Margaret Anne "Peggy" Reynolds Renken Oral History

Dublin Core


Margaret Anne "Peggy" Reynolds Renken Oral History


Margaret Anne "Peggy" Reynolds Renken Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


September 8, 2002


Analog Cassette Tape, ,Doc File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Bunny Corkill


Margaret Anne "Peggy" Reynolds Renken


1050 S. Maine St, Fallon, NV, 89406


Churchill County Oral History Project

an interview with


Fallon, Nevada

conducted by

Bunny Corkill

September 8, 2002

This interview was transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norine Arciniega; final by Glenda Price; index by Norine Arciniega; supervised by Jane Pieplow, Director of the Churchill County Museum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.


Churchill County native, Margaret Anne "Peggy" Reynolds Renken was born August 26, 1923 in Fallon, Nevada, to Katherine Lorraine deBraga and Jay Bryan Reynolds. This interview session had been planned so that she and her brother Joseph Deihl "Bud" Reynolds could visit with each other, tell stories of their younger days and have these memories recorded or posterity through a moderator. Unfortunately on the day set aside for the meeting, "Bud" was unable to be at the Churchill County Museum, so "Peggy" happily consented to share memories of her parents in this interview, so that the stories can be preserved and passed down to her children and grandchildren.

Possessed with a delightful sense of humor and a penchant for story telling, Peggy recalled her early life experiences with a great amount of family and community pride.

Interview with Margaret Ann "Peggy" Reynolds Renken

CORKILL: Today is Saturday, September 8, 2002. I am Bunny Corkill of the Churchill County Museum staff I have been invited by the J.B. Reynolds family to record some of their memories. My first storyteller today is Peggy Renken who would be the daughter of J.B. Reynolds and Katie deBraga. Peggy, what is your real name?

RENKEN: Margaret Anne.

CORKILL: Margaret Anne Reynolds.

RENKEN: Yes. I was named after my two grandmothers.

CORKILL: All right. Let us begin by asking about your father's name.

RENKEN: Dad came out here. It was 1917. His older brother was in the Army, and he had given my dad a lot of his civilian clothes. Dad had come out here to the Socialist Colony, and he went later, after it had failed, he went to work at the Freeman Ranch. The boss after hiring him told him to go over to the bunkhouse there and put his bedroll and clothing bag on any bunk that was empty, and that would be his. So Dad did, but there were some men playing cards there, and Dad put his belongings including his hat which his brother had given him on the bedroll, and he went over to introduce himself to these men. Another man came in, picked up his hat and looked at it. Of course, it was from Uncle-Glen who had been working in Texas for a number of years, and he read in the sweatband that it was made or sold in San Antonio, Texas. He called Dad Tex. Dad didn't like his given name, so that was fine.

CORKILL: Which is?

RENKEN: Jay Bryan. I shouldn't tell you this, but he was named for William Jennings Bryan, and he wasn't particularly happy about that. [laughing] So, he was very glad to be Tex from then on.

CORKILL: Before we go on, would you please tell us who your mother was?

RENKEN: She was Katie deBraga. She was born in Union Canyon, Nevada. Her father came here from Portugal. Before his marriage he was a sheepherder for Maestretti. He did some prospecting and mining. Then in 1917 the deBraga family moved here. They came here in June of 1917. Dad came here in December of 1917. The way Dad met Mother was that she was working in the boarding house he was staying in when he was working on the oil wells during the oil boom in Stillwater, and that is where they met. They were married in 1922.

CORKILL: When you say that he came here, where was he born?

RENKEN: He was born in Missouri. He lived in Arkansas, and then his family took part in the last land rush into Oklahoma. In fact, when his sister, who was married and remained in Oklahoma, died, she was the last person to have come into, believe it or not, Roger Mills County in Oklahoma by covered wagon. But, as I say, she was married, so she stayed there. She made a number of trips out here.

CORKILL: As a young man did your father pursue the water well drilling before he came here?


CORKILL: And you mentioned earlier that he came here for the Socialist Colony.

RENKEN: Dad's mother died when he was fifteen. After her death--I don't know just when Grandad came out, but Dad and his youngest sister stayed in Oklahoma with their older sister until Grandad came out here and made sure he was going to stay here. Then Dad and his sister came out in December, 1917.

CORKILL: As you were growing up, did your father talk about the principles behind the Socialist Colony? What was it that made his father want to come here to join in it?

RENKEN: I don't know. Dad made *his* opinion known. He didn't like it. [laughing] Grandad not only came to this one which failed. Then later on, I must have been about seven, he went to a Socialist Colony in Louisiana which also failed as most of them usually do, I understand.

