, John L. Whipple was in charge of the remaining cattle on the Home Ranch,which were being sold when it was profitable. In the fall of 1901, Thomas Judd sent his son, James,Jack Oxborrow and Earl Ashworth to La Verkin with a herd of these cattle to pasture for the winter.
Some of the settlers brought small herds of cattle with them. George Fawcett Jr. told of havingSam Judd drive a herd from southern Utah into Cave Valley for him and leave them at Lanter'sranch. Alex and Robert Reid brought cattle from the San Pete area in Utah and I have often heard my father, Robert Reid, tell of taking care of cattle for the Justesen outfit in Spring Valley inexchange for cattle to add to his herd. Others brought cattle or worked for the big outfits to get theirstart. Many of the young boys found work with the big cattle companies as soon as they were old enough, especially the D.J. outfit and gained much valuable experience they could use later in their own operations. Mr. Hickman, as the "boss'', was held in high regard and to be a cowboy for the D.J.outfit carried a certain prestige.
As the big cattle spreads were phased out cattle raising among the settlers increased and manyof them eventually had sizeable herds of their own. J. L. Whipple acquired the Horton ranch at Sunnyside, Amos Gardner bought the Forest Home ranch near Hotcreek, James Riordan took overthe Emigrant Springs ranch that had been in his family since 1870, and the Hendrix brothers, Ervin,Gideon, Lorain and Lee, purchased the old Lewis ranch, the southern most ranch in the Sunnyside area and one of the first established in the Valley. All of these acquired herds of beef cattle. Among the Lund settlers who made beef cattle either their main enterprise or part of a diversified farmoperation were the Gublers, Reids, Carters, Peacocks, David and George Gardner and GeorgeFawcett.
The range was open and cooperative effort in roundups, branding, dehorning, cattle drives, etc. was the rule. The ranches to the south served as headquarters to begin the drives with a crew of cowboys made up of the boys and young men of the families involved and some regulars who chose to earn their living hiring out for the season or as regular ranch hands. John Whipple or Jim Riordan, more experienced cattlemen, usually directed the operation sending the cowboys in groups todifferent areas making sure the territory was covered thoroughly. As the circle widened a chuckwagon or more was sent out with food and bedrolls. One or more wranglers were often needed forthe extra string of horses they took for the "remuda" taken from the Spanish "remuda de caballos"meaning relay of horses. The cattle ranged wide from the Cove area to Ward Mountain and into Cave Valley, where the ranches there might again serve as headquarters for a time.
When evening came they gathered at a camp agreed upon and when the camp cook called, "Come and get it!", they came. Then came the part that makes cowboy life seem so glamorous in retrospect as they gathered around the campfire, singing, telling stories and recounting the activities of the day. Without discounting the hard grueling work, long hours and disagreeable weather conditions under which they worked, old timers remember their cowboy days with nostalgia. The close ties and camaraderie of this phase of the American scene has no counterpart. In addition to the ranchmen mentioned, there were Murray and Vern Whipple, Francis Riordan, Charlie Stevens, Carl Stevens, Jim Carter, Robertand Steel Reid, Ernest Gubler, Arthur and Lafe Carter, the Sinfieldbrothers, Sam, Elvin (Dad), Fern and Roscoe(Rock), Gene Peacock, Dard Bruno, Ben Gardner, Loren O'Donnell, Howard Gardner, Neil Gardner, Ashby Harrison, Garr Ashby.
They sometimes began their careers early. Arthur Carter, who had lost his father at an early age tells of going on his first roundup in Cave Valley when he was about twelve years old. As JimRiordan was giving the men their various assignments for the day, pointing to Arthur, he turned to Carl Stevens and said, "Carl, you take this little jigger with you."
Spring and fall were the busiest times. In the spring the new calves were gathered together inwhat was designated as "the Lane", branded and earmarked with the brands of the different ownersbefore the cattle were taken to the various ranges where the feed was good for summer grazing. Inthe fall they were rounded up and those that were not sent to market were put in feed lots for the winter or sometimes fed extra hay on the open range.
