During my early childhood days, I was impressionable to a considerable degree. At one time there was an old man, a backwoodsman by the name of James Ingram who lived at our house. Here, he found a home where he was treated kindly and respected by all members of the family.
This old man, in turn was fond of all the children in the household, consisting of my four half-sisters, two half- brothers, my full brother and myself.
This old man at times was arbitrator between the children in the many quarrels and differences that we had from time to time.
From time to time, the old man with tact and kindness growing from the wisdom of the aged alleviated our childish differences and smoothed over our petty quarrels and jealousies.
This kindly old man as a matter of duty, also as long as he was able did light chores, such as to feed the chickens in the farmyard, carry in the wood for fuel to heat the house, and also wood for the kitchen stove.
As time went on, the old man became ill and on one cold winter morning was found dead in the little room that he occupied in my fathers home. This event, or the advant of the Grim Reaper, greatly saddened us.
I being the youngest of the children and since this was my first glimpse of death was greatly impressed and fearful that soon I was to also lose my parents. I thought this perhaps, because although I was only a few years of age, had heard that my parents were old people.
The Hard Winter ( 1889 -1890 )
Story # 1
George Watt & Mr. Bircham
During the period preceding the so-called hard winter of 1889 -1890, the owners of large herds of cattle, also the owners of great flocks of sheep and large bands of horses, did not to any extent depend on hay or grain as winter feed for the great numbers of livestock that they owned.
Since the beginning of the white mans era in this section of the country, the livestock owners had driven or herded their bands to the high mountain ranges for summer grazing or forage. These ranges were well watered and produced vast quantities of natural grasses and other palatable livestock feed.
During the late fall, the stock was started toward the southern end of the state of Nevada, this area being called the desert on account of its lower altitude, milder climate, and usually less precipitation in the form of snowfall.
The drives usually started with the first fall of snow in the late fall or early winter. This snow was necessary on these long drives since its water content was the only form of moisture the animals could find to subsist on. This was the situation on most all of the desert and on a good many of the routes to and from the desert.
Here and there at intervals of great distances was to be found names as, ' Dead Horse Well ', ' Hauleys Well ', etc.
The names no doubt were quite appropriate since water was taken by the means of a scaffold, then with the help of a horse or a windlass, a barrel at the end of a rope was lowered and raised, the water so obtained was used principally for saddle horses, work teams, pack animals, and also for human consumption.
Sometimes the water drawn from the wells, especially after several months of non-use was green with vermin, snails, and rodents. The stock feed on the desert consisted of different kinds of browse, such as white sage, button sage, and sand sage. Of these, white sage was the best winter-feed, yet it is a tender plant and in recent years has become very scarce.
The winter before the hard winter was very dry and as a
consequence the following spring and summer failed to produce the usual amount of forage. During the spring and summer of 1889, there was a shortage of water in general, and even for stock use in the higher altitudes. During the summer months of this year, great clouds of dust were seen to rise in the valleys.
The mountain ridges were also obscured by a sort of haze as heavy wind storms swept the country at large, all in all, the general atmosphere seemed quite ominous or suggestive of some great change.
The stockmen in general did not give much thought to the possibility of a clean sweep or as to what was to happen the total loss of their livestock in some cases, and nearly all in others. No provision was made for the sipping in or storing of feed. This was not considered at the time because it was not customary.
In this paragraph, I will tell the story of one of the largest livestock owners in that part of the country. George Watt was a native of Scotland who many years prior to the events of this chapter emigrated from Scotland to this, the land of his choosing.
Here through worthy effort and shrewd business ability, had built up a vast estate consisting of much land, large flocks of sheep, and big herds of cattle. He raised a large and prominent family. By those of his countrymen, who were not so fortunate, he was sometimes called, Laird Watt.
During the early part of the winter or before the great fall of snow, this man's sheep and cattle were being held at what is known as Antelope Valley and close to what water that was available in this sector - waiting for the snowfall, so that they could start south for better feed and winter grazing on the deserts.
Alas, when the snow did come, it came so fast and with such a fury and depth that the livestock were never moved. Band after band of sheep were huddled together and smothered in the deep snow. The cattle survived for a longer period, but eventually died through weakness caused by extreme cold winter and lack of feed, everything in the line of fodder being covered by deep snow.
This lost of stock as described in this paragraph was but similar to the loss of many other stockmen of that day. At the time that this winter was at its peak and at about the time that all of these losses were sustained, Mr. Watt was in the town of Austin playing cards with some of his acquaintances.
He suggested that they go to lunch with him at his expense. 'You know,' he said, 'I am losing sheep by the hundreds every hour of the day.' Yet he was quite philosophical about the whole situation, and remarked, 'but there is nothing we can do about it', such was in fact the case.
