NOTE TO READERS: THIS IS THE FIRST COLUMN WHERE THE “READER COMMENT” LINK APPEARS AT THE END OF THE COLUMN – THAT LINK WILL TAKE YOU TO READ E-MAILS THAT COME IN ABOUT SUNDAY RGJ COLUMNS. AND NOW, BACK TO MR. MOFFAT:
The topic of last Saturday’s page 10 spoke, among other matters, of the inadvertent but interesting knitting-together of turn-of-the-century meat packer William Henry Moffat and his home on the Alamo Ranch south of Reno, well-remembered by many readers as the ornate white frame two-story distinguished by the adjoining framed-in water tower that sat pretty much alone on the northwest corner of South Virginia Street at West Peckham Lane. We learned of his Manteca-Fed Beef being sold exclusively in the local area by the Eagle Thrifty market chain, one of which was coincidentally built on his ranch about 65 years after he bought it. And we spoke of Tom Raley buying out Eagle Thrifty, and Tom’s first market which opened in Placerville.
William Moffat didn’t build the house. He bought it, as I wrote in a column that appeared here in April 1999. And finding little else to write about this week, I’m going to here reiterate that piece and add a little about Governor John Sparks.
The facts are that John Sparks, already an established cattleman from Texas and Idaho, bought the Anderson Station in 1887 and presumably built the magnificent home shortly after his acquisition of the property (yeah, Anderson School took its name from the huge Anderson land holdings in the South Virginia Street corridor.) Sparks would go on to become governor of Nevada in 1902, and pass away in office during his second term, in 1908. Peripherally, we may note that he gave his name to our Rail City in 1904. More peripherally, if that adverb has a comparative voice, “Sparks” was the second name for that city, following its original name “Harriman” in honor of Southern Pacific Railroad’s owner E. H. Harriman. E. H., a modest sort, beefed to the citizens of Harriman, most of who worked for him. Dick Graves hadn’t arrived there yet to vote for East Reno, so the governor got the nod. Early City of Sparks plat maps still show a Harriman Street.
Enter now to our town William Henry Moffat from San Francisco, scion of a California meat-packing family. I was able to establish that in 1902 the 27-year old took an office in the power-center First National Bank building on Second and Virginia Streets for Moffat’s Nevada operation. I am unable to verify the year that he bought the Alamo Ranch from Governor Sparks.
The Alamo remained a local player in cattle production for a good number of years. And researching an earlier column that probably got me on this Alamo kick earlier in the summer, I found a 1930s reference to “…a sheep ribbon-tying contest far south of town at the Alamo Ranch” so apparently Moffat also ran a flock of sheep.
Moffat was nominated a Distinguished Nevadan by the University of Nevada Board of Regents in 1960, three years before his death.
His home, following a few decades of lack-of-TLC in Pleasant, not Washoe Valley, is being lovingly restored to its former grandeur and I understand a fellow Gazoo columnist is working on a piece about the home, the new owners and its restoration. Stay tuned. [No further column ever came…]
Here’s a story about Mrs. Sparks by our friend Joyce Crowson Cox, go to http://www.unr.edu/nwhp/bios/nv1st/sparks.html
Let’s have a safe long Labor Day weekend; Happy Anniversary, Blondie and Dagwood, Cookie, Alexander, Daisy, Herb and Tootsie, Julius and Cora, Elmo, the carpoolers and mailman Mr. Beasley, who Dagwood’s been knocking on his ass going out the front door for 75 years tomorrow. God bless America!
© Reno Gazette-Journal August 2005