In this, the second article about Lovelock Cave, I will describe a few of the thousands of artifacts recovered from the site between 1912 and 1924. The remarkable things about Lovelock Cave were the state of preservation in this dry cave and the amazing variety of well preserved objects that were found there.
Llewellyn L. Loud first began recovering artifacts from the cave in 1912 after guano miners had finished removing tons of bat guano from the floor of the cave. Unfortunately, looters had already removed many items of archaeological value before Loud started his work. Despite the previous ransacking of the cave, Mr. Loud recovered many items of great archaeological and anthropological value.
Approximately 45 sets of human remains, ranging from scattered bones to complete mummies and human skeletons, were found. One mummified child about 6 years old wrapped in fish netting was given to the Nevada Historical Society. Loud recovered the remains of a newborn child with the placenta still attached. I recall the days in the 1960s when some of these remains were on display at the Nevada Historical Society in Reno before the insensitive public display of them was discontinued.
Many examples of mammal remains were found in the cave. These included animals that had entered the cave seeking shelter, and others that had been brought into the cave as food by human occupants. Examples of these remains include deer, bighorn sheep, wolf, coyote, badger, pronghorn antelope, jackrabbit and cottontail.
This is the first in a two part series about Lovelock Cave, located on a terrace of ancient Lake Lahontan about 22 miles south of Lovelock in Churchill County, Nevada. The second in the series will describe some of the hundreds of artifacts recovered from the cave. It was excavated in 1912 by archaeologists Llewellyn L. Loud and again in 1924 by Mark R. Harrington. It yielded some of the richest archaeological Treasures ever found in the American West.
Scientists have determined the cave was inhabited by humans in several phases from about 3000 B.C. to about 1900 A.D. In more recent findings, the earliest habitation at the site may have been even older than originally determined by Loud and Harrington. In their classic book, “Lovelock Cave,” these two archaeologists collaborated to tell about the remarkable artifacts and human remains they discovered in the cave. I will describe many of these items in my next article in this series.
Political correctness really chaps the back side of my wrinkled old hide. I am going to cite just one example of how far bureaucrats will go to shove their interpretation of what they believe to be politically correct down our throats.
I have often used USGS (United States Geological Survey) maps published by the United States Government during my travels throughout the American West. The desert country of the Great Basin has often been referred to as the Great American Desert. This is largely a desolate land with few paved roads and even fewer places with human habitation. Before widespread use of GPS (Global Positioning System) for determining where you were, desert travelers commonly referred to USGS maps to keep them from getting lost.
In the days when the Virginia and Truckee Railroad traveled between Virginia City and Carson City, there was one important station along the way known as Moundhouse. Located about halfway between the two cities, Moundhouse also was the terminus point for the narrow-gauge Carson and Colorado Railroad. The Moundhouse Station was quite substantial, having numerous warehouses, loading and unloading areas, and an extensive train yard. It was situated just north of present U.S. Highway 50 and east of Redrock Road.
The railroad yard at Moundhouse was abandoned in 1939. The tracks were taken up and the buildings gradually disappeared. By the 1980s, commercial development completely covered the site. The shop and equipment yard for my family business, Cassinelli Landscaping and Construction, are now located on the site of the former Moundhouse Station. This is now one of Nevada’s most famous ranching districts, being located near the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, the Sagebrush Ranch, the Kit Kat Ranch and the Bunny Ranch II. All of these beautiful ranches are visible from the windows of our offices.
Due to the extensive commercial development that has occurred in recent years, the rebuilt Virginia and Truckee Railroad will not be routed where the original station once stood. The new route will be about a half mile west of the original site near where the Lyon County/Carson City line crosses U.S. Highway 50.
Being an amateur archaeologist, I have searched the area extensively looking for some remnants of the old Moundhouse Station. The area is so changed, there is only one thing that marks the site today. Just across the driveway from our office stands a gnarled old pinion tree. Beneath the tree lies a grave surrounded by an ancient wooden picket fence. The fence was so old and fallen down that someone had enclosed the gravesite with a modern chain-link fence. A weathered wooden grave marker, though illegible, leans precariously against the pinion tree.
Fortunately, the person buried there shall not be forgotten. Years ago, someone used an old Highway Department marker to create a memorial of sorts to the person buried in the grave. Painted on the marker by hand is the following inscription:
“This marks the site of the Mound House Halfway station between Carson City and Virginia City, named after the grave of Maria A. Kennie Mclain, 1835 – 1871.”
