An Evening with Dennis Cassinelli at the Gold Hill Hotel (2005)

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Dennis discusses American Indian stone tools, and he illustrates his lecture with actual display boards from the Cassinelli-Perino Artifact Collection. He also talks about the discovery of the Spirit Cave Man mummy, as well as how he helped unearth a cache of rare coin dies at the Carson City Museum, formerly the Carson City Mint.

Recorded 4/19/2005.

The Cassinelli-Perino Artifact Collection

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In the early 1990s, Northern Nevada author and historian Dennis Cassinelli inherited a collection of Great Basin Indian artifacts from his aunt, Clare Perino. By using a projectile-point identification system developed by David Hurst Thomas called the Thomas Key, Cassinelli was able to type and date nearly every piece in the collection. He then decided to donate the artifacts to a suitable museum where they could be enjoyed by anybody interested in early Great Basin culture and history.

The Cassinelli-Perino Artifact Collection

In his book Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians, Dennis discusses the process of putting the collection together and includes detailed descriptions of the artifacts, as well as up-close photographs and stunning pen-and-ink drawings. The book also includes a fold-out chronology chart showing the projectile points across a 12,000-year time scale.

The collection contains hundreds of Great Basin projectile points laid over a beautifully painted display board. Items include:

  • A Topaz Lake point
  • Surprise Valley Split Stem
  • Steamboat points
  • Round and Turtleback scrapers
  • Rosegate Series
  • Resharpened Steamboat
  • Pinto Series
  • Petrified-wood points
  • Personal adornment items
  • A mocassin last
  • Knives
  • A mammoth tooth
  • Martis Stemmed
  • Martis Side Notched
  • Martis Leaf Shaped
  • Martis Contracting Stem
  • Humboldt Concave Base A
  • Humboldt Concave Base B
  • Martis Corner Notched
  • Gravers
  • Great Basin Crescents
  • Elko Corner Notched
  • Elko Contracting Stem
  • Drills
  • Early Pre-Mazama Points
  • Desert Side Notched
  • Daphne Creek Side Notched
  • Daphne Creek Eared
  • Chopping and Cutting Tools
  • Cottonwood Leaf Shaped
  • Cottonwood Triangular
  • Cutting Tools
  • Crescents
  • Bone Awl
  • Arrow-Shaft Straightening Stone
  • “Lopsided” points
  • Various “Untyped” points

The Cassinelli-Perino Artifact Collection is on permanent display at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center at 1477 U.S. Hwy. 395 in Gardnerville, Nevada. Be sure to drop in when you get a chance to see the artifacts, as well as the museum’s many other fascinating exhibits!

The Remains of the Rock Point Mill

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You wouldn’t know it driving past, but this scenic, cottonwood-shaded area alongside Highway 50 through Dayton was once home to a spellbinding ore-processing operation. And though nature’s started to reclaim it, the Rock Point Mill still stands as one of the many reminders of the Comstock mining district and the tremendous wealth it generated.

The Rock Point Mill site in Dayton, Nevada

The mill was built in 1861 by Charles C. Stevenson, who also served as Nevada’s governor from 1887 to 1890. Forty stamps crushed the ore that came from Gold Hill, Silver City and, of course, Virginia City. Flumes carried water from the nearby Carson River to the mill site. At one time, the mill had the capacity to crush 40 tons of ore per day.

A fire ravaged the original mill in 1882, and another fire wreaked havoc in 1909. Though it was immediately rebuilt, the new mill closed in 1920 and was moved to Silver City. Between 1920 and 1954, the site was used a dump.

Now part of the Dayton State Park, the remains of the historic Rock Point Mill include rock walls strung along the hillsides and concrete slabs sprouting from the earth. A wood-framed doorway leads into a room enclosed in rock. Outside, a stone staircase winds up a hill that provides amazing views of the surrounding town. An earthen dam still exists and provides a scenic basin hidden from the highway.

