"Long dry spells, torrential rains, unremitting glare and heat, unexpected frosts, sudden changes in temperature -- these make Nevada a perennial challenge to nature and man." This quote from Desert Challenge by Richard G. Lillard gives some insight into the character and makeup of the early Nevada pioneers who accepted this challenge. The settlers who came to White River Valley were no exception. However I like to think that nature smiled a little more kindly on this favored spot. As early as the 1860's, when this area was still part of the Utah Territory even though Nevada was granted statehood in 1864, the first white men to enter the valley found a fertile oasis with a relatively stable water supply and "undulating seas of wheat grass as high as a horse's belly."
White River Valley, lying between the Egan mountains to the east and the White Pine mountains to the west, is about 60 miles long, from north to south, and 15 miles wide. It occupies the southern end of what is now White Pine County and extends into northern Nye. Its water comes from White River, which is not a river at all in the accepted sense, and fluctuates considerably from year to year and season to season, and a number of more or less permanent springs of varied sizes dotted oasis-like throughout the area.
Indians of the Shoshone tribe had found the spot more or less adapted# to their needs and were already living in the valley when the first white men came. Soon after the white men came they established a stage route between Hamilton and Pioche which followed the valley from one end to the other.
Ranchers and stockmen were immediately attracted to the lush pasturelands and from the 1860's to the late 1890's a number of ranches were established. Some names associated with these early ranching operations were the three Ellison brothers at the head of White River, Hayden, North, Rosevear, Williams, Washburn, Smith, Moorman and others with ranches along the river further down. These ranches were at the north end of the valley. To the south in what is now Nye County, George Lewis, Jacob Moon, Lewis Tucker and the two. Riordan brothers James and Michael Lawrence were among the early settlers. James Cornelius Riordan, son of Michael and long time resident of the area, who contributed much to its economic, political and social development, was said to have been the first white child born in what is now White Pine County.
Centrally located in the valley were the Tom Plane and the Maddox (or Mattics) ranches and also a ranch owned by Dave McQuitty who later moved to the site near Ely still later known as Murry Creek and now known as Georgetown. The Maddox ranch was to become Preston and the town of Lund was to occupy the Tom Plane ranch site.
An item in the Pioche Daily Record indicates that Tom Plane was living on his ranch in 1873 and had a thriving dairy business. The ranch house near the spring was a stopover with meals served to passengers on the Pioche-Hamilton stage. In 1873 James R. Withington purchased the ranches and lived for a time on the Tom Plane ranch although he had extensive holdings throughout eastern Nevada that appear to have been mostly of a speculative nature. In 1889 Ira Nichols and Elias H. Parsons, incorporated as the White River Land and Livestock Company, acquired the ranches. The Adams and Mcgill Company, a partnership between Governor Jewett Adams and William N. McGill, also controlled considerable property in the valley at that time and ran large herds of cattle in the area.
Fortunately or unfortunately, according to your point of view, minerals were never discovered in the immediate vicinity. Thus the area has escaped the "boom and bust" implications typical of early Nevada history. If the settlements did not experience the phenomenal growth commonly associated with mineral discoveries they also escaped the ghost town phenomenon that often accompanies such growth. In The Nevada Adventure by James W. Hulse, he speaks of the "two main currents of emigration which settled Nevada" contrasting the volatile followers of the mining booms with those settlers, including the Mormons, who came to cultivate the land, build comfortable homes, and who further enhanced their lives by planting flowers as a symbol of their permanence. In Desert Challenge, Richard G. Lillard says of these (Mormon) settlers, "The population is relatively stable and steady and its life centers in the church, the school, (the community) and county.
Such is the background of the people whose beginnings in a relatively untamed Nevada, this history attempts to chronicle. It has been compiled from a number of sources. First there is the account found in the cornerstone of the old church building when it burned in 1945. This account was written by Gladys Whitehead (Savage) as dictated by Bishop Orrin Snow and placed in the wall at the time the cornerstone was laid December 10, 1908. The bibliography also includes a number of histories more or less in agreement on the basic facts. These were written by different people at different times to commemorate important events in the life of the town and they include histories by Kelly Harrison, Leland Hendrix., Mary Sinfield, Bliss Ivins Jones and others. White Pine Lang Syne by Effie Oxborrow Read, was also used for source material. Other important sources have been personal histories and word of mouth anecdotes and reminiscences.