Earl James Stewart Oral History
Oral History Item Type Metadata
CHURCHILL COUNTY MUSEUM & ARCHIVES
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
an interview with
EARL JAMES STUART
August 1, 1993
This interview was conducted by Vera Neill; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project 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.
The interview took place in the living room of Mr. and Mrs. Stuart's home. The home is located on a 240 acre ranch purchased in 1944. The house is situated on one acre of the ranch, the rest is leased out. The Stuarts raised three children there, all girls. The girls have all married and left home.
The house and ranch are located among fields of green alfalfa and grazing cattle. An irrigation canal flowing with water runs along Stuart Road near the Stuart house. The mountains in the background, clear, blue skies and three beautiful peacocks "strutting" in the Stuarts' yard make a lovely, peaceful scene on this hot afternoon of August 1, 1993.
Mr. Stuart who has recently recovered from a heart attack has a sharp, intelligent mind. He seemed to tire easily and it hurt his leg to sit for too long a period. I paced this interview with compassion for Mr. Stuart's health. The sun room which is next to the living room in which the interview was being held contained caged parakeets. Their chirping could not be avoided. I feel this did not interfere with the interview.
Mr. Stuart in his eighties, is very pleasant, witty and intelligent. He was well groomed and very cordial. He enjoyed talking about his school days in Fallon. (A highlight of school the way it used to be.) His home is cozy and has the feeling of many years of happy living within those walls. It is a comfortable home--pictures of children, grandchildren and family members on the walls and a desk which Mr. Stuart used when he was Churchill County Commissioner given to him when he retired. His pride in that desk was obvious.
In spite of the fact that Mr. Stuart seemed to tire easily and was experiencing pain in his leg, there is not doubt in my mind of the accuracy of this interview.
Interview with Earl James Stuart
NEILL: This is Vera Neill, interviewer for the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project, interviewing Earl Stuart 6755 Stuart Road in Fallon, Nevada, on Sunday, August 1, 1993. Please tell us your full name and address.
STUART: Earl James Stuart, 6755 Stuart Road.
NEILL: Where were you born, Mr. Stuart?
STUART: I was born Chatsworth, Georgia.
STUART: April 5, 1912, one of a family of six.
NEILL: Family of six. How many sisters and brothers?
STUART: Three sisters, two brothers.
NEILL: And what are their names?
STUART: Sisters' name was, well, Allene, of course, Baumann, now, and Lucy and Unadell who got killed in 1934, 1935, sometime in there, and then my brothers' names was Harlan and Harry. Harry's the youngest one. He lives in San Diego [California] at the present time, and Harlan is deceased so there's four of us left of the original family of six, and three of us is over eighty. The other one is between seventy and eighty.
NEILL: Are you the youngest or the oldest?
STUART: Allene's the oldest. Harlan was the second born. Lucy and me and Unadell and Harry. Harry's the youngest. Born 1919. Here, incidentally. The rest of us were born not in Nevada. He was the only one born in Nevada. I was born in Chatsworth. We came to Winchester, Idaho, when I was a year old, and then I was still a year old we moved into Castle Valley in southeastern Oregon. Lived in a tent for five years. Dug in the ground, so it was kind of crowded for the family, and, of course, there was only five kids at that time. I say, only. Had two tents actually. One we lived in and one we slept in.
NEILL: A capitalist, huh? (laughing)
STUART: Oh, gosh, I guess. I started school there in Oregon, incidentally, first grade, and then we moved here in 1918. My dad bought a ranch over there just south of Harmon schoolhouse across from George Luke. Did you ever know George Luke?
NEILL: Here in Fallon?
STUART: Anyway, he's pretty well known in the Museum there. He had quite a bunch of Indian artifacts, but I don't know where they're at now. But, anyway, then I started to Harmon School 1918 when they come down in second grade. Graduated in 1925. Started to high school in the same year and should have graduated in 1929, but, you know, the teachers just didn't know anything and I had to quit a couple of years. When I went back they was awful smart. Oh, they learned a lot, too.
STUART: Yeah. Anyway, I went back, graduated 1931. Then I went to Reno Business College for two years after I lost the arm in 1938. S'posed to take a job of bookkeeping with the company I was with, Isbell Construction, at the time, but I didn't like that inside work, so I went out and supervised the road jobs. I worked there for eleven years and I bought this place here in 1944. Ran for County Commissioner in 1948 and was elected. Three more times I was elected.
NEILL: Six years in all.
STUART: Ten years in all. 1949-1959, and then 1959 I went to work for the [Churchill County] Road Department as supervisor when a fellow by the name of Smiley Atkinson left, I took his place.
NEILL: Mr. Stuart, let's backtrack a little bit. Tell me about your parents. Where they were born, what their names were.