This man, at a later date rebuilt his fortune to some extent, which was consistent with the spirit of the west at that time.
Another personality of that time and a close neighbor of my fathers was a victim of the extreme cold weather that followed the heavy fall of snow.
This man, Mr. Bircham, froze to death at a point not over three hundred yards from his home. On this occasion this man was returning from the direction of the desert where he had been making strenuous efforts to move his livestock toward a better feeding ground.
Failing in this, he turned back, owing to the extreme cold which was in the locality about forty-five degrees below zero, at the time.
In addition to the cold and snow, there was a heavy fog and in this, the man became bewildered and although only a few steps from home, lost consciousness, fell asleep, and froze to death.
The mans body was found fortunately the following morning by his brother-in-law and returned to the home that this poor man had tried to reach.
The Bircham Ranch is mentioned in the readings of the Supreme Court case, Walsh v. Wallace.
We have located the graves of two individuals by the name of Bircham in the Calvary Cemetery outside of Austin.
Husband & Wife:
Mamie Bircham 1878 - 1963
William Bircham 1873 - 1970
We do not know the exact relationship of these two people to the Mr. Bircham mentioned in the above story.
The Hard Winter ( 1889 - 1890 )
Story # 2
' Antone Pietro Maestretti '
Born: Switzerland - 1839
Died: Nevada - 1939
Buried: Calvary Cemetery - Austin, Nev.
I will tell the tale of the confiscation of a fat yearling heifer. This incident happened during the hard winter of 1889 - 1890. The animal belonged to a man the name of Antone Maestretti.
This man was an early settler in the country and at the time the incident occurred was busy in his chosen occupation as a truck farmer or gardener, he also owned about three milk cows and the one yearling heifer.
Reese River Reveille
With the little he owned, he was endeavoring to make a living for his family, consisting of a wife and eight or nine small children. The circumstances surrounding this, the theft of this mans only young animal would make the act all the more despicable.
A group of roving cowboys, or vaqueros ( some of them being Mexicans ) were camped for the night only a few miles away from the gardeners little home and although they were tending a herd of cattle that in numbers counted in the thousands, they took it upon themselves to drive this one lone animal to their camp and butcher it for meat, leaving only the waste matter behind as they moved on.
Maestretti, on missing his animal searched high and low and at last finding tracks in the deep snow which by that time had crusted, started out on foot to trace the animal.
The snow had crusted to a certain extent but not enough to bear a mans weight, so in order to follow the tracks he crept on his hands and knees to the spot where he found the evidence that the animal had been butchered.
Greatly disappointed and vexed at the discrepancies of human nature, this man returned to his humble home to carry on, and at a later date lived to be a large stock owner and rancher, as well as the patriarch of a family that now by extention numbers in the hundreds.
This man died at the age of ninety-nine years, only a short time ago, such was the stamina and ruggedness of most of the early day pioneers.
Note: Antone had a son, Louis, who married Clara ( gloor -, maestretti ) Barnes, daughter of Pauline ( walti ) Walsh. Louis died early in life due to a gun accident. You can find more information on this in the, Pat Walsh & Pauline ( walti ) Walsh family # 2 section.
Note: Photograph below of Pat Walsh jr. with his friend, Ida McGinness. Ida's mother ( Margaret ) was a Maestretti by birth.
The Hard Winter ( 1889 -1890 )
Story # 3
During the fall of 1889, my father's cattle like most all the other cattle in that section of the state of Nevada were thinner than usual on account of the scarcity of feed and shortage of water. These two adverse conditions as a rule parallel, or in other words, as the Indians were wont to say - no rain, no grass -
The condition of the cattle on the whole did not look favorable for the winter period, still the stockmen of the community were more or less optimistic, believing that the first early storm would enable them to drive their stock on to the so called desert or winter range, where the feed was fairly good.
There was very little hay on the ranches in the community and that was held at a very high price. The cattlemen in general had about enough hay for a few milch cows, their saddle horses, and a few work teams. Such was the situation as the winter drew near.
Once the winter started, the snow continued to fall and pile up to the depth of several feet, and the winds that blew the snow in sheltered spots drifted to a much greater depth. As the winter continued and with heavy freezing, the snow formed a heavy crust that made it almost impossible for man or beast to travel any distance.
At the beginning of one snow storm, my father with five riders had gathered the bulk of his cattle or at least all of them thought would stand the trip to the desert. The herd thus started consisted of about one thousand head. Two of the riders were white men, the other three were Indians, who being natives of this country were accustomed to much hardship and exposure.
In addition to the five riders and my father, there was also what is called a chuck wagon driver. This driver did the cooking for the little crew of men at whatever place they made camp for the night. As the drive advanced, the camp was made out in the open in three or more feet of snow.
