In his story of Cave Valley Neil Gardner, Sr. speaks of the ox-drawn freight outfits thattraveled the route through that valley in the early days. Kate Adams, in a story she wrote of theRiordan ranch, spoke of an ox yoke that was found on the ranch in 1910 indicating that oxen had been used on the ranch after the Riordans settled there in 1870. But by the time the Mormon settlers came horses were the accepted mode of travel.
In March 1898 the first Mormon settlers to come settled in Preston and Albert Gee described their trip thus, "The weather was so bad that March and the roads so poor that it took two weeks to made the trip to White River Valley, a little less than three hundred miles. When they reached Osceola, the snow was falling so fast they could not keep a fire long enough to cook supper and during the night more than a foot of snow fell. On the night of March 20, 1898, the eleven men of the party camped in White River Valley on the Water Canyon Stream. It snowed that night and the next day the settlers moved on into Lund." Not all the newcomers who came at different times of year found travel conditions so difficult but many did and under the best conditions the way was long and traveling with a cow or more, and with the family crowded into the wagon with the furniture and chickens was never easy. (Neil Gardner mentions that some even brought pigs.) Some of the men came on horseback and went back for their families later.
Freighting with two, four, six, or eight span outfits has been described in another section but if one wanted to get somewhere in a hurry he used a light buckboard. Later people bought buggies for luxury travel and driving a well matched team of horses and a handsome buggy was a status symbol like driving a Cadillac.
Horse power had its hazards and nothing was more frightening than a runaway team. I remember my fright when my father deliberately let a runaway team run itself out on the open flat between Preston and Lund. But another time when I was riding with him in a covered wagon in a Twenty-fourth of July parade, the horses took fright and bolted. In my fright I clutched his arm and he roughly shook me off. I can understand that he was having all he could do to get the horses under control before someone in the parade or among the people lining the streets was hurt.
The roads that were traveled frequently were deep ruts cut by the wagon wheels passing over them in all kinds of weather. When the rut was so deep that the wheel sank down to the hub,alternate tracks were started which often made traveling even more difficult because the wheels would slip and slide from one track to the other. The ruts were filled to a foot or more with fluffy, white alkaline dust that clung to everything it touched and when the wind blew, as it frequently did, one literally could not see across the street.
For mechanized travel the train preceded cars. When Thomas Judd first came to Nevada he spoke of leaving Earl Ashworth with the wagon and proceeding from Milford by train to April Conference in 1898 and returning to Milford to meet Earl there to continue their journey to Nevada by team and wagon. The coming of the railroad into Ely in 1906 was especially convenient for the residents of the Valley.
Salt Lake City had a special importance for the people in the Valley for reasons other than that most of them had their roots in Utah. It was the closest large city and trade center. It was the center of Church activities with twice yearly General Conferences and the change from the St.George to the North Weber stake was for the convenience of railway travel. Many of the young people were sent to Salt Lake City, or Provo or Logan nearby for high school or college. And it had medical facilities when care was needed beyond that which could be provided locally. So for many years, even after cars came into general use, the train was almost always used for trips to Salt Lake City.
Although it seemed large to a child, the Nevada Northern was small compared to the Union Pacific that one transferred to at Cobre, but it had a parlor car that, instead of rows of seats with an aisle down the middle, had plush swivel chairs in a drawing room like settling that seemed the ultimate in luxury. Then, after transferring to the Union Pacific, traveling across the end of the great Salt Lake on the Lucin Cut-off was an adventure to be remembered.
The first car that came into Lund is described by Leland Hendrix in a history he wrote for a school project. The time was about 1908 and the car was a Pierce-Arrow. This great wonder came down Main Street which was nothing but a dust bowl with a troop of noisy, excited youngsters flocking after, turned at the corner where Milton Gardner's home now stands, went to the end of the street and stopped. I have no doubt the young people and probably some not so young, took this opportunity to look it over as carefully as they dared.
