Silver tailings: How Winnemucca got the Name

It might seem strange to honor an Indian chief who not only didn’t particularly like the white man and who had claimed the Paiute’s ancestral lands but also was known to attack them on occasion. However, Frank Baud, considered one of the city’s founders, had a fondness for the old chief and wanted to honor him.

Chief Winnemucca, who became a leader of the Northern Paiute, was actually a Shoshone. Known as Poito, or Bad Face, by custom and tradition he became a Paiute when he married the daughter of the old Paiute chief that some historians also call Winnemucca.

To honor him, as the story goes, the old chief named him Winnemucca the Younger, which translates as the “giver of spiritual gifts.”

How the chief got the westernized name also is a mystery. The chief was a young man in the late 1840s when white men first spotted him.

He was wearing only one moccasin at the time. Immediately, they dubbed him “One Moccasin.”

The Paiute word about items worn on the feet is mau-cau. Since he was shod on only one foot, he was known as One-a-mau-cau or Winnemucca.

Tradition says, wearing only one moccasin was a sign he was in love, but the more probable story is he lost the moccasin while running from the soldiers across the Forty Mile Desert.

Bohemian Rhapsody

As I rolled over — waking from a short nap — I heard these words rolling around in my noggin, like a bad dream. They’re from ‘Queen’ and their song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch – will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me
Gallileo, gallileo, gallileo, gallileo,
Gallileo figaro magnifico

But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me
(He’s just a poor boy from a poor family)
(Spare him his life from this monstrosity)
Easy come easy go will you let me go
(Bismillah no we will not let you go) let him go
(Bismillah, we will not let you go) let him go
(Bismillah, we will not let you go) let me go
(Will not let you go) let me go (never)
(Never let you go) let me go, never let me go ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me – for me – for me

No, I haven’t seen the flick, “Wayne’s World,” in ages. And come to think of it — I haven’t heard the song in a while either.

All I can say is — what the hell?

And Nearly Six Decades Later

It was 57 years ago, September 24th, that my parents, Margery Ann Olivera and Thomas Junior Darby married one another in a civil ceremony in Reno, Nevada. The newlyweds spend a honeymoon night at the Mapes Hotel, dining and dancing, before he had to report back for duty at Requa Air Force Station, Klamath, California.

1956 in front of the Mapes at First and Virginia streets

The picture shows what the town looked like that year. The Mapes was imploded in 2000 and a small park now fills the vacant lot.

My parents marriage imploded in 1980, resulting in divorce in 1982. Luckily, they remained married long enough for my sisters Marcy and Deirdre and our brother Adam to come into this world.

Both Mom and Dad are gone now, and I miss them terribly some days.

Grand Marshals, Fireworks and Festivities

The selection of grand marshal is typically an honor bestowed on community members who have participated in good deeds in Del Norte County. The grand marshal usually has a list of accomplishments and associations.

One such grand marshal was Sam Lopez, a member of the How-on-quet Tribe of Smith River. He celebrated his 86th birthday in 1972, the same year of his service to Crescent City.

Barbara Mann, a nurse at Seaside Hospital, was the grand marshal for the 1981 Fourth of July parade. She was a counselor for Future Nurses Association at Del Norte High School and a member of the Emergency Department Nurses Association.

Grand marshal and businessman Andrew Tomasini was grand marshal in 1985. A transplanted Italian, he arrived in California on March 15, 1911. His Fort Dick Tavern business was opened in 1930.

At that time, Prohibition was law and the establishment was an ice cream and sandwich shop. In 1933 he obtained his liquor license, which became the oldest held in the county.

The main feature of Crescent City’s Fourth of July festivities usually showcases Class B explosives. Class B is one level below dynamite.

Round explosives are called shells and have no military function. The multi-colored display may take 24 minutes to use $3,000 worth of ammo.

A pyrotechnics license is required to perform the duty. Pyrotechnics also found in local stores and firework stands have entertained residents for years.

Modern laws prevent the use of fireworks – such as Blackcats, Roman Candles, and Bottle Rockets – used in the earlier decades of the 1900s. Fireworks used in the neighbor’s yard now may include Giant Silver Screamers, Devil’s Delights and Peacock Fountains.