CORKILL: Interesting. So that's how your father came here with the Socialist Colony, met your mother. Now, you have some stories that you would like to tell. Do you want to begin by telling the ones on your tablet?

RENKEN: You asked--I told you about how he got his name tag. Another story… That is the one about the tags… [papers rustling] Here's a story not so much about Dad, well, it is about Dad, but me, too. Dad was, being raised in the Midwest and on farms, he rode from childhood. He later became a cowboy out here and all, he and his father had me on a horse before I could walk. Mother was always afraid of horses. She was afraid they were going to hurt me, but my grandad overruled that objection. One of my earliest memories of riding was when I was probably about eight, Dad sent me to bring the cows up from pasture for the evening milking. When I got down to the pasture, the cows were on the far side of a swampy area which I had to cross to get to them. When we started across, my horse slipped and fell. It didn't hurt me because it was soft and muddy. I did manage to get him on his feet, but by the time I did, both of us were all mud on one side. We went over and we got the cows, took them back, and I was late, of course, getting them. So, Dad came out from the barn to see what was the matter, and I told him. Of course, he could see the mud. He said. "Well, go ahead and put the cows in the corral and then ride your horse into the barn. I want to talk to you." So I'm wondering what he wanted to talk to me about, if I was really in trouble. I rode into the barn. He was washing down the barn floors prior to milking. He turned the hose on me and my horse and washed the mud off of us. He says, "Now, when your mother asks you. tell her I accidentally turned the hose on you." He didn't want Mother to know about falling horses. I don't know if she believed us or not, but I never heard anything more about it.

CORKILL: That's wonderful.

Going back to the beginning, I would like you to tell about your grandfather. Joseph deBraga. We will put this in the beginning of the story, but please tell about him living in Portugal.

RENKEN: I really know very little about that except that his father was fisherman and was lost at sea. His mother apparently just couldn't believe it, that her husband wasn't coming home, and it apparently affected her mind or her thinking anyway. Grandad said she walked the beach day and night till she died, watching for her husband to come home. He never did tell us who they were, but a couple he called the old man and the old lady took them in and took care of them. He had sisters and a brother. At that time Portugal had a rule as we do here and now that you went into military service at age nineteen, and this man, I've been told he was an ambassador, but I'm not sure if it was from the United States, but I think he was from the United States because he really didn't want the boys to go into the service for some reason. And as they reached nineteen, he sent them to the United States. His older brother came first. When Grandad neared nineteen this man thought, well, Grandad would have an easier time of it than his brother John did because John would know the language now, and Grandad didn't know it. But when he got to the last place they'd heard from his brother, his brother had moved. He went and talked to people in the Portugese community, I presume. Somebody said that he had moved to such and such a place. Grandad would work awhile, earn some money to travel on, and go to that place and find out that his brother had moved somewhere else. He'd repeat that as he came across the United States. He finally heard that his brother was working in the mines in Nevada near Austin, so he came there and his brother had been there, but he had moved on. Grandad stayed to work so he could do his usual thing, follow his brother, but he met Grandma in the meantime, so that stopped his traveling very far. [laughing]

CORKILL: And her name was?

RENKEN: Her name was Margaret Kennedy. Well, I’m not sure where she was born. No, she was born in Austin. After they were married--oh, they'd been married a number of years because six of their children had been born. They were born in the Austin area, either Berlin, lone, or Austin itself. The youngest one, Manuel, was born after they moved here. He took up a farm in Stillwater. One reason, I told you earlier. that he had worked for the Maestrettis in Austin. Mamie Dalton was a Maestretti. and he went to see her and her family, the Daltons, about buying a place. So he bought the farm that he did because they were building--the school was in Stillwater itself at that time they were building the new school, and his children were going to have to walk to school. The new school was going to be not quite a mile away and right across the road from the Daltons. So he settled there. The kids did walk to school about six months, and then the new school was finished. They all went to school there as I did through the seventh grade. That's about how he got down here.

CORKILL: We have talked about your father and mother meeting. and they were married the 26 of December, 1922. Their first home was out at Stillwater?


CORKILL: And your father had purchased a ranch, also, in the meantime?

RENKEN: No, he had worked at various places, principally, the Freeman Ranch. At the Socialist Colony Granddad met a man named John Sweigert. He was a pastor, also. When the Colony closed, they homesteaded this place together.

CORKILL: Now, that would be your father and John Sweigert or the grandfather?