A sign near the base of the ruins tells the mill’s story through words and photographs. Rock-lined pathways wind uphill toward the dam, around the dump and to a round concrete structure at the top of a high hill. A convenient bench allows visitors to sit and admire the view. In addition, the site is connected to the Dayton State Park through a tunnel that runs underneath Highway 50.

Venturing among the ruins, you get a sense of the operation’s vast scale. As one of three ore-processing plants in Dayton, The Rock Point Mill was a crucial fixture not only of the town, but of the Comstock mining district as well. Today, it serves as an historical remnant of a bygone era, reminding contemporary Dayton of its roots and the role it played in the shaping of the west.

Virginia City, Nevada

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Perhaps no other area best symbolizes the Comstock region than Virginia City, Nev. Nestled high in the mountains and only minutes from Reno and Lake Tahoe, V.C. is the quintessential portrait of the rugged Old West, complete with ramshackle boardwalks, historical storefronts and a bonanza of interesting sites to explore.

A byproduct of the Comstock Lode, Virginia City sprouted into a blossoming metropolis with more than 30,000 residents during its glory days. Today, it’s recognized as the largest federally designated historical landmark in the U.S.

Scores of tourists flock here each year to take in the town. Famous sites – and there are too many to feature here – include Piper’s Opera House, the Mackay Mansion and the Bucket of Blood Saloon, not to mention the Fourth Ward School and St. Mary’s in the Mountains Catholic Church.

You literally can spend hours walking up and down the streets here, absorbing the scenery and history. Old mines still scar the surrounding hilltops, a testament to the city’s rowdy days of riches, a time when the allure of gold and silver beckoned dreamers from all around to strike their claims and try their luck.

Virginia City is an important link to a past that helped define the character of Nevada and the Old West. Through sheer determination and rugged self-reliance, ordinary people amassed great fortunes. The story of the Comstock – and of Virginia City – is the quintessential story of the American Dream.

So if you have an avid interest in history and a passion for exploring the Old West, Virginia City is definitely worth a visit. Perhaps no other place so transports you with its spellbinding scenery, its historical buildings and its rustic ambiance.

The Historic Cemetery Memorial Marker

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Today, this parcel off Glendale Avenue in Sparks, Nev., is a serene and shady park. It wasn’t always that way. In fact, its history is downright horrific.

Venture inside and you’ll find an impressive 9-foot granite obelisk memorial stretching toward the sky. Bronze plaques feature the names of 767 people. Each was a patient at the Nevada State Asylum — and each, until recently, had been buried in an unmarked grave, forgotten by history.

Nevada State Asylum Memorial Marker

From 1882 to 1949, asylum patients were buried on the hospital grounds. What started out as an orderly cemetery devolved to a mass grave. Bodies were stacked atop one another, and burials often were done by other patients.

When a large pipeline was installed in the 1940s, several graves were ripped apart and the remains used as backfill. When 21st Street was constructed in 1977, several graves were accidentally dug up and had to be reinterred inside the cemetery boundary.

These atrocities went unaddressed until a group known as the Friends of the Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services Cemetery appealed the state legislature to designate the area as an historical cemetery. SB 256, passed on May 22, 2009, finally brought an end to years of neglect.

Improvements included converting this parcel from a kid park to a memorial park and reinterring 18 graves buried west of the main cemetery. And, of course, the granite obelisk monument was installed. In addition to the 767 people known to be buried in the cemetery, there may be as many 400 others whose names have been lost to time.

On Jan. 21, 2011, a rededication ceremony took place to pay respect to the hundreds of souls who suffered untold neglect for so long. Attendees gathered in the new memorial park to give prayers and remembrance, and to recite histories of some of the people.

They were largely forgotten in life – and they were certainly forgotten in death – but with the hope, love and hard work of a caring group of people, these patients of the Nevada State Asylum can finally rest in peace.