The parade of floats in the downtown area was another staple of festivities. In 1961, a small rodeo was held at the Del Norte Roping Arena on Northcrest Drive.

Holiday concessions operated on the beach at the end of H street. Food items normally included Chinese potstickers, Italian sausage sandwiches, clam chowder, shrimp, doughboys, tostadas, corn on the cob and Pronto Pups.

Dessert treats traditionally included cotton candy, blueberry and whipped cream covered Mooncraters, snowcones and ice cream bars. As celebrations grew through the years, the event began to draw people from outside of Del Norte County.

There really is nothing like a good old-fashioned Independence Day celebration — like a Crescent City Fourth-of-July.

Silver Tailings: The Lynching of Luis Ortiz

It was half-past midnight September 18th, 1891 when a group of 75 hooded and well armed men dropped Luis Ortiz to his death from Reno’s Virginia Street Bridge. By all accounts, he went to his Maker without a whimper.

Before his death, Ortiz was run out-of-town. He was also not welcomed in parts of north-eastern California as well as Nevada’ Humboldt County.

Ortiz, by all accounts had a nasty drinking problem, becoming belligerent and mean when drunk. The evening before, he had returned to Reno, only to start drinking at the Grand Central Hotel.

When the establishment closed for the night he, bartender Tom McCormack and bar patron Tom Welch stepped out side. Ortiz decided that would be a good time to fire his pistol in the air.

In drawing his six-shooter, Ortiz accidentally shot Welch in the butt, knocking him down. McCormack grabbed the gun as Ortiz squeezed the trigger, again.

The bullet missed McCormack, creating powder burns in his top coat. However his struck Washoe County Sheriff Deputy and Reno Night Watchman Richard Nash above his groin.

Nash was still able to arrest Ortiz, who was escorted to the county lock-up.  As for Nash, he was taken home, where it was expected he would die from his wound.

It didn’t take long for Ortiz to sober up. He reportedly told Undersheriff Bill Caughlin that he didn’t recall anything from the night before – let alone the shooting of a deputy.

As Ortiz slept off his drunk, a group of men, calling themselves the ‘601,’ gathered for an informal meeting in a nearby lumber yard to decided what was to be done with Ortiz. It was quickly agreed upon that they would hang him.

Within minutes the ban of vigilantes swarmed and over powered Caughlin, dragging Ortiz away to meet his fate. It would take two tries before Ortiz finally found his feet off the ground.

The first attempt ended when the rope broke. But not to be undone in their deed, someone found a thicker rope.

Before his first experience at the end of a noose, Ortiz was asked if he had any last requests. The doomed man asked for a drink of water and priest.

Neither was available. Yet someone did offer him a flask of whiskey, which he quickly gulped down.

A minute or so later, Ortiz found himself choking to death, dangling over the Truckee River, from the steel girder of the bridge that crossed the expanse of water. His body was left there until he was removed to Sander’s Undertaking Parlor.

Nash would recover from his wounds, going on to being elected in 1902 as Justice of the Peace. He served in that capacity until his death, December 15th, 1905.

A convening Grand Jury refused to indict anyone for the lynching. As for Ortiz, he was buried without ceremony, the thick rope still tight around his stretched-out neck.

Investigating a Centuries Old Crime

“…the two miners who died trying to steal the payroll from the hotel vault in the basement by digging up into the vault from mines underneath the city. They were successful…to a point. They made off with the money, but their bodies were found in a tunnel nearby. The money was no where to be found.”  Blog, ‘Death Valley Paranormal.’

Though not from what an investigative journalism might consider a ‘reliable news source, it wetted my curiosity to find out more. Unfortunately, I cannot find anything in the spools microfilmed newspapers at the library.

After spending over seven hours searching several turn-of-the century state and regional newspapers, many that are no longer in publication, the best I could do is find a blog entry from The Las Vegas Sun’s ‘Finding Nevada.’

“…to the basement and into a room that was a vault for a bank 100 years ago. The story goes that three miners tunneled up into the room through the dirt floor, and they emptied it right before a payday. But there was no honor among thieves, and one turned on the other two and killed his partners.”