The chuck wagon, in addition to grub, was loaded with bales of hay and grain for the horses and carried beds for the men. As it was they had very little use for the beds, since in order to keep from freezing, it was necessary to keep a huge fire burning during the night.
Some of the time spent around the camp fire was utilized in melting snow so as to make water for the horses and the men. At about every other night's stop on the way to the desert, two bales of hay were left behind and slung up in trees so as to have feed for the horses on the return trip. After about a week of hard driving, trail breaking, constant exposure, and hardship, the trip ended in what is known as Lodi Valley.
Lodi Valley, Nevada
Normally this valley was the cream of the winter range and was considered a safe spot in which to winter cattle. On this occasion it was not better than any other valley on account of the deep snow which even at this low altitude covered all forms of vegetation. Here, where the cattle were left worn out and in a weakened condition caused by the long trip and the lack of feed, these cattle died in one big bunch.
- the following spring my father returned to the spot where he had left his cattle - I heard him say many a time, "at this place and at that time, I could step from the carcass of one animal to another." The entire herd having died within an area not greater than one square mile -
I will attempt to visualize the hardships endured on the return to home from the spot where the cattle were turned loose. Like Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, it was very disheartening.
On the return trip, the trail that was made on the way out was in many places found to be filled in with drifted snow and crusted with a surface not hard enough to hold the horses up but with sufficient crust as to make the traveling a very slow and tedious process.
At a place where they had left hay slung up in a tree for horse feed, they found two dead cows, stragglers that were following the trail south. By the time these cows had reached this point in their journey, the wind had drifted the snow to a depth of several feet around the trunk of the tree and in effect of drifting had formed a stiff crust enabling the half starved animals to reach the hay. These animals after filling up on the hay and in their starved condition, dropped dead in the snow.
This was the situation that greeted the retreating riders at the first night’s camp on the return journey. This situation in itself was not very encouraging as the loss of feed for their horse's weakend them for the long jouney home of about fifty miles. The second night’s stop was at a place called Bircham’s Hay Ranch. Here the accomodations were somewhat improved - they had shelter for the men, at least, a cabin with a roof over it, and feed for the horses.
By this time the weather had changed considerable. Instead of snowing and blowing, the weather had turned downright cold, reaching temperatures of between thirty and forty degrees below zero. Such were the conditions when at this point the little party of men separated on the following morning. The two white riders started for Smith Creek Ranch, which was only a few miles distance and early in the day reached this place which provided safety and shelter for them with comparative ease.
On the other hand, my father and the chuck wagon driver ( who had abandoned his wagon by now ) and the three Indians found it very hard traveling in the direction of home, it being much further and over a range of mountains where the snow was deeper.
On this last day of the trip, my father came within a very small margin of loosing his life on account of the extreme cold. It took the greater part of the day to reach the next range of hills and well into the night by the time they had crossed over into the next valley.
From here the route home extended across a wide expanse of valley and all landmarks were competely covered by the depth of snow. Familiar hills that ordinarily loomed skyward on the opposite side of the valley and used as landmarks were completley obscured by a heavy fog which blanketed the valley during the extremely cold night.
Time after time, my father suffering from the cold, weary from fatigue and confused in the fog, veered from the course on which he was leading. The destination would never have been reached by my father, but for the Indians who on each occasion that he left the course would call him back and put him on the right path. How these Indians kept to the right path, my father said was beyond him. Perhaps it was instinct, or perhaps keener powers of observation, or an uncanny sense of direction. Any of these may have been the reason why the Indians were able to maintain such a direct course. On this occasion, whatever it was that guided them was instrumental in saving my father's life.
My mother for some reason or other, was expecting him on this very night and although it was way past midnight when the party arrived, she had kept the home fires burning. The destination reached, my father was unable to dismount from his horse, was speechless with the cold and could not walk.
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Note: Patrick spoke easily with the Shoshone People in their own language and for much of Patrick's ranch life, the Shoshone had an Indian Camp on the Walsh Ranch. Go to the section, 'Photos - Reese River Yesterday # 1' to see two portions of interviews with members of the Shoshone people living in Nye County.
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My mother with the help of my father's oldest son and the three Indians brought him into the house. Holding him away from the open fireplace, they kept him in a room with moderate temperature, rubbing him with snow to reduce the suffering from the frost. After a time, this method put circulation back into the frost bitten areas my Father had.
This was, so I have been told was my father's closest call to the great beyond by the extremes of the weather, although in later life he went through many similar adventures, no doubt he was to a greater extent prepared for the unusual.
During the paragraph I am about to write, I will tell of the unusual powers of persuasion by which my father controlled his boys, and to some extent his own daughters. However, his stepdaughters, my mothers two girls by a former marriage, were not susceptible to my fathers swaying influence.