RENKEN: My grandfather and John Sweigert. Dad and Mom lived different places. They rented for a while. Then when I was about six, Dad started to buy what they call the Kent place which is right across the ditch from where Granddad lived. When Granddad and John both decided they wanted to go to Louisiana to this Socialist Colony, Dad took over the farm. They homesteaded it, and that is where I was raised principally.

CORKILL: You have one brother, and his name is?

RENKEN: Joseph Deihl. The reason I smiled about that is because his original spelling on everything was G, and he got so much, he dropped the G. [laughing] They all wanted to call him Deigle.

CORKILL: Oh. And he is older or younger than you are?

RENKEN: Eight years younger.

CORKILL: You were talking about the oil prospectors. As the years went by, did your father ever believe there was oil in Stillwater, or he was happy for the hot water?

RENKEN: He knew there wasn't oil in Stillwater. One well, at least, I know that he told about was when he came home from Parran. He come across the desert from where they were drilling the wells to Parran, picked up the oil road to Salt Wells. [laughing] He and my Uncle Glen, when Glen got out of the Army, he came out here. He didn't stay here. He worked mostly for a number of years in New Mexico and Arizona, but he came out here when they happened to be drilling, and he had worked wells in Texas, so he got himself and Dad both a job on the well that they drilled in Stillwater, and they were drilling there the night they hit hot water.

CORKILL: And that was approximately 1921 or so, I think.

RENKEN: Yes, and you've got pictures of it here that I gave the museum. It's dated, I think, and I think it was 1921.

CORKILL: After they found the hot water, then they put it into the swimming pool. Can you tell about your memories of the swimming pool?

RENKEN: Yes. It was an older couple, the LeBeaus. They piped the water. They had a big outdoor pool, and then they had a smaller indoor pool. It was just a lot of fun to go swimming there. I have two memories of the big pool. One night we went swimming. I didn't swim yet. I had an inner tube I was playing with in the shallow end. You couldn't stay in that water too long because it was too warm. It would weaken you. Dad came and told me to get out of the pool that I'd been in long enough. I suppose I asked him if we were going to go home. He said they were going to go over there and visit with these other people for a little while. Some kids that I'd been playing with wanted to know if they could use my inner tube after I went home. I told them, "Yes," but then after I gave my tube to them, I decided I wanted to swim one more time. I jumped in the pool without my inner tube. Luckily Dad was standing by and got me out. [laughing] The other one about the pool that I remember particularly was that the end of school we always had a big picnic. Had it down there on the bank just across from the ditch in Stillwater itself. Not the slough that was there. Part of the fun of it was after we ate lunch there we went swimming. The night before we were going to have the picnic some friends came to visit Dad and Mother. and they had a daughter that was in school with me. We were pretty good friends. It was late May, nice weather, and both of us were barefoot. Dad had brought a load of sand in to spread out on the ground in the yard which he did almost every year because of the adobe down there. We were playing in that sandpile, and I cut my foot. It was an odd shape cut, semicircular. All four of the adults were wondering how on earth I could my foot that way. So, while Mom and the other lady were doing what they could for my foot, why, Dad and the man went out and looked in the sandpile, and I'd cut it on a broken light bulb that was in there. That ended my swimming for the next day, and I never really enjoyed going barefoot after that. [laughs]

CORKILL: Oh. it's good that it didn't get infected, or maybe it did?

RENKEN: No, it didn't.

CORKILL: Then, after your father was through with some of his ventures, did he go into the mining business?


CORKILL: He never did mine?

RENKEN: No. He used to help Granddad deBraga because Granddad had claims up by Berlin, and he used to help him with assessment work and things like that occasionally, but he never went into mining himself. The way he happened to get into the drilling--you have the original out here--I'm not sure just how he got the grasshopper. but his first big rig he got--it'd been used at the oil wells.

CORKILL: Now, please tell me what a grasshopper is.

RENKEN: Well, a grasshopper is a funny little well drill. [laughing] It was all metal and very small. Dad used it principally drilling wells around Stillwater. There wasn't very much drinking water in Stillwater because of the hot water, but several places he got warm water where people could use it for various things.

CORKILL: Did he encourage people to put it in their homes for heat? Did you have it in your house?

RENKEN: Urn-hum. I was raised on the farm where the geothermal thing is now. Water came out of the ground over three hundred degrees. Dad always said l was the only kid in the county that would tell him I couldn't do the dishes because the water was too hot and be telling the truth. [laughing]

CORKILL: [laughing] Right. I have been in some of those houses in Stillwater where the hot water was in the restroom, and that's interesting, too, in the summertime to sit down on the hot water.

