By Bob McCracken – “Nye County History”
Thomas W. Brooks was born in Georgia in 1825 and in 1849 he headed for the California goldfields.
By his own unverifiable account, he served with the Confederacy in the Civil War and later with General George Armstrong Custer in the Black Hills, where he claimed he attained the rank of colonel. Brooks was well versed in the mining industry, “thoroughly well known” in the California gold country, with “the highest testimonials from many of the capitalists of St. Louis,” as one newspaper account put it.
He was a good writer and sometimes prepared accounts of his travels for newspapers. In 1886, while a resident of Pomona, in the Los Angeles area, he made a bit of history of his own.
On the first day of March, Brooks, traveling by buckboard, a four-wheeled vehicle with a floor made of long boards, accompanied William M. Stockton to the latter’s small ranch near present-day Beatty. Stockton himself was quite a man of the West. He, his wife, and their two children had joined the Jefferson Hunt wagon train traveling from Salt Lake City to San Bernardino in 1849, and later mined for gold with Lewis Manly of Death Valley 49er fame.
Upon his return to Pomona, Brooks wrote two articles on what he had seen on his trip to Nye County. They were published in the Pomona Times-Courier April 10 and April 17, 1886. These articles provide the best early descriptions I have seen concerning life at that time in Pahrump Valley. His account of Joseph and Margaret Yount and the beautiful ranch they built at Manse Spring are brief but priceless.
In 1970, Anthony L. Lehman and Dawson’s Book Shop in Los Angeles, in what had to be a labor of love, published Brooks’ two articles along with an introduction and notes in a beautiful little volume, printed on high-quality paper, lovingly bound and illustrated with line drawings. In what was no doubt a limited print run, Lehman’s By Buckboard to Beatty preserves for decades to come — who knows, maybe even centuries — Brooks’ account of life in the Pahrump Valley 125 years ago.
In his 1886 articles, Brooks wrote favorably of the Younts and life at their ranch: “‘Tis here that many youths, and grumbling maids, fathers and mothers, could come and read a valuable and interesting lesson of natural life. . . . Too much praise cannot be given the precious mother, Mrs. Yount, who has reared five sons and five daughters here. And though the church, the schoolhouse and the tick of the telegraph was sic far away from their oasis home, intelligence and cultivation are there, after nature’s own design, and void of the superfluous vanity with which the masses are burdened.”
More to the Story
But there’s more to this story. A couple of months ago, the Pahrump Valley Museum came into possession of additional newspaper articles by Thomas W. Brooks describing subsequent visits to the southern Nevada desert country, as well as other areas, one in December 1891, another in June 1893. Charlotte Seline Haag, the museum clerk, kindly made copies of those articles available to me.
In December 1891, Brooks, still residing in Pomona, once again traveled across the Mojave Desert to Pahrump Valley. Talk of construction of a railroad between Los Angeles and Utah had brought him there this time. Apparently, the proposed railroad was projected to go through Pahrump and Amargosa Valleys and on to Salt Lake City by way of Pioche. In fact, it would be nearly 15 years before such a railroad was actually completed and it would bypass Pahrump and Amargosa valleys in favor of Las Vegas Valley. The need for a railroad through the desert country was obvious to Brooks. His articles describing his Nevada travels in the early 1890s make frequent mention of the mineral resources and agricultural potential of the grand domain between Pahrump Valley and Pioche, and lament the fact that a railroad would be required for its full development. Interestingly, the on-and-off-again Yucca Mountain project would have, and still might, provide such a railroad across much of central Nevada.
Articles on Brooks’ trips in the early 1890s appeared in the Los Angeles Herald on January 18 and 19, 1892, and July 9 and August 20, 1893. Headquarters for his 1891 trip was listed as “Yount’s Ranch, Manse Post Office, Nye County, Nevada.”
Brooks writes: “The two pioneer ranches of Southeastern Nevada are the Pahrump ranch situated in Pahrump basin or valley, in Nye County, Nevada. It embraces 900 acres of fertile land and from 100 to 200 inches of water. This valuable estate is owned by a syndicate composed of Messrs. Jones, a banker of Anaheim, Cal., Ganahi, a lumber merchant of Los Angeles, Mr. Hines and others of Nevada. Under the management of Mr. Hines, with a large force of men, all manner of western farming, stock raising and dairying are successfully carried on.
“The other pioneer ranch is that familiarly known as the Yount Ranch, owned by Joseph Yount and H. White, and comprises 730 acres of choice land. It is the other real estate of this expansive desert, and the home of prosperity, peace, and plenty.”
Brooks writes that at the Yount Ranch, “All manner of farm machinery, thrashers, mowers, hay-presses, barley crushers, etc. are in use” January 18, 1892 .
Brooks quoted figures for production on the Yount Ranch for 1891. They are: 350 tons of hay at $20 per ton; 160 tons of barley, 15 tons of wheat, and 36 tons of corn, all at $60 to $100 per ton; 20-35 tons of potatoes at $80 per ton; 8-1/2 tons of bacon at $400 per ton, 2 tons of butter at $1,000 per ton, and 18-20 barrels of wine at $1.50 to $2 per gallon. In addition, dried grapes, pears, figs, apricots, plums, peaches, and prunes were produced at 20 cents per pound. There were 500 chickens, with eggs at 50 cents per dozen, along with ducks, geese, and turkeys. “From this,” Brooks wrote, “the reader may form quite a correct idea of this country and its capabilities.”
In his July 9, 1893, article, Brooks describes the Yount Ranch: “My journey terminates at the Yount Ranch. It is my Nevada home, and is the famous oasis of all deserts, where everybody is made happy and it is designated by many as the peaceful home at which to rest, feast and fatten, where congenial fraternity ever liveth. It is a ranch of 720 sic acres of land, with water flowing from several artesian springs that rise upon the property. … It grows every manner of product known to western farmer, gardener, wine-maker or orchardist. … The grapes contain 32 percent of alcoholic matter. This valuable estate is most ably supervised by that model gentleman, Mr. H. White, while Mrs. White, a thorough, systematical and practical lady, with untiring energy, always cheerful and happy, conducts the household affairs, butter-making, and her 650 chickens are cared for by her daughter, Miss Dellie White, and sister, Miss Nellie Yount” July 9, 1893 .
In the summer of 1897, Brooks was headed for the Klondike for a visit.
Following the lead of Dawson’s Book Shop from some 40 years ago, perhaps we should consider publishing T. W. Brooks’s account of his travels to the south Nevada desert in the early 1890s as a companion to By Buckboard to Beatty.