STUART: I'm not sure where they was born, really. I think they was both born at a place by the name of Spring Place, Georgia. This may not correspond with Allene. She probably knows more about where they were born than I do, and her name was [Ellen] Roberts and when they was married I don't know. She was born, I believe, in 1886, if I remember correctly and died in 1986, incidentally. Lacked one month of being a hundred years old.
NEILL: Oh, bless her. Did she die here in Fallon?
STUART: Yes, she died in the convalescent center that's there now.
NEILL: Yes, next to the hospital there. And how about your dad?
STUART: He died at home with a heart attack in 1975, I believe.
NEILL: Also here in Fallon?
STUART: I said 1975, I meant 1955. And died in Fallon on the home ranch over there.
NEILL: Home ranch. Is this the home ranch?
STUART: No, the home ranch is right south of Harmon schoolhouse. First right south of the Harmon schoolhouse where Lucy Melendy lives there now. That's the home ranch where it was bought in 1918.
NEILL: What do you remember about your grandparents?
STUART: Very little. I remember they lived in Oregon. When they moved to Oregon everybody, I say, everybody, nearly the entire family, the Stuarts, moved out there. My dad, two uncles, my aunt, my grandparents, they all homesteaded 320 acres in the same area adjoining each other, incidentally. My grandparents left there in 1917 in a covered wagon. I've got some pictures of them as they left Oregon. Then they came down here and bought a house on I believe it's Woods Drive, now, south of Fallon. A big cement block house. Jim Woods, matter of fact, lived there for a long time. And they died in, I don't remember the date. I don't have the slightest idea.
NEILL: What made your grandparents decide to come out west from Georgia?
STUART: I don't know. I really don't know.
NEILL: Homestead Act, do you think, maybe?
STUART: No, because they came to Winchester. They was in the lumber business in Georgia and they came to Winchester, Idaho, which was a lumber town and got in the lumber business up there. Why they moved out from Georgia, I don't have the slightest idea.
NEILL: Did you come across on the covered wagon?
STUART: No, no. We came across on a train. The only place we used a covered wagon was when we moved to the homestead in Oregon. We came from Bend, Oregon, down to the homestead--that's about ninety miles--in a wagon.
NEILL: You were on that wagon.
STUART: I was on that . . . I was a year old. I don't remember being on it, but I was on it. Yeah, sure enough.
NEILL: So, what made you decided to come to Fallon?
STUART: Far as I know, they had heard about the Socialist Colony that was up here a ways right across from Louie Guazzini's and seemed to be attracted to it. They got a lot of literature, but by the time they moved here it was closed up and defunct.
NEILL: Do you remember anything about the Socialist Colony?
STUART: No, 'cause it was gone when we came here. I remember the old buildings that stood there for so long and as a matter of fact, I think some of the foundations are still there. Louie Guazzini owns the place now.
NEILL: Now, what is the address where they used to be, do you remember?
STUART: It would be off of South Downs Lane. Right in around that brush area in there somewhere and that would be the only access to it now.
NEILL: You don't remember too much about it.
STUART: No, none. 'Course we never did live there. Bought the place over here and I don't remember too much about the colony. I remembered people that lived there and all of them lost their money, of course. They put their money up, but . . . matter of fact, Allene's husband's folks was in the colony. They lost everything they had. It was strictly one of those socialist things that didn't work out.
NEILL: No. Tell me about your school days here in Fallon. Did you start first grade in Fallon?
STUART: Second grade. I went to first grade in Oregon, and I started the second grade when we come here in October in 1918. I started second grade Harmon School and, oh, typical school kid, in a lot of trouble, you know.
NEILL: (laughing) I want to hear about that.
STUART: Well, no. (laughing)
NEILL: (laughing) I want to hear about that. Was it one big school room?
STUART: Uh, two. Had what they called a big room and a little room. The big room was fifth to the eighth grade inclusive, and the little room was one to four inclusive and, of course, a teacher in each room.
NEILL: How many pupils did one teacher have?
STUART: I would say about thirty.
NEILL: That's not bad.
STUART: Not for those days. It would be bad now. They'd frown on that now.
NEILL: So, the older would more or less coach the younger, would you say?
STUART: I think it worked out real good myself. I think that was a good system because--I'm talking about myself now. I know when I was in the fifth grade I'd listen intently to what was going on the seventh and eighth grade probably more than I paid attention in my own grade, but you learned a lot, I thought anyway. I thought it was a good system. I'm not sure we didn't lose somethin' when they lost it, but that's progress, I guess.
NEILL: I guess. (laughing) I guess. Well, tell me, what did you do at recess?
STUART: Got in as much mischief as I could. We used to have rock fights. We'd go up on the hill right east of the Harmon School and there was all those shale rock laying around there. Water rock, and that was our ammunition, and we'd build forts and go at it. Once in a while get hit in the eye or something, but that was part of the game. Then we had what they called Hare and Hound. We'd do that at noon. We didn't have time at recess. Fifteen-minute recess. At noon the older kids, the younger kids, whatever, would take off to north and the hounds would take after them about twenty-minutes later to see if they could catch them. I remember that was a pretty good game.