It gave me a reference point to begin my search and parallels some of the details I heard and read. The problem is the word ‘about,’ could mean several years before or after the year 1913.

But my investigation into this ‘supposed crime,’ will continue as there’s something behind the story. After all the newest owners of the Mizpah Hotel, Fred and Nancy Cline, in Tonopah had this to say in their blog, ‘Revitalizing the Mizpah: “…uncovered a secret entrance to the Mizpah mine, located in a deep dark corner of the equally deep, dark Mizpah basement.”

Either the crime is real – or it’s not – either way I intend to find out.

Research is Only the Beginning

This is generally how I start, when it comes to writing a historical article about California or Nevada — research. I love tying where I live to where I grew up.

For example, Bret Harte was a journalist who cut his ‘reporters teeth’ in the Comstock’s Virginia City, along with the likes of Mark Twain and Dan DeQuille. He would later spend part of his career in Union (now Arcata, some 90 miles south of Klamath, California.)

By all accounts, he was popular with folks living in Humboldt County at the time. But, following editorials about the 1860 massacre at Indian Island, between the Samoa and Eureka Channels within Humboldt Bay, Hart found himself run out-of-town because of death threats.

I found amid the pages of the Friday, March 16th, 1860 edition of the New York Times, though I don’t believe it’s written by Harte, is story on that massacre:

“The particulars of the horrid massacre of peaceable Indians, one bright Sunday morning, (Feb. 25,) I detailed in my last steamer letter. Since then, many who were in the vicinity have been in town, and the coherence and agreement of their several stories show that we have arrived at the truth in the matter.

It appears that the brutal murderers were not over-anxious to meet the male Indians; that a spy who had attended an annual dance on Indian Island (about a mile from Eureka, the County Seat of Humboldt) the evening previous, conveyed the intelligence that there was not a gun, bow or arrow on the island, that the savages were entirely defenseless. The whites then approached, about 6 o’clock in the morning, fired upon and killed three men, who were asleep in a cabin at some little distance from where the women lay, then, entering lodge after lodge, they dirked the sleeping, and with axes split open and crushed the skulls of the children and women.

The total killed on the island were fifty-five, of whom only five were men. On South Beach, about a mile away from Eureka, in another direction, an hour or two before, the same party of whites had killed 58, most of them women and children.  

No defense was made. Many of the women were making an honest living in the families of the whites. The half-breeds pleaded for their lives in good English.

On the following Wednesday 40 more were butchered on the South Fork of the Eel River.

The Humboldt Times, which justifies this short method of getting rid of disagreeable neighbors, says that many of those killed on Eel River were bucks and bad fellows. Still later, by a few days, 35 were slaughtered on Eagle Prairie — total of the butchered within one week, 188.

The victims had lived on terms of peace with the whites, and relied on them for security. They were not even charged with thieving.

Their great crime was that the whites suspected that some hostile mountain Indians had taken refuge among them when hard pressed. The names of the brave men who brained the children have not been published.

One writer for the Bulletin says, however, that there is a fellow in Eureka who boasts that with his own hatchet he slew 30 women and children in one day, and that another man who professes to have been captain of the outlaws says that he alone killed 60 infants.”

Further down the column — a surprise:

“The Crescent City Herald has seen some golden sands panned out from the ocean beach; nobody believes it. Fine copper has been discovered near the same place, and forwarded to San Francisco as a bait, but it does not tempt much.”

One never knows what is to be found tucked away in an old newspaper. Frankly, I can hardly wait to develop a larger article based on what these two newspaper stories have to offer.

Funny Money

While on my morning walk I saw a $100 bill. Turns out it was one of those dime-store novelties with a picture of the Mona Lisa where Ben Franklin should have been.

It triggered a memory that I had long forgotten about. This too involves a $100 bill.

She was my first customer. I had barely opened the door before the woman came in wanting a roll of film processed.

She filled out the envelope and I told her it would be a little longer than one-hour as I still had to warm up the machine and complete my chemical check. She said okay, handed me the roll of film and left.

An hour and 15 minutes later she came strolling back in to the shop. I had her film processed and laid the packet on the counter in front of her.