Usually the cattle put in Cave Valley were trailed through Sheep Pass south of Lund or WaterCanyon and Sawmill to the north, but often men on horseback would take one of two precarious shortcuts over the mountain called the Hendrix and Reid trails. The Hendrix trail had been used firstby the Hendrixes to snake logs out of the mountains to build a stable. On the Reid trail Robert Reid had filed on a small spring near the top of the mountain and put in a watering trough. Nearby, hissons, Robert L. and Steel, his nephew, Hugh, and Arthur Carter had built a cabin as an overnight camp to avoid the steep descent of the mountain in the dark.
This story, told by Lafe Carter, describes the Reid trail. One time Sam Sinfield and Lauren Hendrix decided to take some cows over the trail instead of the long way round. When Ern Gubler arrived on horseback at the camp the next morning, he spoke of having seen cow tracks along the trail. "We didn't leave any tracks on that trail," Lauren said, "Just blood and hair."
At another time all the young people in town decided to ride up the trail on horseback and campfor a couple of nights in the mountains. As the horses struggled for footing, single file up the steep,narrow trail and dislodged rocks went cascading down the mountainside, 1 decided to trade the spirited horse I was riding to one of the boys for a more placid mount. The Reids prided themselves on their horses and my brother, Steel, said to me, "The horse you were riding is much more sure-footed on this kind of trail than the one you traded for." Nevertheless we reached the top with only one serious mishap. The horse Kenneth Gardner was using for a pack animal rolled down the sideof the mountain and cut a gash in its leg on a jagged rock so that it had to be taken back to town tobe doctored..
Riding ponies were no problem. The large herd of mustangs, wild descendants of the horses introduced into America by the Spanish Conquistadors soon after its discovery by Columbus, were there for the taking and breaking. When horses were needed a group of cowboys would surrounda herd of mustangs, driving them gradually towards a convenient corral. When they were corraled the cowboys would choose the ones they wanted to keep and turn the rest loose. The trick lay inkeeping the chosen ones from bolting with the rest of the herd. This required some skill in ropingas well as ponies trained to turn on a dime in response to their rider's slightest suggestion with thereins. A skillful rider and a well trained horse worked together as one entity.
Then came the informal rodeo with all the cowboys' roping and bronc riding skills brought intoplay. Bets were placed and excitement ran high. Everyone conceded that there were few horses that Murray Whipple or Dard Bruno couldn't ride. They were both long, rangy cowboy types whose grace and ease on a horse was a beautiful sight. I have heard it said that Murray's anticipation and response to a bucking horse's every move and convolution made it look as easy as sitting in a rocking chair. Others rode a1so-with more or less success and much good-natured banter. This sport might last for weeks or until the horses were sufficiently broken to be petted and fed until they were gentle enough to be trained to work. This type of home style rodeo soon became an annual event at the Twenty fourth of July celebration. The custom has continued to the present day and though over theyears the performance has become more staged, it still has the old time country atmosphere that draws large crowds to the celebration.
In addition to mustangs, herds of wild burros roamed the area. Murray had one he had trained for a pack animal that he called Betty. The Whipples insisted that Betty could tell time. She wouldfollow the outfit with the camp gear on her back until mealtime. Then she would stop, let out a loud"hee haw" and refuse to move until she had her dinner. Murray said he wanted Steel Reid to havea Betty to carry his camp outfit so one evening they corralled a herd of burros but the next morning when they went out the little creatures had escaped and by this time were far, far away.
Arthur Carter tells of a time when Jim Carter worked as an extra in a number of western movies in Hollywood about 1914 to 1916. When he came back he brought two Hollywood trick riders withhim, Curly Eagles and Jim Campbell. Arthur remembers going to Cave Valley with them to corral mustangs when they herded the mustangs into the corral through chutes made of long strips of red,white and blue bunting which they had brought with them.