Lloyd (Mick) Oxborrow says that about 1912 his father and uncles, George, Eph and Ted Oxborrow, who were then living at Currant, bought a Thomas car. It didn't give much service and parts of this old car stood on one of the back streets of Lund for many years.
The first car to be bought in Lund was a Model-T Ford that Joseph Oxborrow purchased about 1914 to carry the mail. Everyone was excited and everyone had a turn taking a ride. I well remember my first ride. Joe and Sabra Oxborrow came one afternoon to take my father and mother and me for a ride. I got a little reputation as a psychic because I had had a dream that I went for a ride in this car and we got stuck and it happened just that way. We went through the field lanes and the car got stuck in a ditch. There hadn't seemed to be a very good reason to bridge the streams that crossed the lanes when a team of horses could wade through them pulling a wagon quite easily but they soon found that cars presented a different problem.
Up to this time the road from Lund to Ely angled north east for a short way at the north end of town which was at the corner of Ann Reid's corral and then followed a route north at the foot of the Egan Range, crossed the Water Canyon stream, on through the "thick cedars," and up over Rocky Summit. Several culverts had been built over deep gullies cut by floods coming down from the mountains but it was a picturesque drive. At the same time the Preston to Ely road on the west side of the Valley followed the general course of the road today and the two did not merge until just before they reached Murry Canyon.
About 1914 or 1915,the Preston people and some of the Lund men who had fields near the Preston fields (Eph Oxborrow, Peacocks, Reids) decided to try to store the spring run-off in a reservoir for irrigation during the dry summer months. They chose a site somewhat north and east of the present Blackjack Inn and separated from the present highway by a series of low rolling hills and went to work with horses and scrapers and built dams. The reservoir still fills with water at times but not long enough to help the farmers. Although the reservoir proved a failure at the same time they built a road north that joined the Preston road before it went over Berensen Summit. Gradually the old Lund road was abandoned and Lund people began traveling the road through Preston and up past the reservoir.
Travel by car at first had many drawbacks. The curtains were hard to adjust and failed to keep out the wind, cold and dust when they were needed most. Dust came up through the floorboards, flat tires were a frequent happening and the mechanical workings of this strange invention not at all dependable. The roads in good weather were no "cinch" and in bad weather a disaster.
Furthermore when the first automobiles appeared on the scene they would send the horses into a frenzy. (Could they have had a premonition they were going to be replaced?) The horses would dash to the far corner of the field or corral and stay there rearing, pawing, snorting and trembling until the monster had chugged out of sight. Perhaps the horses became a little more accustomed to these strange creatures when they were used so often to pull them out of a mud hole or tow them into town after some other difficulty. It is odd to see horses today stepping into a truck or horse trailer for a long ride when we remember how their ancestors reacted to cars and trains. But in those first years the standard derisive greeting from someone in a horse-drawn vehicle to a motorist out fixing a tire or tinkering with the engine was, "Get a horse!"
But in spite of the difficulties, one by one the towns people succumbed to the lure. The Metz that George Oxborrow used to carry the mail to Currant was one of the first. When the gas was low, as it usually was at the foot of Currant Creek summit, he had to back up the hill in order to get the gas to feed into the carburetor. In his autobiography Hugh Reid tells that in 1916 when he, Leone and Buelah Whipple, Zella and Lee Hendrix, Emerald McKenzie, Bliss Ivins, Mildred and Steel Reid, Howard Gardner and Arthur Carter went to school in St.
George the only car in the caravan that took them down was John Whipple's. Robert Reid and David Gardner drove teams with a wagon and a buggy. In the spring of 1917 they all camehome in cars. Hugh says, "Hendrixes had bought a Dodge car, Uncle Bob (Reid) an Essex,(note--I am sure this was a Saxon Six) and McKenzies a Ford.