A few years ago, I told the historian at the Nevada State Railroad Museum about the grave. She was able to locate some descendants of Ms. Mclain. The relatives lived out-of-state, so we took pictures of the gravesite to send to them. My crew and I respectfully tend to the grave, and on dry years we drag the hose out and give the gnarled old pinion tree a drink. Hopefully, those who follow us will continue to preserve and protect this one last remnant of the original railroad station at Moundhouse.
This article originally appeared in the Comstock Chronicle, Virginia City, Nev.
There’s still room to sign up for the John C. Fremont Symposium, July 25-26. My team and I will be cooking a delicious Dutch-oven lunch of smoked chicken breasts, buffalo chili, salad, roasted vegetables, cornbread and fruit cobbler. This should an amazing and educational event, and definitely lots of fun.
Signup information is below, as well as links to media stories with further details. Be sure to help spread the word!
Call Deborah Stevenson, Curator of Education, at 775-687-4810, ext. 237.
To register, click here
Additional details on The Nevada Appeal website
Additional details on This Is Reno
2014 is the Sesquicentennial year of Nevada Statehood. I can still remember celebrating the Centennial year in 1964 when I grew my one and only beard in celebration of the event. Now, it is the 150th birthday of Nevada, and I will celebrate it by growing a set of gray sideburns and cooking a dutch oven lunch for 80 people at Mills Park in Carson City on July 25th. To celebrate the event, the Nevada State Museum where I am a volunteer tour guide and part-time cook, is presenting a John C. Fremont Symposium.
One of the many events of this two-day extravaganza is a lunch like western explorer John C. Fremont may have had along the trail in 1844 when he entered our own area here in the Great Basin. I would really like to meet all those of you who read my History of the Comstock column and serve you a delicious Dutch oven lunch of smoked chicken breasts, buffalo chili, salad, roasted vegetables, cornbread and fruit cobbler.
My team and I have seasoned up about 20 Dutch ovens and are raring to serve you the greatest frontier grub this side of the Oregon Trail. Fremont’s crew used Dutch ovens for cooking on their 1843-1844 expedition through western Nevada where he discovered Pyramid Lake, Truckee River, Carson River, Lake Tahoe and disproved the myth of the legendary Buenaventura River thought to drain the Great Basin to the Pacific Ocean.
For those of you who may not know, the elusive Fremont Cannon that he abandoned along a deep creek near the West Walker River has been found. The Fremont Cannon Recovery Team found three of the cannon carriage iron wheels and the cannon mounting hardware from one side of the cannon carriage after an exhaustive search lasting several years.
It also appears the bronze 1835 Cyrus Alger cannon barrel long in possession of the Nevada State Museum is likely the same one that had been abandoned in the canyon, and was re-discovered in the mid-1800’s. It was then possibly sold where it made the rounds of several locations in western Nevada including Virginia City and Glenbrook at Lake Tahoe. Everywhere it traveled, it was referred to as the Fremont Cannon. When John C. Fremont visited Virginia City in the 1870s, he was shown the bronze barrel and identified it as the one he had abandoned in the winter of 1844.
The John C. Fremont Symposium to be held July 25th and 26th is a gathering of top Fremont scholars, archaeologists and authors from around the world, offering two days of lectures and panel discussions at the museum. You will be able to meet and talk to the members of the Fremont Howitzer Recovery Team and cannon experts who will tell about the amazing discovery of these artifacts.
Two special galleries have been set up at the Museum to contain the many artifacts and photographs from the Fremont Expedition. These include Fremont’s presidential campaign flag, maps drawn by cartographer, Charles Preuss, The original cannon carriage parts discovered near the Walker River, and a replica vintage cannon carriage with the bronze Fremont cannon mounted on it. Many of the original surveying instruments and equipment used on the expedition are shown, including the remains of a Dutch oven found at one of Fremont’s camp sites in Oregon.
Breakfast of coffee, tea and pastries will be served each day. The Dutch oven lunch that I will be serving at Mills Park will be at noon on the 25th. We are trying to arrange for a surprise presentation of some cannons firing blanks following lunch. On the 26th, the festivities extend into the evening hours with a theatrical presentation by actor Alastair Jaques in the Nevada Room at the Governor’s Mansion. This will be followed by a catered dinner at the mansion and songs of Nevada and Cowboy Poetry by Richard Elloyan, singer and songwriter, raised in Virginia City.
And now, what will all this cost? When you consider all the meals, outstanding speakers, and a chance to meet your favorite historian, (Me), the Symposium is a bargain at just $100 per person. For $40 you can attend just the dinner and entertainment at the Governor’s Mansion on the 26th. Call soon to make your reservations, since there is a limit of just 80 participants. Call Deborah Stevenson, Curator of Education, at 775-687-4810, ext. 237.
See you there.
To register, click here
Additional details on The Nevada Appeal website
Additional details on This Is Reno