The power that my father exercised over his children was formed more from a mental attitude than from any form of forceful chastisement. It is known that he only whipped my brother John the one time, and this was for carving on a window-sill with a jackknife.
This form of destruction was entirely foreign to my fathers scheme of life. In fact, he always wanted his children to respect other peoples property.
The one time that he whipped me with a piece of flat board was at a time when he had a leg injury caused from a four hundred pound barrel of cement falling from the level of a wagon bed directly on his instep.
This injury for a time was very serious, since in addition to a bruised condition, a couple of his foot bones were crushed.
The accident necessitated his use of crutches and at a time when he was using these crutches he was obliged to drive a team of horses hitched to a wagon up to the Barley field for the purpose of irrigating a small patch of potatoes that was planted there.
On the way to and from the field, a distance altogether of fourteen miles, was a gate to be opened and closed.
This the folks wanted me to do, so that my father would not be obliged to crawl in and out of the wagon in his crippled condition.
Perhaps, on most any other day I would have been agreeable, but on this particular day my oldest half brother Joe and my full brother John were handling horses; in fact, they were roping and throwing the horses for the purpose of branding colts, altering stallions, etc., and I wanted to be on hand for this event.
Although much to small to be of help, and more likely to be in the way of older and stronger hands, I was very determined not to leave the ranch with my father.
However, while some other family member held me, my father paddled me lightly with the flat board and as a consequence I finally, although reluctantly, mounted the wagon seat beside him.
When we were only about one-half of a mile from the ranch I could see tears in my fathers eyes and he asked me if I still wanted to help the boys handle the horses. I said, "Yes, father, I do." My father said, "Well, I can manage somehow with the gate. You can go back and help the boys."
As I look back over the circumstances surrounding this whipping, the only one he ever gave me, I think on the whole, the light paddling I got was entirely too mild a punishment.
I do remember, however, of feeling very small that evening whem my father returned from his trip to the Barley Field. At the time I was about 9 years old. Young as I was, the fact that I had my fathers sympathy affected me more than a mere spanking.
Note: Garsoon in Gaelic means, "Son" - Patrick Sr. would refer to Patrick Jr. as his, "Garsoon"
Memories of a Friend
Note from the website folks:
We will start the next story of Patricks, well into his original notes. The story began with a cattle sale that involved moving stock from the Walsh Ranch in Nevada to Northern California.
The purpose of what we detail here is to remember that it is not only family that shapes us, but also the friends we meet along the way. We pick up the story with Patrick Jr. taking care of family cattle business in California.
Memories of a Friend . . .
I made arrangements to board and lodge at a small hotel in the little town of Knights Ferry, and for a month or two I rode completely around the leased land, or as they in the cattlemans language, "I rode fence".
This was thought advisable on account of being in a strange community, and from time to time I had heard rumors that there were cattle rustlers in the vicinity. However, I am pleased to state that I did not find any such people, nor were any of the cattle missing. Finally, I was convinced that the cattle were reasonably safe in the enclosure, and as a consequence of this assurance, I did not ride fence everyday in the week.
For a period of about two months, I remained very lonely indeed, brooding constantly over a sudden ending of my first love affair. I was a frequent visitor at the little Village Post Office, looking for mail from home. The Post Office was located in the one general merchandise store in the village, and was taken care of by the same people who owned the store.
These people, a family by the name of Collins, were very friendly and considerate of me, or "The Nevada Cowboy" as I was called. Of this family, three members lived in a small building adjoining the store, and these three people, the father, the mother, and the one son, operated the store and also attended to the Post Office.
Another son was away at school. He was a student at Stanford University, and I met this young son only once when he was home for the Christmas holidays.
After a time, the Collins boy, who lived at home with his parents, and myself became good friends and quite chummy. Like myself, he also had been disappointed in a love affair. Therfore, we had much in common and confidentially we compared notes and sympathized with one another.
This to a considerable extent relieved the monotomy of a lonely existence. It was generally agreed between us that there was not much good in grieving over the past.
Note: Patricks story goes on to other items that we will skip at this point - we return to the final paragraph were Patrick finishes his story.
Incidentally, my chum, the Collins boy, enlisted in the Army at the first call for volunteers for the first World War, and as a matter of fact was the first California boy lost in the war when the transport ship he was on ( The Tuscania ) was sunk by a German submarine.
This fine young man was lost in the service of his country, and while I will not attempt to be a sentimentalist regarding him, it was a pleasure to have known him, and as a friend departed, I have the greatest of respect and admiration for this fine young man.
Please click on the link below to read about,
Stanley L. Collins of Knights Ferry -