NEILL: Were you a hound or...
STUART: I probably was both. Yeah, probably. As I got older I got to be the hound. The younger ones are the hares. And we all had a last-day-of-school picnic. They all got on the hay wagon and went down to what they call Old River dawn at the end of the river far a big picnic. That was the last-day-of-school picnic, and that was quite an affair, really.
NEILL: Yes, yes.
STUART: It really was. Then as we got older they always had a big duck feed at Harmon School down in the basement. The older people--I was getting old enough to engage in a little duck hunting then, myself, and they would go down and get--the limit was twenty-five ducks if you could get them.
NEILL: Wild ducks?
STUART: Wild ducks. And then they'd have this big duck feed down there.
NEILL: Who would cook them?
STUART: The women folks. Oh, yeah, they was always ones that did all the work. All us guys just stood around and ate like hogs.
NEILL: What they'd do? Bake the ducks?
STUART: Baked, um hum.
NEILL: They had their own recipe, I'm sure.
STUART: Oh, yeah. Oh, I tell you and they made some good ducks. That was quite a feed.
NEILL: Do you remember how they prepared the ducks?
STUART: I sure don't. Don't remember. I just remember they were good. I did the eatin', not the preparin'.
NEILL: How about the Indian population? Did they go to school with you?
STUART: There was no Indians in our school. The Indians had their own school at Stillwater in those days. As a matter of fact, even in high school, there was only a few Indians because they had their own school in Stillwater at the Indian reservation down there. Their own school and their own church, so different than it is now, but not necessarily better. We had baseball, too. Always had a baseball team at Harmon and Stillwater and we were bitter enemies.
NEILL: Were you?
STUART: Oh, yeah. We, you know, we'd get in and really play ball.
NEILL: Against the Indians.
STUART: Again, against the Indians. The Indians had a team and Stillwater School had a team and Harmon School had a team and we'd play among each other.
NEILL: Who was top leader?
STUART: The Indians was usually the best players. Actually, they were. They usually beat us. Yeah, they had some good players.
NEILL: What was graduation like?
STUART: Oh, it was quite an event, really. They always put on a program. All the kids had to memorize anything you want to memorize. The teacher give them something to memorize to get up and make a little speech, you know. I remember one, I think it was graduation. I had to memorize a poem by the name, "Casey at the Bat."
NEILL: "Casey at the Bat."
STUART: Yeah, I had to get up and speak that one.
NEILL: How did you do?
STUART: I guess I done all right. We put on a circus one time at school, too. A woman by the name of Miss Sanford was the principal and she had put on a circus and I was the ringmaster. Oh, yeah, I was a big shot.
NEILL: (laughing) You were a feisty little bugger!
STUART: Oh, yeah.
NEILL: That's great. Let’s play this back, see how we’re coming through, shall we do that? [Tape cuts out]
NEILL: After graduating high school, Mr. Stuart, then what?
STUART: Well, I graduated in 1931, of course, from high school in the midst of the Depression. Jobs were hard to come at, so first thing I did was got me a big bunch of coyote traps and went to trapping coyotes and muskrats, trapped muskrats too. Made more money doing that than I could any kind of wages. In those days you'd get a dollar and a half a day for working nine hours in the hay field and that was about it and then a little later on I went to work for the Truckee-Carson Irrigation [District]. I got $3.20 a day then. I was rich.
NEILL: What were the hours?
STUART: Eight to five. But, on the farm, when you's farming', pitchin' hay, they was can't see to can't see. You know, daylight 'til dark.
NEILL: Oh, that's what that means.
STUART: Yeah. Well, actually we had chores to do before work and after work. Chores didn't count. They wasn't work. Get nine hours work and then your chores before and after when we was on the ranch growing up. Then in 1933, I went to work for Wheelwright Construction out of Utah. That was my first road job, and then I went to work for Fredicks and Watson out of California and Union Paving. It was also out of California. And then Isbell Construction out of Reno. I was working for them when I lost the arm, and then I was supervisor for as long as I stayed with them. 1944 is when I bought this ranch here.
NEILL: This was on construction that you had the accident.
STUART: Yeah, I lost the arm in a power shovel, and then that's when I went to business college after I lost the arm. I was married at that time so I couldn't get too far away from home. Then the kids got big enough to go to school and I decided I had to do something besides construction, moving every couple of months, three months, maybe four months at the very longest, so I bought this ranch in 1944 and lived here ever since, and then, like I said, ran for County Commissioner in 1948, was elected and served for the next ten years as County Commissioner. I went to work for the road department. Worked there until 1977 and retired. Been goofing off ever since. Fishing. [tape cuts]
NEILL: MR. Stuart, let's backtrack. After you moved to Fallon your parents bought a ranch. How large was the ranch?
