Humboldt Ranch

Originally owned by Henry C. Taylor, the Humboldt Ranch was located near the natural dike between the Humboldt and Carson Sinks. In 1916, it was acquired by the Nevada Colony Corporation. The Corporation attempted an irrigation project at the ranch, and a mile of canal was completed. This proved unsuccessful, as the canal was not only been built on somebody else's property, but it also ran uphill and there was no water to carry.

The Humboldt Ranch was also the location of perhaps the biggest blow to the Corporation. J.H. Walters and his family arrived in Nevada City in 1917, from Idabel, Oklahoma. As with the other Socialists in the colony, they stood against America's participation in the war. Unfortunaly, when the Selective Service Act of 1917 came into effect, their son Paul was the tenth drawn in the draft lottery for Churchill County. Paul Walters ignored his call to report, and continued to work with other antiwar colonists, including German-born Fred Venth. In March 1918, Venth was assigned to the Humboldt Ranch and Walters accompanied him. Venth returned to Nevada City in April, but Walters stayed at the ranch.

It took nine months after Walters missed his report date for Sheriff Mark Wildes to receive orders to arrest him for draft evasion. Venth, who had boasted that he knew where Walters was hiding, was called upon to accompany Sheriff Wildes. On May 18th, the two left for Jessup to seek out J.G. Temple, a prospector who had sheltered Walters. Temple's cabin was deserted, however, so the two went on to Lovelock to stay the night.

The following morning, Wildes and Venth began their return by following the south side of Humboldt Lake. They stopped at the Bessey Ranch along the way, and were informed that Temple was expected to stop by to retrieve his mail. The two men continued along, expecting to run into Temple along the way. As they got closer to the Humboldt Ranch, they found two men walking. Venth identified the taller one as Walters, and the other was Temple. Wildes and Venth approached them, and Wildes was introduced as a mining man interested in Temple's claims.

After Walters confirmed his identity, Wildes revealed himself and said 'I want you.' Walters pulled a revolver and shot the sheriff multiple times. Wildes had reached for his own pistol, but the barrel had gotten caught on the lining of his pocket. Venth and Temple dove for cover, while Walters ran for a nearby canyon. Wildes stayed on his feet and fired at Walters, but missed. Walters escaped, and Venth and Temple attempted to take Wildes to Lovelock. They only made it to Fanning, a nearby railroad siding, because Wildes was losing too much blood. Telegrams were sent to Fallon and Lovelock, and Dr. Carl Lehners immediately set out for the locale from Fallon. A nurse from Lovelock arrived first, and was tending to the sheriff when Lehners arrived. Another Fallon docter, Cecil Smith, also came and Wildes was patched up the best he could be for the trip to Lovelock. The sheriff was finally lost at 5:40 am on May 23rd.

Churchill County commissioners offered a $500 reward for Walters' capture, which was doubled by local residents. Governor Emmet Boyle also issued a state reward of $1000. A posse of 75 was formed, as well as several bounty hunters, to find Walters. On the 24th, a group of four Indians found Walters near the Humboldt Ranch and shot him. His parents were notified, but were afraid to claim the body out of fear of retaliation, and Walters was buried at Fanning. Soon, the Walters family silently disappeared from Nevada City by night and without leaving an address.

The Colony Corporation finally went into receivership on May 1, 1919. The Humboldt Ranch was subsequently abandoned, but by the end of the year oil-seekers occupied the site. 25 years later, the ranch was renovated and used again, this time by the United States Navy, until housing for recruits was completed closer to Fallon.

I Visited the Humboldt Ranch
4.20.2014

See Also
Nevada City

Bibliography