In her hand she had a couple of waded up one dollar bills and new looking $100 bill. I was getting ready to explain there had been a problem with her film when she screeched, “99 cents!”

Her reaction caught me off guard and I didn’t know what to say. Then, as she hurriedly stuffed the ones back in her pocket, she handed me the $100 bill.

“I can’t break that, I don’t have enough cash on hand,” I told her. “You’ll have to take it someplace else.”

“It’s federal law – you have to take it!” she barked.

Having regained my composure, I asked, “What part of the Constitution is that in?”

“It’s not in the Constitution,” her voice mad.

“Well, if it’s not in the Constitution,” I rebutted, “I’m not obliged to take it.”

“Its legal tender,” she countered, nearly shouting.

“Hey, the federal government might print it,” I returned, “but the Federal Reserve is the one that issues it — and the last time I checked, it’s not a part of the federal government.”

Her face turned red with anger and I thought she was going to explode. “I’ll be back!” she screamed, as she headed out the door.

The funny thing is – I was going to let her her have the roll of film for free, since there were no pictures on the negative to print. She made a fuss over nothing and lied to boot.

She never returned to the shop. Instead, as I learned later in the day, the police busted her for having passed several phony $100 bills all over Crescent City.

What a weird memory, I thought as I continued walking.

The a few driveways further up the street, I saw something shiny, reflecting in the morning sun. It was dime.

Dow’s North of Mad River

“Will you please take that over to the neighbor’s tomorrow?” my wife asked as I sat the kitchen counter eating dinner.

“Sure,” I responded, as shoveled another bite of spaghetti into my mouth.

She had checked the mail and found a newsletter addressed to our neighbors in our box.  Having gotten home late, she didn’t want to return the pamphlet after dark.

Some may call it nosey, others might claim it’s curiosity. Either way, I picked it up and  thumbed through it.

Much to my delight I found an article on a woman who lives in Humboldt County, California, where I have family remaining today. Loberta Gwin is both an area historian and an author.

While the article made it sound like it was recent, she published a book in 2000 called “Dow’s North of Mad River,” after ten years of research and writing. The book is an accounting of McKinleyville (Minorville, back in the day) and the Dow’s Prairie area, north of Arcata from 1850 to 1950.

“I’m a history nut,” Gwin the California State Education Association’s ‘Retire’ Newsletter. “That’s why I got involved with this project.”

She’s working on another book about the history of Rohnerville.  Titled “Hills of Rohnerville,” she says she plans to give an early history of the town and show how roads, schools, a hospital and an airport had an impact on the community.

After 13-years, I wonder if she has finished it yet? I’m very interested in “Hills of Rohnerville,” as my great-grandpa, George Washington Hufford was one of the early pioneers of the region.

Bob Long, 1939-2013

Born August 18th, 1939, in Placerville, California, Robert Lloyd Long passed away September 10th, 2013, in Grants Pass, Oregon, following a brief battle with cancer.  Bob, as he was better known, was a past member of the Crescent City Elk’s BPOE #1689 and a former member of Crescent City’s V.F.W. Post 1381, where he once served as Commander.


He served in both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Army’s Oregon National Guard. Bob also worked for the Crescent City Police Department and served over 20 years with the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office.

The last time I saw Bob was an early morning in 1984, after he had called to ask if I could process the half-dozen rolls 35mm film he had taken of at murder-crime, from the night before. A couple was stabbed to death in what was eventually was found to involve drugs.

The odd thing is — I knew the murdered couple. I’d met them about three-years earlier, when I was living with a girlfriend, who was into marijuana and speed.

About the only thing I remember about them is that he was in a wheelchair. I left Del Norte permanently a few months later, so I never found out if their deaths were solved or not.

One of my favorite memories of Deputy Long came when I was a kid of 11 or 12 years old. He was trying to catch an intoxicated female who had stripped down to her nothings and was splashing around in the fountain at Tsunami Landing.

Not to be out foxed, Bob yanked off his boots and uniform pants and his boxer-shorts and uniform shirt, waded into the water to corral the fem-fatale. If I’m not mistaken Wally Griffin took a picture of him busily chasing this ‘nutty broad’ around the fountain.

