In January of 1871, two Irish brothers arrived in the beautiful White River Valley in Nye County, Nevada. They were each accompanied by a young wife and a new baby boy. They were James Riordan, Sr., his young wife Maggie, whose maiden name curiously enough had also been Riordan, and their infant son, James, and Michael Lawrence Riordan, his young wife Hannah (Lynch) and their infant son, James Cornelius, who had been the first male white child to havehis birth recorded in White Pine County.
The brothers purchased the basic home ranch from a Mr. W.B. McSweeney for $1,000 in gold coin on February 16, 1871, and an adjoining piece of land from a Mr. Peter C. Turner for $100 in gold coin on September 12, 1871. Evidently there was one fairly large house and one small log cabin on the property. They soon built another house some little distance to the South from the existing one, and this house stood until the 1920's when it was torn down after the construction of a new home. The original house burned in the early 1900's, but the small log cabin served as a bunk house for a good many years.
The two families lived and worked together there until December of 1881 when James and Maggie took their family to Big Warm Springs, later to be known as Hot Creek. Their story will be told in another chapter.
Michael and Hannah subsequently had thirteen more children, and James and Maggie were to have six more children after they arrived in White River.
The other residents of the Valley were greatly amused and a little mystified that the two brothers gave their children identical names. As a result they were called "Emigrant Jim" and "Hot Creek Jim", "Emigrant Mike" and "Hot Creek Mike", etc. In order to understand this slightly odd behaviour one has to go back to Ireland and their Celtic heritage. Beautiful little Ireland over the centuries was the site of many battles as intruders tried to wrest its lovely lakes and valleys from the Celts. As a result, their lives were so disrupted and families torn apart so much that the Celtic Clans devised an almost foolproof way of recognizing their own. Each member of the Clan was obligated to name his sons by certain names beginning, for instance,with the oldest son as James, the second son as Michael, etc., so that whenever they met they could instantly recognize the branch of the Clan and the son's status in the family. Many of the new arrivals in this country followed that practice for a couple of generations of this particular family.
During their stay in Hamilton the brothers had recognized a business opportunity, so following their move into the Valley they went to Milford, Utah and trailed a herd of dairy cattle back to their ranch. After acquiring some chickens they then began the arduous task of supplying the miners and their families in Hamilton and Pioche with eggs and dairy products. This proved to be such a fruitful venture that they branched out into raising beef cattle. The winters in those early years were long and severe but they created lush meadows and ample forage for the cattle and so the brothers prospered.
During the first years of their residence small bands of Indians roamed the Valley and the adjacent mountains, but much to the relief of Hannah and Maggie, they kept pretty much to themselves and posed no threat to the young families, although at one time there was a small uprising.
The family had their share of happiness and tragedy. One baby girl died in infancy and is buried to the east of the home. Another child, Rose, was fatally burned when she pulled a vat of boiling soap over on herself. She is buried in Eureka. A son, John, was kicked in the chest by a horse he was trying to break, and as a result was a semi-invalid for years. He died in San Francisco in 1908 at the age of 35. Most of the boys became expert at cattle ranching, horsebreaking and buckarooing.
In November of 1895, Jennie S. O'Hare, a native of Carson City, Nevada, came to teach at Emigrant Springs. The following summer she taught at the Lewis Ranch for several months and then took the school at Sunnyside for the winter. As romance would have it, James wooed and wed Jennie. They and their family were to be the second generation to inhabit Emigrant Springs.
Jennie often commented about one of Michael and Hannah's daily rituals which astounded her, practiced as it was in that austere frontier setting. Every afternoon, promptly at 4:00 o'clock,both Michael and Hannah would leave whatever task they were doing, go into their small, private sitting room where their girls would serve them tea and then would leave them. Hannah would then read to Michael for an hour, often from the Irish World, to which they subscribed, or from some book. At five o'clock they would both return to the never ending tasks the ranch demanded. Another one of their amusing habits was to speak in Gaelic when they didn't particularly want their children to share in their conversation.
In 1908, Michael went to San Francisco for medical treatment and died there on January 12, 1908. His son, John, followed him in death on May 16, 1908. Following these tragic events, James was called by his mother to return from Plumas Junction where he had been operating a hotel, to take over the family ranch. This followed the Irish law of patrimony which endowed the eldest son with the property. However, in the "new country" fashion, James paid his mother for the ranch and cattle, over a period of years.
The children of Michael and Hannah were James, Michael, John, Aeneas, Andrew, Daniel, Robert, Annie Hunt, May Barry, Kate O'Meara, Johanna Malough Mahler, Grace Ahlf, Rose, and the unnamed infant. Since Emigrant Springs was a rather remote area, in all probability Hannah realized that it would be advantageous to take her brood to San Francisco where there would be eligible husbands for her many daughters and wives for her sons. Consequently Andrew and Aeneas were sent off to the University of Nevada and the rest of the family accompanied her to San Francisco. The children all married with the exception of Mike who stayed in San Francisco for several years, as did Robert who had a son and a daughter. Andrew moved to Watsonville, had two boys and a girl, and one of his sons, LeRoy, is now City Manager of San Leandro, California. Aeneas moved to Chilcoot, California where he ranched for many years. The girls all stayed in San Francisco. Kate O'Meara had two boys and a girl, Johanna Mahler had two boy sand two girls, Grace Ahlf had three boys. Both Jack O'Meara and Henry Ahlf are past Vice Presidents of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco.
Hannah Riordan passed away in San Francisco on March 8, 1920, and all of the members of the original family are now deceased.