RENKEN: We never had that type, but Dad did eventually get a bathtub, He petitioned off one corner of what had been a bedroom and he never put the rest of the indoor plumbing in, but he put a bathtub in. If you were going to take a bath that day, you ran the water in the morning and that evening you could take a bath. [laughing]

CORKILL: Oh, that's good. Now, since it's just you, and your brother isn't here, why don't we talk about some of your own memories of going to school.

RENKEN: I mentioned earlier about Dad teaching me to ride. I rode to the Stillwater School--it's about three miles--everyday unless the weather was real cold or stormy. Most of the kids made fun of me. There was a couple of boys rode horseback to school. but I was the only girl that rode. To keep warm I wore jeans which no girls did at that time, and they all made fun of me. You couldn't buy girls' jeans. You had to wear boys, and they made fun of me about that. One of my memories about my riding horseback to school was that my horse had been trained by my grandfather. He'd ride into town on his horse, and he'd gonna buy some groceries maybe he'd meet a neighbor that had a car, and he could buy more groceries to take home with him if he didn't have to go on the horse. He could ride home. He had the horse trained that just put the reins up and let it go, it went home. Sometimes I'd be kind of late getting to school. I'd have to hurry up and tie him up before the bell rang. and I wouldn't get him tied real tight. and he'd get loose, and I'd have to walk home carrying the bridle with me. One time--Dad was on the school board, which is beside the point, but it was during the Depression, and Stillwater School wasn't able to . . . They had a teacherage, and they'd give the teachers a room, but they couldn't pay them their full salary. They'd hired these two ladies to teach, and one of them that was teaching the primary room, the first four grades, got a chance to get a job where she got full salary, and she asked the school hoard if they would release her from her contract. They told her as long as she got a replacement. She got this man. He was my first man teacher, and I guess he was all right as a teacher except that he found out that my dad was president of the school board, and I didn't have to do a lick of work. It was not very good really, but I got into a higher grade. [laughing] He was new. He'd only been there maybe not even a month. it was still nice weather, and we had the school room doors open. George Armas was standing up doing recitation of sonic sort, reading lesson or something. I don't know just why he was standing up there, but it was something to do with class work, and he happened to look out the window. My name at that time around Stillwater was Pickles, and he yelled, "Pickles' horse is loose," and he jumped out the window [laughing] to go catch it 'cause he knew I'd have to walk home. I jumped up without asking permission. I got out through the hallway to go get my horse. When George and I both got back into the room, why everything'd been explained to Mr. Stratton, but I think he thought he had a bunch of crazy kids on his hands. [laughing] That is one of the things of my memories of my horseback riding.

CORKILL: Having never ridden a horse to school, I have often thought about when a number of children did ride, I presume that at noontime they had to be watered or they'd take feed for them. Did the horses whinny and kind of argue with each other?

RENKEN: Well, we usually kept them tied fairly far apart. I had a special place on one side of the yard that I tied my horse. Bob Swope tied his at the end of the school yard, and George Swope tied his on the other side, so we kept them separated that way. We did have a water trough. Of course, at that time people here didn't bale hay much, but our parents used to bring a few forkfuls of hay and put up for feed and let them eat them and then bring up some more for them. We'd take them and water them at lunchtime.

CORKILL: When you were growing up, what were the social activities in Stillwater? Did you go skating? Was there enough ice that you skated?

RENKENS: No, dancing. I guess I think of that more because my folks loved to dance. One of my stories that I have in here is Dad teaching me and my daughters to do the heel and toe polka when they were about five years old. He had us dancing pretty good. They built the schoolhouse, as I understand it. You could see the boards. They were boards that would be used in a dance floor, but after they put them in there somebody oiled them, and it was not a good dance floor. But we did have The Breaks as they called it down at Stillwater. It had a lovely dance floor.

CORKILL: Now, that was the Charles Cirac hotel?

RENKEN: Urn-hum. The old hotel there. It had a big, nice dance floor in it, and I was too young at the time for me to dance on it except get out there and play and get in people's way, but the folks and everybody talked about it. It was built so that you didn't--you were always going with the grains.

CORKILL: Oh, interesting.

RENKEN: It was catta-cornered and cut in. My folks took me down there when I was--they had a room off--they called it the coat closet. It was not a closet, but a place where you'd hang things. It had shelves in it, and you folded your coats and whatnot and put them up there. I'd sit there and watch them dance till I'd get sleepy, and Mom would take me in and put some coats under me, cover me up with some, and I'd sleep until they got ready to go home. [laughing] Then, of course, at Christmas time and at the end of school, they had the school programs. Another thing I remember them doing in nice weather was they'd have community wiener roasts on the other side of Stillwater where they could build a fire.