He solved a lot of criminal cases and many homicides during his 35-plus years in law enforcement. Bob also served as Chief of Police in the Oregon towns of Union, Gold Beach, Aumsville and Rogue River, also as Chief of Police for Tulelake, California.

I will miss him.

Silver Tailings: Goldfield Continues to Survive

Despite the fierce labor disputes and strikes that threatened the town’s existence in the years 1906-1908, Goldfield was able to wrest the county seat from Hawthorne in 1907, when both towns were still located in the same county.

Five banks, a like number of newspapers, two mining stock exchanges and three railroads served the 20,000 residents. The town even had four schools and a 100 stamp mill.

It was reported, although probably exaggerated, that saloons numbered 25 to the block. Those were good years for the mining town.

In 1907, Goldfield was struck by cholera epidemics that claimed many lives. Yet, Goldfield survived.

Labor disputes failed to bring down the town, but a 1913 cloudburst damaged many homes beyond repair and nearly brought her to her knees. Ten years later, a huge fire swept through the town, destroying 53 square blocks.

Still, she would not yield. Today, the town still stands, though a mere shadow of her former grandeur; the ruins of some of the buildings stand as a mute remembrance of days gone forever.

The Great Lava Bed Wars: Great Treaty of Council Grove

Rounds of hostilities continued in the area until 1864, with warriors of the Klamath and the Yahooskin, a band of Shoshone, also attacking settlers and migrants in their turns. That year the United States and over 1000 Indians, mostly Klamath—signed a treaty, by which the Indians ceded millions of acres of lands and the US established the Klamath Reservation, within the boundaries of present-day Oregon.

Under the treaty terms, the Modoc, with Old Chief Schonchin as their leader, gave up their lands in the Lost River, Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Lake regions of California, and moved to a reservation in the Upper Klamath River Valley. In return, the Indians would receive food, blankets, and clothing for the entire time they remained on the reservation.

Allen David signed for the Klamath, while Old Schonchin and Kintpuash for the Modoc. Looking around for something to give emphasis to his pledge, Schonchin pointed to the distant butte and dramatically declared, “That mountain shall fall, before Schonchin will again raise his hand against his white brother.”

The old chief kept his word, although his brother and Kintupash repudiated signing the treaty and left the reservation with a few followers.

Silver Tailings: Roy Frisch’s Last Walk Home

Roy Frisch had jus’ been to see “Gallant Lady,’ a movie about an unwed mother who gives up a baby for adoption and hopes to get it back when the adoptive mother dies. The Majestic Theater was only the four blocks from his home at 247 Court Street, but he never made it.

Frisch’s disappearance, March 22nd, 1934 remains one of Reno’s most enduring mysteries. It began with an upcoming mail fraud trial of William Graham and James McKay – often referred to as the overlords of the underworld in Reno in the 1930s.

Frisch, the head cashier of the Riverside Bank, was the key government witness against Graham and McKay, but vanished at some point on his walk home and jus’ before the first trial was set to begin. Frisch’s whereabouts have been the subject of speculation ever since.

For decades after, Frisch’s mother and, later, other family members, left the porch light of their Court Street home turned on, in case he returned.

The 30’s were known as the era of gangsters with the likes of John Dillinger, Alvin Karpis, the Barker Gang, Bonnie and Clyde and others dominating the nation’s headlines. Several were known to frequent Reno to cool off or launder money at the casinos.

The FBI believes Frisch was kidnapped by notorious gangster Baby Face Nelson and his accomplice John Paul Chase, murdered and dumped in a Nevada mine shaft. In an interview, Chase told the FBI, “Nelson killed a man during an altercation while they were in Reno. The victim was a material witness in a United States Mail Fraud case.”

And for decades after his disappearance, Frisch’s mother and, later, other family members, left the porch light of their Court Street home turned on, in case he returned.

Following Frisch’s disappearance, his assistant cashier and best friend Joe Fuetsch became the government’s key witness during the trials that spread out over four years. The first two trials ended in hung juries, with the third, in 1938, resulting in the conviction of Graham and McKay, who were each sentenced to nine years in federal prison.