Another celebrity about whom the cowboys in later years could say, "I knew him when," was Will James. He spent four summers on the Riordan ranch trapping wild horses. He rode, ate, sleptand worked with the other cowboys until he and a companion got into trouble with the law forrustling a herd of cattle in Cave Valley. The cattle were shipped and his companion got away withthe money but Will James confessed, was tried in Ely and sentenced to two years in prison. It was there the local color he had gathered as a cowboy found expression in books about horses that delighted young people (Smoky is the one I remember best) illustrated by himself with pictures that captured the action, the fear, the wild beauty of the mustangs with which he had become so familiar.
Cooperation among the cattlemen extended to drives to the railroad to market the cattle. These herds were perhaps not as large as the company drives of an earlier day but still when the cattle from the various individual herds were put together the herds were large enough to create some problems. Lafe Carter told Effie Read of a time when he and Ern Gubler had four hundred head bedded downat a camp in the north end of White River Valley and they stampeded five times in one night. SteelReid and Howard Gardner, who were taking the second watch, thought the trouble started when a horse broke its tether and as Lafe described the scene, "The cattle were on their feet in a flash andall we could see were horns and tails and heels." After the cattle have stampeded once they are very nervous and the least thing can spook them again. So it happened with this herd and no one in campgot any sleep that night.
Cave Valley has been closely linked with White River Valley since the beginning of settlement. Some of the first settlers came into White River by way of Cave Valley bringing cattle which they left on the range there and ever since it has been used as range for the cattle of White Riverstockmen. Every year during deer season a camp is established there and some of the men go backyear after year as much, I think, to relive the old days of the cattle camp as to hunt deer. This, inpart, is a history called Cave Valley written by Neil Gardner, Sr.
"Cave Valley--the Stockman's Paradise, is a fertile mountain valley situated in the northwestcorner of Lincoln county and the southeast end of White Pine. It is a large valley almost completely shut off from the outside world by high mountain ranges. To the east is the high Patterson mountain and on the west is the Egan Range, while on the north and south are lower hills and passes. Its valleyfloors and benchland constitute approximately 200 square miles of good grazing land and thousandsof head of cattle and sheep have ranged over its grassy terrain for the past one hundred years. Hundreds of fat cattle are shipped from it every year. Large bands of wild horses commonly knownas "mustangs" roamed the valley floors and from these bands came the saddle stock used by thecowboys in pursuit of their daily vocation known as "cow-punching."
But though it is now a peaceful cattle country, its past was quite different and it is stillremembered for its exciting and colorful deeds of the old west. Mining, lumbering and freightingwere among the major industries and even now on still cold nights one can imagine he can still hear the clanking of loose spokes and wagon beds of the once great oxen and mule freight outfits thattraversed the valley in the dim past.
The old Parker freight station and block house that once rang with the noise and din of the freightteams coming in and going out, whose walls protected many from marauding Indians, still standsa silent and grim sentinel over its decaying but once gay past. This station was built sometime in thelate 1860's or early 70's by George Parker, an old time "bull whacker" who freighted between Pioche, Lincoln county's major mining camp, Mineral City (Now Ely), Ward, Taylor, Cherry Creek, and on to Cobre, all in White Pine.
Jim Lanter, a born Missourian, who was among the first settlers in the valley, located the Lanter ranch where he made a successful career in ranching and livestock raising which lasted until hisdeath in the early 1900's, after which the ranch became the property of Jim Riordan, a rancher in thead joining White River Valley. Mr. Lanter also contributed much to the freighting industry of thearea and did a lot of "bullwhacking" himself.
While Parker's was the main station in the valley, some fifteen miles farther north was anotherwell known and patronized campground known as "Bullwhack Summit" station. A clear stream of mountain water and its location, halfway between Parker's and Willow Creek, a distance just right for a day's drive with a slow moving ox team, made it ideal for a campsite.