CORKILL: It seems so sad that now there's so few trees there, but the old pictures had trees everywhere.

RENKEN: Yeah, along the sloughs and everything.

CORKILL: You think the water table has risen or the salt's come up?

RENKEN: I don't really know why that . .. and Dad often speculated about it, too. There haven't really been too many new people move into Stillwater. [End of side A]

CORKILL: Some people might not have known about the hottest water there.

RENKEN: Yes. The others all had warm water. Very little of it was drinkable. At the Osgood place it was about 140 degrees.

CORKILL: Where did the family go to get their drinking water?

RENKEN:You hauled it from wherever you could. My earlier years I don't remember where they got it, but later we got water at the Schoffner place.

CORKILL: That would be where Weishaupts own now. The big Dodge shop there.

RENKEN: Where Dodge-Schoffner Ranch was. And then later they got it from the Frank deBraga place. But now Goldie had it piped to her kids' places, and they really can't get it there. I guess they haul it from town now or buy bottled water. I know the Osgoods bought bottled water.            

CORKILL: Even before it was fashionable.

RENKEN: Yeah. And they'd buy the big five-gallon, and you didn't waste cold water. As I said about waiting for the dishwater to cool, you didn't waste drinking water that way. You used that strictly for cooking and drinking. Dad did drill a well that was halfway in between where Osgoods lived in here and the deBragas lived, and it had good water in it. By the time we left Stillwater, people were getting their water there. It was right along the ditch. I guess it was the ditch water that started seeping into it and ruined it, so they didn't use it for very long.

CORKILL: Well, water is certainly a problem in Nevada.

RENKEN: Yes, it is.

CORKILL: You have another story to tell'?

RENKEN: Bud suggested that I tell about Dad and his Indian cowboy friend. He worked with these men on the Freeman Ranch in Stillwater. There's Willie Steve and Bill Springer and the two Williams boys, Henry and Johnny, that Bud and I could remember. There may have been more. That was all that Bud suggested. He couldn't really think of anything to tell about them, but talk about them. The only thing I really knew about Dad's experiences with them was that the Indian man had a custom--I don't know whether it was a tribal custom or just something that they give to themselves, but once a year they stop smoking for a month. I guess maybe it was probably because it was out of politeness or what, maybe just life. But, anyway, Dad started quitting when they quit smoking; he'd quit for the month, too, and I imagine that helped him a lot in his later life because he decided to quit smoking, and he just quit. I can remember telling Mom. "Gotta quit smoking. I can't tie my shoes." He quit smoking sometimes up to a year, and then he'd start again. Where it really helped, I think, of course not smoking every once in a while helped, too, I guess, but when Doctor Dingacci told him, and I imagine Ding was smoking at time he was talking to Dad because they were friends. Dad had had a heart attack, and this was his first visit to Ding after he left the hospital, and he hadn't given any orders. Dad was asking about various things including smoking, and Ding told him, "Well, you'd be better off if you didn't smoke, but I know it wouldn't do any good to tell you." Dad threw his cigarettes in the trash on his way out and never smoked again. Although when one of us had a problem with the rigs or something he wanted to think about, he'd still reach for his shirt pocket. [laughter] The Indian men and he remained friends the rest of their lives.

CORKILL: Did he ever know a Chester family?

RENKEN: Yes, he worked for them.

CORKILL: We have some stories that that Chester--was it George?

RENKEN: Um-hum. He was the one that told Dad to take his bed out of the bunkhouse. Jack Chester was a pretty good friend of Dad's. He lived here for awhile, and later years he used to write a piece in the paper, Mr. Jack's Stories, or something like that.

CORKILL: Yes. They were very funny, some of them. So then after your folks left Stillwater, did they come into town to live?

RENKEN: Yes, we moved into town in 1936. Glen had come back to Nevada on a permanent basis, and he took over the ranch 'cause Dad wanted more time to do his drilling. We lived in a house down by the post office on A Street for about six months, and then Dad bought a place on Humboldt Street and fixed it up. That's where they lived until they moved out onto Allen Road. Well, they moved up to Wells first, and then when they moved back from Wells about 1960 they [moved to Allen Road].

CORKILL: It's very interesting to realize that a man can make his living by drilling wells, but it's something that every person that took up a piece of land had to have.

RENKEN: Oh, yes. And in this valley it's interesting, intriguing, that two wells just a few feet apart can be completely different.