When cars began to be more generally used roads presented more of a problem. The road down Murry Canyon was especially hazardous. It was narrow and winding and in some places there was not room for two cars to pass. In that case one would back up, pull to one side andstop to allow the other to get past. Sounding their horns before rounding a curve to let anyone they might meet know they were coming was a safety measure as well as a matter of courtesy. And stopping to help a motorist in trouble was an unwritten code and another courtesy of the road.
Leland Hendrix had this story in the history he wrote, "One of the men from Lund was taking a load of hay to Ely to sell....when around the corner came a shiny black Model-T. When the four horse team saw this black devil popping and banging down the road they headed for the hightimber. Straight up the steep slope they went scattering hay from one end of the canyon to the other."
Although eventually most of the men owned automobiles, most of the older ones never felt entirely at ease with them. These men who had handled four and six horse freight outfits on rough mountain roads under all kinds of conditions with ease and assurance were never quite comfortable with the mechanical intricacies of this new mode of travel. It took a generation of growing up with cars for that to happen.
Laura Gubler Hendrix in her History of Two Gubler Families in America, tells this story of her father, Jacob Gubler: "By 1917 several people in Lund had courageously ventured into the course of progress. Their daring speculations were automobiles! Jake, with his oldest son, Ray,went into partnership and purchased a Model-T. The partnership soon dissolved with Ray fullowner. In later years Jake bought other cars. One memorable one was the new Chevrolet with windows. Some said, 'If you ride in a thing like that you'll sure get consumption!' Jake never mastered the art of driving but he managed to get where he was going. Any forward gear was suitable and often when he walked out of the house to go somewhere, the family followed, stood at a safe distance in the door yard and watched the 'take-off'. Once on a return trip from Ely, Jake's speed was too much for the turns down Murry Summit. His car left the road and landed right side up in a gully. Jake was not hurt. He said he 'picked the place to land.' From then on that spot was called 'Jake's Leap'."
About this time encouraging tourism in our own country became the national policy (SeeAmerica First was the slogan) and building and improving roads took on a new importance. One of the first organizations to attempt this on a large scale was the Lincoln Highway Association who decided to build a highway across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They found that their greatest obstacle to the completion of this road was the section that crossed Nevada not only because of the difficulties of building the road in some spots, but because the population of Nevada, then less than 80,000, could not support a road of that length that came up to their specifications. In 1916 a Federal Road Act was passed and the federal government gave the state aid partly in left-over war machinery and equipment. Also motor companies, notably General Motors and Willys-Overland donated money for the road. So the Lincoln Highway was built pretty much along the road laid out by Howard Egan and the Pony Express riders and also the oldstagecoach route, through Ely and on west to Reno through Eureka, Austin and Fallon. This little push gave impetus to road building in Nevada and it gained the reputation at one time of being among the states with the best roads in the nation.
One of these roads connected the Lincoln Highway with Los Angeles through Tonopah and followed the general route of the old Preston Lund road for about twenty miles. This Ely to Los Angeles highway was called the Roosevelt Highway at first for former President Theodore Roosevelt but later it became known as the Lincoln Highway Midland Trail.
Wide, graded, graveled roads with good drainage were an improvement but the next step was macadamized oiled roads. Not much had been done to improve the local roads until the early 1930's when one positive result of the depression was a Public Works Administration project that hired crews to work on the roads within the towns. It is probable that it was at this time that anew road was built from Preston to connect with the Ely-Tonopah highway where the Blackjack Inn now stands and the old road past the reservoir was abandoned.
Some sidelights are interesting if not directly pertinent to this endeavor. At this time Hugh and Ada Reid took care of feeding the highway crew. And another--Crime of any significance was a rarity in the Valley but one incident happened as a result of this project. Arthur Carter was delegated to get the payroll money for the P.W.A. workers from the bank in Ely and keep it in a safe in his store overnight. Someone who apparently knew of the procedure broke into the store one night, broke open the safe and took the money.