James and Jennie Riordan returned to Emigrant Springs with four children in late 1908 and took over the task of running the ranch and rearing a family. Over the years two more children were born and in 1919 they erected a beautiful new home which was built by Mr. Albert Madsen of Preston, a very talented carpenter who had learned his trade well in his native Denmark. This was the fourth residence to be built at Emigrant Springs.
Over the years James enlarged his holdings by acquiring additional land from Carl Stephens in Cave Valley in 1919, some land from the Adams-McGill Company adjoining the home ranch in 1931 and various other acquisitions by purchase or patent. In the early 1920's he brought a herd of sheep into the Valley, more in self defense than as a business proposition, for at the time there were sheep men in Idaho who would bring their sheep down through the Valley ruining the cattle graze and caving in the open springs.
At one time Jennie found herself going back to her chosen profession when she had to teach her own children for a year due to the lack of qualified teachers for small schools.
James founded the Ely National Bank and served as its President for over ten years. He was also active in Democratic politics and many senators, governors and aspiring politicians spent a day or two at the ranch looking for guidance and support. He also served as the livestock representative on the Nevada State Tax Commission for fourteen years under three different administrations.
Although the Riordans were the only non-Mormons in the Valley, their relationship with their neighbors was a warm and friendly one. The LDS people were well known for their hospitality and their musical abilities and they often had large parties of music and dancing and dining, some of which would last for a couple of days or more. The Riordans in turn reciprocated and on those occasions the house would ring with laughter and song. One of the many talents the neighbor ladies excelled in was rug making and once every few years theywould descend on each ranch in turn, spend a couple of fun-filled days and hook rugs for theoccupants. Jennie will be especially remembered on those occasions for her outlandish costumesand her humorous ethnic orations.
As the children grew up they were sent to Catholic schools for their educations. Francis attended All Hallow's in Salt Lake City and then went to Santa Clara University where he enlisted in his senior year during World War 1. He became an aviator and was later to claim the first pilot's license issued in Nevada. On June 26, 1925, he married his childhood sweetheart,Leone Whipple, a daughter of the nearest neighbors. They had two daughters. Following their marriage he ranched in Cave Valley until 1935 when he sold out and went to work as a range examiner for the Division of Grazing. He made a career of government service and held a high position upon his retirement in Phoenix, Arizona. He passed away there on March 7, 1978.
Ethel, after attending Notre Dame in San Jose, California, married Pat Fraser on February 21, 1925. They had six children, five boys and one girl. Pat followed a career as a mining engineer and they lived in various places including Peru, before they returned to Ely where they now live.
Emmett Riordan attended St. Mary's in Moraga, California, and later graduated from the University of Nevada. He married Ione Smith on December 31, 1935 and had two daughters. Ione passed away in 1953. He went to work for the California State police in 1937 and continued to work for them, mostly in Sacramento, until his retirement. He and his second wife, Pauline, now spend their retirement years between their home in Folsom, California and their summer home at Lake Tahoe.
Loretta attended Sacret Heart School in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Notre Dame at Belmont, California. She married Dennis Rodrique in Ely on August 18, 1928. They had seven sons. "Rod" as he was known worked for the State Highway Department in Ely until he was transferred to Reno where he worked until his retirement. He passed away in 1972 and Loretta still maintains her home in Reno where several of her sons reside.
Lawrence attended St. Mary's at Moraga, California. On July 3, 1936 he married Cicely Skurton in Oakland, California. They had three children, two girls and a boy, but lost one daughter in early childhood. On September 23, 1943, he and his wife took over the home ranch from James and Jennie. Following their divorce the ranch was sold to Donald Eldridge in January of 1947. Lawrence subsequently moved to San Francisco where he became a heavy equipment operator. His last position was with the City of San Francisco from which he recently retired. He and his wife Lucille maintain their home there and spend a great deal of time traveling.
Gertrude attended the College of Notre Dame at Belmont, California, and following graduation worked for the State of Nevada in Carson City until she married George Gottschalk on December 31, 1937. They have two sons. George was Inspector of State Police and following the war, in which he served as a Naval Officer, he owned and operated a propane gas business in Carson City. After selling the business he became a real estate broker and also spent eight years as a Carson City Supervisor. Gertrude has been active in Democratic politics as well as in civic and charitable organizations. She served one term as Democratic National Committee woman for Nevada.
In 1943, at the ages of 78 and 69, respectively, James and Jennie decided that they were no longer able to actively ranch and so they sold out to their youngest son and moved to Carson Citywhere Jennie had grown up. They were to celebrate their sixty-third wedding anniversary before James passed away on November 5, 1960, at the age of 90. Jennie enjoyed several more years before she joined him at the age of 91 on July 7, 1965. Perhaps Jennie expressed it all rather nostalgically in the following little old-fashioned poem she wrote on her way from the ranch to their retirement home.
"THAT LAST LOOK BACK"
Jennie S. Riordan - 1943
To my mind comes back, as I ponder
A picture of "home, sweet home"
The home we worked for and cherished
Yes, the one we could call our own.
'Twas built in the heart of the Valley
Where the sheep and cattle strayed
With our own little flock around us
We felt monarchs of all we surveyed.
Our tasks were not so easy
We toiled from morn till night
With us Nature shared its beauties
Helped to make our burdens light.
The Spring of youth soon passes
And the years rolled swiftly on
Till our little flock soon scattered
And once more we were alone.
With age our tasks grew harder
Though we toiled from sun till sun
When the evening shadows gathered
Some tasks were still undone.
So the home we loved and cherished
To younger hands was turned
That we might seek some haven
To enjoy the rest we'd earned.
We gathered up our keepsakes
'Twas no easy task, - alack
But the trial that caused the heartache
Was - to take the last look back!
Written and submitted by:
Gertrude Riordan Gottschalk