CORKILL: Down where we lived, we had artesian, and your father when he was quite elderly, he and Pete Erb were down there trying to drill wells. They were down far enough that this redwood looking stuff came up, and he was trying to convince me that this used to be a redwood forest in the early days.

RENKEN: [laughing] That sounds like Dad. [laughing]

CORKILL: Well, I had no better explanation for it. It could have been a redwood forest.

RENKEN: It could have been. Who knows? I know that where I'm living now, Dad built a well, and it's good. In fact, I just got a water test back on it--good. But when my oldest daughter, Betty, and her husband bought a trailer, Dad gave them permission to put it on the property there, and he drilled a well intending for them to use it. It was just across the little driveway. It came back absolutely unfit for human consumption.

CORKILL: Did your father ever discuss what they call live water and dead water?

RENKEN: I don't remember that.

CORKILL: What I've heard that one of our problems in this valley is there are stratas of basically running water and whether they come from the Sierra Nevada through this valley, I don't know. But then right next to it there would be a pool that could be thousands of years old, I guess.

RENKEN: Yeah, I imagine so. Yes, I've never heard it referred to the way you did, but, yes, I've heard him say things about that. It's one of those peculiarities of the area. When he drilled that well for Betty, it had so much arsenic in it you couldn't use it. So, they piped that into the bathroom and places like this where you'd take your bath and use it otherwise in the bathroom. But if I get water from his good well over to there for their kitchen use. they use it for cooking and all.

CORKILL: Betty was married some thirty, forty years ago or more?

RENKEN: 1960.

CORKILL: So, at that time the arsenic was a problem, and they realized that there was too much arsenic in the water.

RENKEN: Yes. I'm not sure just when they started it. When Dad first started drilling, he didn't have to, but then, I think it was probably late forties, fifties, they started requiring you drill well logs, and you had to send a sample in to be tested. I used to write the well logs for Dad. I never had anything to do with the water testing or anything, but I'd write these logs up. You had to log what kind of stratus they drilled through and how deep they were and all this, of course, the drillers were supposed to keep track of that.

CORKILL: So, at this point in time, there should be records in Carson City documenting the quality of the water in this valley for many years.


CORKILL: And so probably this latest arsenic scare is not something new.


RENKEN: I don't know whether you call it scare or not, but, yes. I can give the first time I really realized the fact that arsenic was not good for you to drink was when I was working at the bowling alley, and that would have been… about thirty years ago. That's the only person after living in this valley most of my life that I'd ever heard really having anything bad that they figured was due to arsenic. I don't even remember their names now. but it's a lady that was bowling. She came in one night. Her daughter had gotten some kind of discoloration on her skin and hands, and she'd taken her to the doctor. I don't know what kind of tests they ran or anything, but they figured it was arsenic.

CORKILL: By any chance, was that Melba Gabiola Taylor?

RENKEN: It could have been Melba's daughter.

CORKILL: I think so. They lived out on Soda Lake Road. and l remember that that girl started turning kind of copper colored.

RENKEN: And they thought that it could be arsenic, but I don't think they ever really knew for sure that it was.

CORKILL: Now, back to a story about Tex Reynolds.

RENKEN: He lived in Texas very little, a very short time, but because his older brother lived there and worked on ranches and drilled wells and things, he wanted to go into Texas, too. Well, they said he was only Efteen when his mother died, so he must have only been at the most fourteen when a family friend was talking to them, and he owned a ranch in Texas. He made a joking remark about Dad being another new hand. He could use a new hand on the ranch. Well, Dad jumped on that, and Grandma said, "All right," I guess, but she did ask this friend because of his age not to send him off the ranch on any cattle rides or anything like that. And the man promised that he wouldn't. I don't know how long Dad was down there on that ranch, not too awfully long, Pancho Villa went on the warpath down around Juarez. This man had some cattle running down there in that area, and he wanted to send a crew down to bring those cattle up before Pancho Villa got to them. Well, unbeknownst to the owner, and others, too, who didn't know anything about what Grandma and this man had agreed on, Dad went with them down to get those cattle. As soon as the man found out that Dad had gone, why, he took out after him. Dad said he did get to Juarez. but the only thing he really got see about it was the dirty sewers. The man took him clear home to Oklahoma, [laughing].

CORKILL: Interesting.

RENKEN: That's about the only time he spent in Texas.

CORKILL: Your father, Tex Reynolds. was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Would you please tell where he did his work?

RENKEN: Well, he was with the Corps. He went to work with them probably about 1938 or so.

CORKILL: But he was living here in Fallon?