The road through Preston was oiled in 1934 and on through Lund in 1936 and records show that in 1936 right-of-way was given to the Highway Department through the Reid field and the Julius Gardner property at the north end of town and the Peacock Water Canyon field between Lund and Preston. Most of this land had been used as a road over the years without formal consent but the improved and refinished road had a number of advantages.
Sometime in the next decade (about 1947) the road to Sunnyside was built and oiled. Aright-of-way through Harold Ivins' and Albert Gubler's property at the south end of town gave direct access to the highway from Main Street. The road before had taken an abrupt turn at the corner, went east for a block and south for a block before continuing south out of town. Aboutthe same time the road north of Lund to the main highway was rerouted somewhat to bypass the residential part of Preston.
The route the settlers had used in the beginning to come from southern Utah to White River Valley was a comparatively easy and short way to southern Utah and Nevada and the Valley residents continued to use it frequently although there were oiled roads around by Ely and via the Tonopah highway. So even before the road to Sunnyside was oiled people began to push for a road from White Pine through Nye and Lincoln counties to join the main highway to Las Vegas. L. R. Ivins, who had moved to Overton in the early 30's to teach school, used the road frequently and tried repeatedly to interest various groups in the project. Also in the early 30's, when the CCC camp was at Sunnyside, the idea came up for consideration as a CCC project and Arthur Carter, James Riordan, John Whipple and David Gardner together with a Mr. Mathews who was in charge of the CCC camp, made a trip over the route to survey the possibilities. But nothing further was done at the time.
In 1937, Belle Gardner and Arthur Carter attended a Farm Bureau meeting in Caliente where they helped to get a resolution passed to apply to the P.W.A. through the organization for a Farmto Market road from Lund to Pioche. After a few months Arthur Carter had a letter from Senator Pat McCarran saying the request had been denied.
After the Sunnyside road and the road from Hiko to the Ely-Las Vegas highway had been oiled, the project began to appear more attainable. There was only about seventy miles ofunimproved road that could be bridged with comparative ease--no summits, no difficult cuts, nosteep grades and no curves of any significance. The chief drawbacks were comparatively shallowdips that could be ironed out quite easily.
Northern White Pine County had been indifferent (they had a road to southern Nevada they considered adequate), eastern Lincoln County was actively opposed (they felt it would take traffic from the road through their area.) But now the "Sunnyside Shortcut" as it became known began to get support other than from the Valley residents. As early as April 1940, Robert A. Allen, State Highway Engineer, noted, "Eventually the road south to meet with the one at CrystalSprings (Hiko) will be built as a shortcut on U.S. 93, but those funds, too, are rather meager, and I cannot promise, nor can anyone promise when this will be built."
He was right about the time being unpredictable. It wasn't until March 30, 1966 that the Ely Daily Times gave a full page to aerial and ground pictures by Bill Kohlmoos of the route with this comment, "An aerial view of the unimproved road proposed in the Sunnyside Shortcut shows the relative straightness and levelness of the route from northern to southern Nevada which would reduce more than one sixth of the travel distance from Ely to Las Vegas and from one fourth to one fifth travel time. This section of 71 miles of dirt road from Sunnyside to Hiko graphically shows a stretch of a dozen or more miles of unobstructed roadway which would require little more than paving to complete." (Lund residents had long been aware the shortcut would save them even more than that in distance and time for by the time the traveler had driven to Ely, east over Connors Summit, then south about the equivalent of the distance from Lund to Ely, he was about the same distance from Las Vegas as when he started.) There were similar comments in the Times to the one quoted. One of the earliest and most supportive among Ely businessmen was John Chachas.
