Elko, Nevada, 1878-1892

The Family's First Years
(see McCutchen and Landon for earlier information on James and Mary McCutchen)

Northern Nevada area near Humboldt River
(Turner, D)

Map of Elko area and map of ranches near Mound Valley (Jiggs)

In 1969, JM "settled in the Mound Valley" according to Patterson, a Nevada historian. He was still running his freight company and may not have bought any land right away. His sister's families, the Sid Roberson's and the Robert Wears, had moved from Montana to Nevada about the same time (see Montana) and it is likely he stayed with one or both of them most of the time. In 1870, JM's little brother, George, died in Montana of pneumonia at 27. JM continued to own and operate his freighting company, and continued his traveling about the west, but much of the joy was gone. In 1878, when JM met Mary in Elko, he was ready to settle down.

At about the same time Mary Landon appeared on the scene, Louisa Ann Wear died. She had 5 children, although the oldest, Anna, may have left the family home by then. JM and Mary married in February,1880, and by the time the 1880 census taker came by in June, they were parenting the Wear children, Thomas, age 4, James, age 7, Cora, age 11 and William, age 14 (LDS). None of these children stayed in Nevada. The likliest scenario is that Robert Wear, their father, returned to Montana and when he had a home established there, the children joined him (Turner, M).

JM and Mary bought a ranch near Elko and started raising horses, hay, and kids. They had 9 children, born approximately a year apart, starting a year after the couple was married. February was a busy month for birthdays! All but the last child lived to adulthood, an unusual event in these time.

The first they named William Landon. While William is a common McCutchen name, showing up in nearly every generation, this child was likely named for Mary's baby brother, William Joseph Landon. Willie was the only one of Mary's siblings who followed her out west.

The second boy, my father, they named George Ashworth, in memory of JM's youngest brother, George, and for his good friend and brother-in-law, Ashworth (Sid) Roberson. Sid was a man my father and his brothers remembered well. I remember listening to stories about him like this one my older cousin told, passed down from his father, my Uncle Bill:

Sid was a loudmouthed buckaroo, a horse rancher. He had a hundred or so head of horses on his ranch but never rode on anything but "knotheads" and outlaws…they were more fun. The first thing Sid did when he got up in the morning was put on his hat, and it never came off til he hung it on the bedpost just before he climbed into bed at night.

There were meadows of wild grass around where he lived that were free for the cutting. Once Sid moved in on one of these meadows. He had unloaded his stuff unloaded and was about ready to make hay, when another old rancher came in. The old guy held a shotgun on Sid and told him he wasn't going to cut any of that hay. So, Sid, he was agreeable. He started loading up his stuff and walking back and forth and talking--he was quite a fellow to talk--and pretty soon the old coot got a little careless and kind of slacked off on the gun and he got to talking too. So when Sid walked by him, he just hit him in the jaw and knocked him loose from his shotgun. Sid picked up the gun "Now, he says, "you move out. I'm the guy that's got the gun!"

The next two boys they named James Edgar and Walter Monroe, with "James" and "Monroe" for their father. Walter was the name of Mary's brother who died at age 10 when she was an impressionable 6 years old. The boys were called Eddie and Walt. Then, the fifth child was a girl, Mary Avaline, and called Avie. She was named for her mother and JM's baby sister. Another boy was next, Alson Hoyt, named after Mary's maternal grandfather, Alson Hoyt Post, and after the brother, Alson Hoyt Landon, who was just younger than she. Their last son was John Calvin, named for JM's oldest brother, and called like him, Cal. The last of their first eight children was another girl, Charlena, named for Mary's sister, Charlena Maria Landon Moorehouse. For some reason, they chose not to give her a middle name.

larger view

William (Willie), age 6, George (Georgie), age 5, Avaline (Avie), age 20 mo, Alson, age 8 mo, Edgar (Eddie), age 4, and Walter, age 3. Calvin and Charlana weren't born yet.

In Mary's ledgers (McCutchen,1892, 1896), which cover the years 1878-1892, we can see a bit of what it was like to operate a desert ranch in those times.

Because the men he hired appeared to do a lot of transporting and moving from place to place, we can guess that JM may have continued to do some commercial freighting in the early years on the ranch. They raised hay, which sold for about $7.00 a ton, thrashed grain and sold it for .015 to .0375 cents a pound in 230 pound bags, sold potatoes for 50 cents a sack, butter for 20-40 cents a pound and eggs for from 25 to 40 cents a pound. They boarded horses for $3.00 a month, and charged another dollar if the owner wanted extra hay, but only $2.00 for just pasture. Cattle were pastured for 60 cents a month, calves for half that. JM often sent men to other ranches, hiring them out, or trading work with other ranchers.

They paid their hired hands from $20 a month to $3.00 a day and carried a line of credit for them so they could buy things like tobacco, at 20 to 50 cents a tin of Prince Albert, or overalls at $1.50 a pair, before they were paid. Mary had help in the house at least part of the time. In 1890, probably when Mary was expecting her 8th child, a Mrs. Clayton cleaned house, washed clothes and sewed for $1.00 a day.

One of the names in Mary's journal is Sanganette. This name sparks another tale from my storytelling cousin:

Once, when JM was shy anything to ride, he borrowed this pony, a two year old, named Babe, from old man Saganette. He was all skinned up and a real mess. But once JM rode him, he liked him so well that he bought him and Babe made one of the best cow horses in the country.

JM bought a ranch near the Humboldt River. The nearest community was Mound Valley (now Jiggs), a small town about 50 miles from Elko. A creek running through his ranch was eventually named McCutcheon Creek and it is still called that. See map. According to Patterson, et al., the Sangette, Clayton and McCutchen ranches were all in the same general area. Other ranch owners in the Patterson book who also appear in Mary's journal are Miller, Kennedy, Gennette and Ouderkirk. This book also tells us that J.M. bought his ranch from Spencer who bought it from Weir. BLM records tell us that Weir homesteaded the first 28 acres of the ranch in 1877, which gives us a location and starting date. JM likely moved to this ranch in the late 1880's, maybe only a couple of years before he left Nevada. (We have the good folks in Nevada, especially Judy Swett, to thank for much of this information.) Dan Turner, also in Nevada, recently went out to the old ranch site and took many lovely photos. See these photos and some information about the area at (Turner).

A photo of the South Fork Humboldt River area in Nevada. Click Turner, D to see more photos and a history of the Mound Valley-Jiggs area.

In November of 1890, Mary had her last child, a girl named Helen, who lived only a couple of weeks.(Agin, Swett)Perhaps it was the loss of this last child that prompted Mary to push strongly for the family to move. An educated Easterner, she did not want her boys to grow to be cowboys. She wanted to move to a place where her children could get a better education and see that there was more to do in life than ride horses and punch cattle. It is true that most of the men the boys came in contact, from their dad to their Uncle Sid, to the men working on the ranch were either cowboys or close to it. Even her brother, Willie, quickly lost his Eastern veneer and became a cowboy! And it is true that cowpunching can be dangerous. In 1892, the family pulled up stakes again, and left Nevada. After a nearly 3 year oddesy, they settled in Yacolt where all of the boys became loggers, a profession even more dangerous than cowpunching and one which does not require much formal education.

Dan Turner has developed several great sites which showcase the area where JM and Mary lived for the first years of their marriage. Do visit them:

The McCutcheon Ranch,

South Fork of the Humbolt

California Trail in Nevada