Nevada Day Visit to the Dangberg Home Ranch
Elegant evening clothes conjured ghosts of the past at the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park’s annual observance of Nevada Day. Beaded silk and sequined dresses were displayed on stands in the living room as if the Dangberg ladies had returned for a party, and a volunteer played classical pieces on the 1916 grand piano.
Rangers and volunteers had readied the house for public viewing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They brought out some of the thousands of artifacts found there, a veritable treasure trove of the 19th and 20th centuries as lived by prosperous Carson Valley ranchers. Now a state historic park, for decades the house had been ravaged by time and weather, not to mention squirrels, raccoons and owls.
We took our tour on the state's actual birthday on Saturday. And as every Nevada schoolchild knows, Nevada Day coincides with Halloween. In a nod to this popular holiday, the Halloween masks of the Dangberg children peered out of a child's toy trunk standing in a tiny roomful of kids' books and puzzles and wooden and cast-iron toys.
Nearby were clothes belonging to Dwight Dangberg, who was born in 1899. After his death in 1904, his effects were lovingly tucked away in a trunk that remained unopened for 100 years. Inside were four of the oldest pair of Levi's known to be found in Nevada: Dwight's denim overalls that he often wore with a bright red shirt.
I had first heard about the overalls some time ago and was thrilled to finally see them, but it was the exquisite evening gowns of the Dangberg women—who may have worn denim as children but dressed in French-designer dresses as adults—that surprised me.
The Dangberg family reaches back to the 1850s, when the patriarch, German-born H.F. Dangberg, first built a log cabin on this site. In a bedroom, Gertrude Dangberg's 1898 white silk wedding dress looked in perfect condition. A silk nightgown dating to that same year lay invitingly on a chaise.
The house, though small compared to the McMansions of today, was a showplace in its time. Directed by H.F. Dangberg Jr. the family established the town of Minden in 1905, founded Dangberg Land and Livestock Co. and eventually controlled 48,000 acres. In the early part of the 20th century, the Dangberg daughters attended a private school in the San Francisco Bay area and bought their clothing at high-end stores in the City—if not in Paris itself. The 1920s and '30s were represented by flapper dresses with flounces and long, slim gowns seen on the likes of Jean Harlow.
One of the most poignant stories of the family was outlined in the dining room. Katrina Dangberg's photo stood on the dining table. Her D sweater (thought to represent Douglas High School) lay in front. On a sideboard were photos of a young man who had worked on the ranch, and loved Katrina. David Kinney Sloan Jr. wanted to marry her, but Katrina did not reciprocate.
The letter on blue paper that he wrote her as he served in the Navy during World War II was prophetic. He told her he supposed he would never see her again, and that was so. He died serving as Lieutenant Commander on the USS Corvina in the Pacific.
As we finished our tour and walked outside in the October sunshine, we glanced back at the home. With its trees bare and the shadows lying long on the brown grass, it seemed to be a perfect Halloween house. With a little imagination, however, we could envision fancy horse-drawn carriages and long black limousines bringing important guests to the ranch, where lights twinkled in the windows and champagne was uncorked and waiting on the sideboard.
Nevada Day Tour
Nevada Day Weekend
Noon to 4 p.m.
Admission, $3 for adults, children under 12, free
1450 Highway 88, Minden