Nevertheless there were still obstacles and the road has had to be done piece meal for financial as well as political reasons. A public hearing was held at the Lund High School November 4, 1969 to discuss the construction of just 11.5 miles through Nye county to the Lincoln county border. In the 1970's that portion was finished and work continued at intervals until now (1980), the road is complete with the exception of a few miles to be oiled. Already the route is drawing considerable traffic especially huge trucks loaded with a variety of materials, produce, machinery, equipment etc. The early settlers who chose the route and the first proponents working for its improvement have been vindicated.
Another transition directly connected with travel is the change over from the blacksmith shop to the garage. Shoeing horses, fitting wagon rims, fixing loose spokes and repairing machinery in general was a very necessary occupation of pioneer days. The blacksmith at the forge with its glowing coals, using the bellows to make them glow brighter, as he heated the metal to a white heat and hammered it into shape, was a colorful figure and the process a fascinating one to watch. George Burgess was the first blacksmith among the settlers. His blacksmith shop was on the east side of the creek from his rock home about where the firehouse stands today. Joseph Oxborrow later had a blacksmith shop on the west side of his lot. As cars came into the picture he became quite versatile and repaired cars when necessary along with his regular blacksmithing. Kenneth Gubler built and operated a small garage on Main street on the same block as the Carter store for several years. Sometime in the 1860's Jesse Hold moved into the community, bought the Clifford Peacock property on the east side of Main street and converted the cement barn into a garage which he runs today.
As I have pointed out before snow was not as much of a problem to the early pioneers with horses and on occasion, sleighs, as it was after cars came into use. Snow always presents problems to travel and in the years when the snowfall was extreme (1932-1933-1936-1948) it literally halted travel from days to weeks. But like every other aspect of human endeavor, man's ingenuity has to a degree solved this problem also. Modern, efficient road equipment at the Highway Station on the highway at the north end of town is a big advantage to the White River residents.
Although White River cannot support an airport, interest in air travel has not been lacking. When Francis Riordan died at the age of seventy-nine, his obituary called him one of Nevada's pioneer aviators with the statement that he held the first private pilot's license ever issued in Nevada.
In later years a number of residents and former residents took up flying. Merrill Gubler started his flying career with the Civil Air Patrol on a Search and Rescue operation out of Reno. After he left there he continued to fly his own plane for many years. At one time, he and a group of other young men, Udell Gardner, Tony Ivins, Bob Oxborrow and Larry Fawcett, went in together and bought a plane. Merrill Gubler and Udell Gardner were the only ones of the group to retain interest and go on flying their own planes. Chester (Check) Oxborrow flies his own plane and drops in on his friends in White River at internals. Gary Gardner took up flying and flew his own plane and now he runs his own air service out of Reno.
In World War Two, Edmund (Ted) Gubler, as a First Lieutenant in the Air Service, was flying a P-51 Mustang, escorting bombers over the war zone in Europe, when he was shot down over Romania and held in Bucharest as a P.O.W. for about eight months. He returned to flying his own plane, however, which he still does.
Elbert Gardner flew jet fighter planes during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and retired from the Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Reserve. He went on to make a career of flying and is a pilot for United Airlines. Reid Ivins was also in the air service flying jet fighters in Korea and Viet Nam. He acted as instructor in flying and spent some time at the Pentagon as Aide to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He retired from the service with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Stanley Fawcett distinguished himself in the field of flying and was manager of Bonanza Airlines for a number of years.
The contrast in travel conditions in the century this history touches on is perhaps the most remarkable of all the changes that have taken place. From the horse-drawn wagons taking weeks to make the journey over roads that were mere wheel tracks, if that, to the smooth highways and wide variety of vehicles--huge trucks running the gamut from panel trucks, tank trucks, cattle trucks, flat-beds and refrigerated box cars, jeeps, four-wheel drives, convenient campers and luxurious motor homes, pick-ups and touring cars of every size, shape and description, presents a picture that is mind-boggling. Travel time from Lund to Ely is less than an hour and on to SaltLake City by plane about the same. Through Ely, residents of the county can make connections by air to any part of the world they might wish to see.