CORKILL: And then he went some place else because you did not work in the same town that you were living in, is that correct?

RENKEN: Yes. Although, later on--he didn't work in the same town, but his first camp, as they called them, was in Elko County, and I'm not sure just what town because we never went up there. They didn't like moving us kids around too much in school. and besides Mom didn't want to move up there in the wintertime, and I can't say I blame her. What Dad did was drill wells for them. That was his job. He went from one camp to another where they needed wells drilled. He used CCC labor. No, it wasn't Elko, Las Vegas was his first camp, but anyway he worked at Las Vegas, and they told him he'd be down there at least a year, so they decided Las Vegas was too far for Dad to come home weekends, so the family moved down to Vegas because we were going to be there for a year. Dad at that time did most of his drilling--the camp was at Moapa, and they did their drilling around Clark County. One of the places that they drilled close to was the Valley of Fire, and we went down and saw it. My brother was in the third grade. He went to a little school close to the house that Dad rented for us to live in, and I was in high school. But, somehow or other, the full year that we were supposed to spend down in Las Vegas got shortened to three months, and from Las Vegas where it was quite warm, they sent him to Elko County, and he stayed there for a couple of years. [laughing]

CORKILL: So, probably the men that were under him learned the skill of well drilling, and then they could take it back to their homes.

RENKEN: Hopefully, yes. Although one of them, and he, after he got service and after they closed the camp, he still heard from this one boy from Ohio. If Dad had any favorites among the boys, I think Bill was it, He drove Cat for Dad 'cause a lot of places you had to even make your own roads in and that kind of stuff, but he had a fascination with rattlesnakes. Dad really worried about him at times because he'd he driving a Cat and he'd see a rattlesnake and he'd stop the Cat and go chase the snake. There was one night-- the foremen took turns at night being what they called Charge of Quarters so there was someone awake at all times in case of an emergency or something. One night Dad was on Charge of Quarters. and one of the problems they had was whenever they got a new bunch of boys in, until everybody got to know each other, they'd have fights. There was a big rumpus started down in one of the barracks, and they had two new boys in, and Dad thought, well, he'd go down and settle some fights. So he goes down and he met one of the boys running up toward quarters hollering at him about the snakes. Dad was wondering what in the world the kid was talking about, and he went down to settle these fights. What lead happened was that Bill had dug up--it was wintertime, and Dad had been heaving sighs of relief because Bill couldn't chase anymore snakes for the winter. Well, he had dug up a nest of baby rattlesnakes and had brought them in and put them by the stove in the barracks. He had baby rattlesnakes all over the place, [laughing] and he said he had CC boys clear up on the top bunks. [laughing] A lot of them had never even seen one before or even seen a snake. City boys. I guess they had quite a time getting rid of Bill's snakes that night.

CORKILL: I think that baby rattlesnakes are just as poisonous as big ones, aren't they?

RENKEN: Yeah, if they bite you, yes they are.

CORKILL: It's not that they grow into being…

RENKEN: No, they aren’t born non-venomous. I never did find out just how Dad got rid of all those snakes, but I guess they had quite a time doing it. He said they spent the rest of the night chasing snakes.

CORKILL: So, then you and your family, your mom and your brother came back to Fallon to go to school.

RENKEN: But then later he was stationed out of Eureka. The camp was at a place in between Eureka and Ely called Indian Springs. They wanted him to drill all over Eureka County where they were needed, but we lived in Eureka because that was the closest town to where the camp was. It was a small town. They didn't really want to move into Ely. I graduated from high school in Eureka, but Dad was up there for one year, my senior year, and then I came down here, lived with an aunt, and I took a post-graduate course at this high school because they didn't offer one at Eureka for one thing, and my going to University plans kind of fell through due to lack of money. The Mormon Ranch was about five miles from the camp. After I came down here, Dad moved Mom and Bud out. They called it the Foremen's Camp because the foremen had, well not tenthouses, but some of them had actual houses. Dad had a trailer and then he had a tenthouse that he sold. and they lived in a group just off the base. Bud and other foremen's kids went to school at the Mormon Ranch cause at that time if you had five children to attend, the ranch could maintain a school. Bud went to school there for about four years until they closed the school. Graduated in 1941, I think they closed the camp in 1944.

CORKILL: During his employment, did he ever work for the Bureau of Land Management putting in stock wells or anything like that?

RENKEN: No, he worked for the Division of Grazing, and I imagine they probably came kind of under that, too, 'cause a lot of what he usually did was more for range land, so I imagine they did do . . I never heard him say so, but I know he worked for the Division of Grazing.