STUART: Eighty acres.
NEILL: Here in Fallon?
STUART: Yeah. Um hum.
NEILL: And did you work on that ranch?
STUART: 'Til I left home when I went to work for construction companies. Yeah, I worked on the ranch all the time that, like I say, until I went to work on the construction jobs.
NEILL: Cattle or farming?
STUART: No, mostly farming. I remember one year, the sugar beet factory had just been built. My dad decided he'd get rich growing sugar beets. So I think he planted ten acres of sugar beets. We worked all summer irrigatin' and hoein' and thinnin' sugar beets and I think when he sold the beets he come out with one sack of sugar, so that sugar beet business was not too good.
NEILL: And how old were you when you got married?
STUART: Twenty six.
NEILL: Did you meet your future wife here in Fallon?
STUART: Met her in Virginia City. We was taking a railroad trestle down, puttin' a fill across where the railroad trestle used to be. The V&T Railroad. And we took trestle out and put a fill across and I was runnin' the job part of the time and part of the time doin' powder work and anything that had to be done.
NEILL: And what was her name?
STUART: Her name was Anne Richards. He [her father] was a metallurgist working the mines there. I was going to tell you one thing about when I was County Commissioner had two fellows working, also county commissioners, George Pomeroy and Ed Allyn, and we decided we was going to build what they call a Lovelock cutoff at that time, Highway 95 now, and we started building it. We got into a lot of controversy over it because way out in the boondocks, going nowhere, so everybody said. We had a plan in mind. We knew that if we could ever get it built, the State would have to take it over and pave it. So we got a dirt road through there and then finally we allocated what they called farm-to-market money to pave the first road through there and we got a lot of editorials in the local paper about that. It wasn't very complimentary. 'Cause we were using farm-to-market money to build that road across there, but after we got it built Grant Sawyer was Governor of Nevada at the time. He was on what they called the highway naming board, I believe that was the name of it. The United States Highway Naming Board and they met in Chicago one time and he was successful in getting that designated as 95, so from then on it grew from there. I think that was the biggest accomplishment that I would claim all the time I was a county commissioner was getting that road built.
NEILL: And you bought this particular ranch after you got married.
STUART: After, oh, yes. I'd been married quite a while. I was married in 1938, and I bought this ranch in 1944, so we traveled around for six years, anyway. I had a trailer and we lived comfortable from job to job but movin' all the time from one job to another, one state to another. That got old.
NEILL: We all do.
STUART: And no future. No future in construction. You make good money while you're workin' but, like anybody else, you don't save any of it. Pretty soon…
NEILL: So, then after construction, you and your wife came back to your ranch here and you raised your family.
STUART: Yeah. The family grew up here and went to school here.
NEILL: How many children do you have?
STUART: Three. Three girls. Two of them live here and one of them lives in Lemon Valley out of Reno. That was the oldest one, matter of fact, just called on the phone a minute ago.
NEILL: She's checking on you.
STUART: Oh, yeah, checking on me.
NEILL: (laughing) Did you farm here on your ranch?
STUART: Yeah, I farmed here for the first few years, and then after I went to work for the county--I still farmed it but I had to hire help because I couldn't keep up with it and then after I retired and had lots of time to farm when I should have been farmin' I leased it out. I didn't want to farm it anymore, so it's been leased ever since. I've been lucky. I got a good leaser.
NEILL: Tell me, Mr. Stuart, is there something I did not ask that you feel you want on this tape?
STUART: No, I don't think so. I think we just about covered everything that's of any importance. I could probably ramble on for a week and not say too much but ... (laughing)
NEILL: Well, you know, I believe that Fallon, Churchill County is indeed fortunate to have you here and all you've done for them. The road construction, the farming, and just your personality. Your personality is just great. How are you feeling now? How's your health?
STUART: Oh, my health is . . . after I've had that heart attack and then a stroke, my health is all right. I just don't get around as fast as I used to, and I miss being able to walk up a mountain hunting. I always hunted and fished. I was a great hunter and fisherman all my life. I was just out fishing, just come back, but I didn't do much fishing.
NEILL: Tell me. No big ones got away. Just little ones.
STUART: We kept the little ones. The big ones got away.
NEILL: They did.
STUART: Oh, yeah.
NEILL: How big were they? (laughing)
STUART: Some over seven, eight inches long, maybe.
STUART: Yeah, that's all you get out of them little creeks out there. You don't get no monsters out there.
NEILL: No. Well, on behalf of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project I want to thank you very much for this interview.
STUART: Well, I'm glad you came out. Glad I got to offer something and anything else you want to know why if I know it I'll tell it.
NEILL: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Stuart. And this is the end of the interview.