After the final trial, the Fuetsches eventually moved and settled in California. Graham and McKay were eventually pardoned by President Harry S. Truman and returned to Reno.

Another theory was that Frisch’s body was buried in the backyard of George Wingfield’s mansion, which once stood at 219 Court Street — a few doors down from Frisch’s house. Wingfield was the owner of the Riverside Bank at the time.

In the late 1990s, the owner of the home gave authorities permission to search the backyard but nothing was uncovered.

Behind Consolidation of Reno and Salt Lake’s Fire Centers

The Western Great Basin Coordination and Eastern Great Basin Centers will merged into a new facility in Salt Lake City. The Bureau of Land Management says the move will save money and improve response times.

The centers, in Reno and Salt Lake City, are responsible for mobilizing resources for wild land fire, prescribed fire and other all-hazard incidents primarily in Nevada, Utah and southern Idaho, plus small portions of California, Wyoming and Arizona. The coordination centers are two of eleven such organizations throughout the country.

There are also eleven Federal Emergency Management Administration regions, too, though the mapping at present is different. FEMA is overseen by the Department of Homeland Security.

Couple this to the newly opened Utah Data Center, also known as the Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center, and one has to wonder what is behind the consolidation. Finally, the new fire center will be only 23 miles north the data center.

The target start-up date for the new Great Basin Geographic Area Coordination Center’s is April 2014.

Silver Tailings: Washoe Goes to War

The U.S. didn’t join the war effort immediately when fighting broke out in 1914. However, President Woodrow Wilson asked each state to send their National Guard for service on the Mexican border in 1916.

Since Nevada’s state guard had disbanded in 1906, the only military organizations available were the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit at the University of Nevada, Reno and nine Government Civilian Rifle Clubs. Nevada’s Governor, Emmet Boyle offered 600 volunteers, but it was declined.

Eventually, Congress declared war, April 6th, 1917.

The Selective Service Act of 1917 required all men between the ages of 21 to 31 to register for the draft by  June 5th, 1917.  Each man received a number when he registered.

On July 20, 1917, numbers were drawn to decide who would actually be called up to serve.  The first 202 Washoe County names drawn would have to appear for processing.

The first number pulled was 258, assigned to Walter Bennett; the last was 223 for John Cassinelli.   The next 202 numbers called were drawn in case Nevada did not meet its quota of men, including the last number of 1101 held by Joe Ochander.

Over 30-thousand men registered, of these, 3,211 were inducted. Another 2,324 men volunteered for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, totaling 5,535.

Fifty men from Washoe County died; 25 to disease; 10 in action; five from accidents; four from wounds, with the remaining six listing no reason. Finally, 18 of these death, happened in the U.S., not overseas.

Silver Tailings: Remembering the Old Century Theater

It was perhaps one of the best movie theaters in Reno at one time, but by the time it closed, the ‘Century,’ was jus’ another multiplex. At one point, the toilets were out of service and port-a-potties were rented for movie-goers to use.

It had also undergone several name changes in the 32 years it was in operation. And though the theatre fell into disrepair, people still went to see first-run films.

The domed theater opened April 19th, 1966 as the ‘Century 21,’ owned and operated by Syufy Theatres. Architect Vincent G. Raney, designed all the theaters built by the Syufy brothers’ from 1964 into the early 1990s.

century 21 newspaper ad

Originally, the ‘Century,’ was designed to show Cinerama films, which simultaneously projected images from three synchronized 35 mm projectors onto the massive single curved louvered screen, 90 foot in length and 32 foot wide. However the process proved to costly and was replaced by ‘Ultra Panavision 70.’

The ‘Century’ was being billed in newspaper ads as the ‘Century 21-22,’ in 1970. And by 1976, it was boasting four cinemas.

Within three years, the theater was renamed the ‘Century 26,’ because of the addition of two more screens. This was followed by the ‘Century Eightplex,’ in the late 80’d when another two screens were added.

In the early 90’s the 11 cinema theater was purchased by ‘Century Theatres.’ It closed in 1998 and eventually bulldozed to make room for more parking at the neighboring Peppermill Casino.

The last movie I saw at the ‘Century,’ was “As Good As It Gets,” starring Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear, with my wife in late 1997.