Message #180:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: NV Stagecoach Station Destroyed
Date: Sun, 11 May 1997 19:18:09 -0700

Friday, May 09, 1997
Developer assailed for leveling ruins
By Martin Griffith 
Associated Press 

STAGECOACH -- A California developer is under fire for leveling the
ruins of a historic stage station to make room for a subdivision in this
rural community 25 miles east of Carson City. 

Angry Stagecoach residents and Lyon County officials have accused Paul
Thompson of Walnut Grove of breaking a promise to protect Desert Wells 
Station, a welcome stop on the Overland Stage and Mail Route in the 
1860s for thousands of travelers, including Mark Twain.

"It's the classic case of a California developer coming in and having no
regard for Nevada or its history," resident Mary Dreeson said. "It's
gone and you can't bring it back."

The station joins a series of privately owned historic sites that have
vanished in recent decades. The 117-year-old V&T Railroad roundhouse in
Carson City was torn down stone by stone in 1991 for use in a winery in
California's Napa Valley. 

Dreeson said she's especially upset because Thompson promised county
commissioners in 1996 he would protect the station ruins. 

John Evasovic, county community development director, said Thompson
reneged on his word, but was not required to keep it because no
conditions regarding the historic site were included in commissioners'
final motion to approve the subdivision. 

State and federal law provide no protections for historic sites on
private property. 

But Thompson is not entirely off the hook because he illegally began
site preparation work without a conference with county building
officials and without an approved set of street and drainage plans,
Evasovic said. 

"Information has been turned over to (District Attorney Robert Estes)
and it's up to him whether he wants to pursue criminal charges against
him," he said. 

Estes didn't return a phone call. Thompson has no listed phone number in
the Walnut Grove area, and attempts to reach him through a business
associate were unsuccessful. 

Ed Johnson of Stagecoach said two hand-dug wells, a portion of a rock
wall and a wooden floor of the original station remained at the site
before it was leveled by a blader in April. 

The ruins may not have been extensive, but they stirred memories of the
Old West and deserved to be spared, he said. 

But Stagecoach real estate agent Mac Calico, broker for Thompson's
Desert Wells Estates, defended the decision to level the site about a
half-mile south of U.S. Highway 50. 

The wells probably were original, but posed a safety hazard because of
their depth, Calico said. 

Native rock at the site could have been the remnants of the station's
walls or corral, but the floor seemed more modern, he added. 

"What's the big deal? There was nothing there," Calico said. "One
hundred years isn't that old in the makeup of things any more. If we
start preserving every 100-year-old building, we won't have room for new

But Johnson, who is Dayton's justice of the peace, said the ruins were a
rare link to early Nevada history commemorated by a historical marker
and mentioned in many books, including Twain's "Roughing It." 

Desert Wells Station began as a trading post for covered wagon pioneers
on the California Trail in the 1850s and became a station on the
Overland Stage and Mail Route in 1861 when Twain passed through on his
way to Carson City to begin a three-year stay in Nevada, according to

Twain chronicled a frightful night he and two companions spent in a
blizzard only to realize at daybreak they were 15 steps away from the

Dreeson said county commissioners share the blame for the site's demise
because they failed to require its protection as a condition of approval
for the 23-house subdivision. 

As the nation's fastest growing state observes Historic Preservation
Week starting Sunday, Johnson said, the incident points out the need for
a state law to deal with historic sites on private property. 

"You can destroy anything if you own it and there needs to be something
done," he said. "We won't have anything left at the rate of development
in Nevada." 

But Ron James, state historic preservation officer, said it would be
tough to get such a law through the Nevada Legislature. 

"It's my impression Nevadans don't like to be told what they can do on
private property," he said. "Clearly, we're losing historic resources
and it's up to local governments to provide some sort of protection if
there's an appetite for it."

[ See also: Overland Stage ]