Mr. Parker was only one of the many freighters who traveled this route during the boom days ofthe afore mentioned mining towns. It was the main connecting line between these camps and many other freight teams traveled it. Stage coaches carrying passengers, mail and oftimes gold, made the irregular trips through the valley, camping at night, or for a rest and change of teams at Parker Stationas well as others along the route. Blacksmith facilities and materials for repairing or replacing broken wagons or lost or worn out shoes on the livestock were kept here. The outfits would often lay over for a day or two to make these repairs. Gay times were often had on these occasions when the freighters, mail carriers, cowboys and ranchers would get together for a little celebration which quite often progressed from a little one to several days of revelry.
In addition to the major enterprises, freighting, ranching and livestock raising, mining andlumbering were of some importance in the early industries. Two steam operated sawmills, locatedon the west side of the valley, one in Shingle Canyon and the other in Sawmill Canyon, furnished much of the lumber and shingles for the surrounding country, while the Lanter, Patterson and Horn silver mines on the east side contributed greatly to the freight loads of the mule teams. Many wild tales are told of the bold hold-ups and stage robberies when stages carrying gold and silver shipments were stopped and relieved of their strong boxes by masked bandits. Great herds of cattlebeing shipped to the eastern markets from the ranches to the north and west, trailing to the rail center at Pioche would pass through the valley each spring and fall, leaving deep trails in the rich soil fortime and the elements to erase.
The habitation consisted of five ranches located in the north central part. The Lanter Ranch,though passing through many hands since Old Jim Lanter's time, still retains its first name, while the others have all been changed many times. The Cave Ranch got its original name from the large underground cave there, but has since been known by several names, the Stevens, the O'Donnell, andGardner, and Mike's Place. The Joe Travis Ranch is now known as the Haggardy Ranch, and theold Parker Station has been changed to the Dan Riordan place. But regardless of names, each has helped in making history of the old west and contributed greatly to the prosperity of the valley andthe counties to which they belong.
But time moves on and with the coming of the railroads, the trucks and all the modern methods of transportation, the final chapter was written in a grand old story book of yesterday. The trampling hoofs of the trailing herds are silenced, the rolling freight wagons abandoned, and the sovereigns ofthe fabulous old west have crossed over the summit into the sunset of time. But cattle still graze inthe fertile valley, the lone some coyote still sends its mating call to the moon and the cowboys gather their beef, keeping alive the ghost and memories of the grand old days in Cave Valley."
- Neil Gardner, Sr.
When the big cattle trucks began coming in to haul the cattle to market Jim Riordan scoffed,"What's the matter? Can't they walk?" But this was one indication that a new era was beginning forthe cattle industry. The men began hauling their horses in trucks or horse trailers to the differentranges and as Mick Oxborrow points out, they can go out in the morning, round up the cattle in from three to five hours, load up their horses and drive back home that night.
A crisis in the cattle industry in White River Valley came in the early 1930's with the general depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929. In the winter of 1932 the town wasvirtually isolated for several weeks by deep snow but this was followed by two years of severedrought in eastern Nevada. Many cattle died on the range and others were so poor the cattle industryin White River Valley faced disaster. In 1934, as part of the recovery program under Franklin D.Roosevelt, the government subsidized the cattlemen by buying the cattle that had little chance for survival at around eighteen dollars a head and also distributed surplus wheat they had bought from other needy farmers, to those who needed it most. This gave the ranchers a chance to put what were left of their herds in feedlots and save enough of them to start building again.
Another government depression emergency measure that aided the ranchmen was the C.C.C. program. This had a twofold purpose, to aid the thousands of young men in the metropolitan areas who were in dire need of employment and to implement a number of projects that various groups needed but could not afford to finance. One of these C.C.C. camps was located at Sunnyside and they built or improved auxiliary roads for the cattlemen, developed water holes, put up fences anda number of other things the ranchers requested.