CORKILL: 'Cause out in that big country, water is so precious. The cows can eat and then they have to walk off what they've eaten to get the water. Terrible.

RENKEN: Well, that's one reason they did was to make it a little easier for the cattle and the ranchers to get them to the water.

CORKILL: Well, thank you, Peggy. This concludes our little interview. We'll have this transcribed and we can visit another time. Thank you.


Jay Bryan "Tex" Reynolds

By: Margaret Anne "Peggy" Reynolds Renken

Sunday September 8, 2002

Jay Bryan Reynolds, was born in Harwood, Missouri, on September 5, 1901. He had been named after the politician William Jennings Bryan and was not particularly proud of that fact. He would later choose to use "LB." and was given the name "Tex" upon his arrival in Stillwater, Nevada.

His father, John Perry Reynolds, worked on the Rock Island Railroad as a painter and the family moved up and down the line where ever and whenever he was needed. My Dad [J.B.] often said he fought his way into and out of every school along the line. The family later moved to Arkansas and then on to Oklahoma. J.B. and his family were in the last great land rush into the state of Oklahoma. I believe it was 1912. His oldest sister, Aria, married and remained in Oklahoma the rest of her life. When she died, she was the last person living in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma, who had arrived there in a covered wagon. Dad's mother died when he was fifteen years old. In 1917, his father, John Perry, came to Fallon to join the Nevada City Socialist Colony. Later, in December of 1917, Dad and an older sister, Effie, came to Nevada to join their father. Their older brother, Glenn, was in the U.S. Army. When he enlisted, he gave J.B. most of his civilian clothes, including a Stetson cowboy hat. [more about the hat later]

When they got into Hazen [NV] they had to wait for their ride to Fallon. He and Effie spent some time exploring the town and on Dad's part at least, asking questions. He was told the story about the man who was hung there [Red Wood]. Later Dad was asking the station master about some of the things they had seen and heard. Apparently Dad had asked a lot of questions. When he asked why they had hanged that man, he was told. "For asking too many questions!"

After the "Nevada City" Socialist Colony closed down, my grandfather, John P. Reynolds, took up a homestead in Stillwater. It was an eighty-acre parcel where the geothermal plant is located. My Dad worked at various jobs, including drilling on the famous "oil wells" and cowboying at the Freeman Ranch in Stillwater. It was here that he was told to put his bed roll on a certain bed. Another man picked up the cowboy hat that he had inherited from his brother Glenn and noticed that it was made in Texas. From that moment on, Dad was called "Tex." It was while he was working on the oil well and living in a boarding house that he met Katherine Lorraine "Katie" deBraga who was working there. They were married on December 26. 1922.

After they married, Dad went into farming for himself and then took over his father's place when he moved away from Fallon. He also did some water well drilling with a cable tool rig he had acquired from Wheeler Drilling Company and the little "Grasshopper" drilling rig that is on display at the museum.

After Dad's brother Glen was discharged from the Army, he came to Nevada for a short while and then moved on the Arizona and New Mexico where he worked on various jobs. He returned to Nevada in 1936. "Tex" wanted to have time for more drilling and Glenn was ready to settle down so he took over the ranches. "Tex," Katie and we two kids, Peggy and Diehl "Bud", moved into the town of Fallon during the summer of 1936.

Dad who had drilled wells locally for some time expanded his well drillinp, business. He drilled all over the state of Nevada and parts of Northern California before the state of California began licensing well drillers and requiring them to register logs. At the time of his death in 1981 he had over 1,000 logs on record and had drilled many more wells before logs were required.

One of my favorite memories of him was his teaching me at about age five or six, the heel and toe polka or "Put your little foot down." He also taught the same dance to my two oldest daughters Betty and Cora, years later.

About 1938 or 1939 Dad went to work with the Civilian Conservation Corps as a foreman. His job was drilling range wells using CCC. labor. He began working at Moapa, NV but was mainly stationed near Elko and Eureka, NV. He worked at this job until about 1942 when the CCC was disbanded. During World War II he worked at the Hawthorne Ammunition Depot building bunkers. He also worked on the Alaska-Canada [Al Can] Highway from White Horse to Dawson, Yukon Territory.

When he came back to Nevada, he was again able to get pipe and help drill wells which he continued to do while living in Wells, NV and Fallon until his death on November 13, 1981. Besides his wife, Kate and two children Diehl "Bud" and Peggy, he left ten grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.

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Churchill County Museum Association, “Margaret Anne "Peggy" Reynolds Renken Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed August 17, 2022,