Also in 1934, the Taylor Grazing Act was passed, followed by the Soil Conservation Act in 1935and the government control and range restrictions they imposed changed the picture for the stockmen as much as modern equipment and new methods did. There had always been some differences over the range or water holes or whose cow this calf belonged to but on the whole the feeling had beenone of cooperation rather than competition. Since a few of the ranchmen kept sheep as well as cattle, even the proverbial feud between the sheepmen and cattlemen was usually confined to complaints that the herds of sheep passing through destroyed the forage so that it did not grow back.
With the end of the free range some rivalry over range rights developed (priorities were determined by former use) and it was alleged with some justification that the act favored the bigstockraiser over the small one. Although there have been many complaints about its restrictions, its programs have benefited the ranchers in many ways in reversing the trend toward overgrazing,overstocking, etc. with the resulting soil erosion, winter loss of stock and other ills. However its immediate effect was that livestock raising in the Valley became a more individualistic operationand less cooperative.
In 1946 the Taylor Grazing Service merged with the General Land Office into the Bureau of Land Management which continued and expanded on the work begun by these other agencies. A number of local people have served and are serving on these agencies. Van Petersen and Max Reidhave been on the Soil Conservation Board at the state level for a number of years. Vance McKenzieand Van Gardner have also served on the A.S.C.S. committee at the local level. At present Vance McKenzie is Chairman of this committee and Ronald Ivins is a member, Ernest Gubler and Jesse Gardner both served on the Advisory Board for the B.L.M. for many years.
For the variety of reasons I have mentioned and others, cattle raising as an occupation is not an easy one. Weather is one of its greatest enemies. Another episode that deserves mention was the "haylift" of 1948. Deep continuous snow had kept the stockmen from the usual trucking of feed toherds on the range or even to remote feedlots. In the emergency small planes flew over and dumped hay to the isolated herds. As the pilots skillfully manipulated the planes into position volunteers rode with them to push the hay out of the hatch. Airsickness was an annoying accompaniment of this maneuver and Mark Oxborrow tells of being sick for a while and then pushing more hay for a while. A Hollywood film company saw the dramatic possibilities and came into the area to make a partlyfictional movie of this event.
The years have brought changes. The Gardner ranch at Forest Home had been abandoned. The Whipple and Riordan ranches have passed through many hands and no longer support the herds ofcattle they once did. The Hendrix ranch was sold to the Fish and Wildlife Service for a gamepreserve and recreation area. Some of the descendants of the original stockmen in the Lund area arestill in the business while others have sold or leased and retired or found another occupation andperhaps moved away. Some who are still running cattle are the Carters, Albert Gubler, CarlWillfong, Joe Peacock, Van Gardner, Max and Frank Reid, and Jerry and George Gardner on theJesse Gardner ranch on White River.
Cattle raising has, perhaps more than any other local industry, reflected the ups and downs of theeconomy and this has always put it in a rather hazardous situation. At present its future in the Valleyseems quite uncertain. Recent happenings and proposed developments in the county are sure toaffect the industry either positively or negatively. The completion of the Sunnyside Shortcut discussed elsewhere could facilitate marketing and perhaps give the livestock producer greater leeway in setting prices for his own product. The nature and extent of the effect of the proposed power plant in the county is hard to estimate and would depend very much on its location which at this time has not been determined. The "Sage Brush Rebellion" while not threatening the industry as such raises the questions--Who is better able to administer the resources to the best advantage ofthe users as well as future generations, the users themselves (ranchers, miners, recreationists, etc.)represented by their state governments, or a federal bureaucracy?--and What changes would the livestock industry undergo as to range, water, etc., should the movement be successful?
But the big question mark is the proposed MX missile for which White River Valley is one ofthe principal sites under consideration. This raises a number of questions that at this point it is morethan possible cannot be answered even by those who claim to have given the matter thorough study. Not the least of these concerns water. What would happen to the springs and wells already in use were the underground water tapped for the amount necessary for such a colossal project? And whatwould the project do to the range that is so vital to the livestock industry?