Monday, September 23, 2013

Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park and adjacent ranch house parcel

Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park is a small neighborhood park at the intersection of South McCarran Boulevard and Mayberry Drive in Reno, Nevada. The Mayberry Landing Boutique Shopping Center (including a coffeeshop and a bakery), Gomm Elementary School and Roy Gomm School Park are found across S. McCarran Blvd. along the west side of the park. Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park is connected with Crissie Caughlin Park and the Truckee River trails via a northward path along Alum Creek, across Mayberry Drive. Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park is also connected with the Juniper Trails at Caughlin Ranch via the S. McCarran Blvd. underpass at its southwest corner.

Walking the paved trails of Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park and looking eastward over Alum Creek, you will spot an old ranch house. This is where Betsy Caughlin Donnelly, the park's namesake, was born on May 12, 1902. A panel at an interpretive park stop, subtitled “In Memory of a Generous Soul and True Nevadan,”  tells us that “she always wanted to keep some open land on the Ranch so that future generations of Nevadans could enjoy it along with the gently grazing cattle, as has been the case since 1900.” Maybe Betsy deserves the title of the first female open-space advocate of Nevada?

The open-space parcel that became Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park was donated in 1970 by Betsy to the Washoe County Parks Department. Today, it is a small landscape with a creek, lawns and adjacent orchard and pasture land within an urban setting. From the park lawns one can view the real open space of the Mount Peavine slopes and the Carson Range.

An interpretive panel in the park says that Betsy was a third generation Nevadan whose family influenced the shape and character of the local community over many years. The panel provides park visitors with interesting details on the history of the ranch house (seen above) and the surrounding ranch lands:

In 1874 the Caughlin Ranch [...] was purchased by Betsy Donnelly's grandparents, George and Betsi Andrews. In 1895 their daughter, Crissie married Australian born William Henry Caughlin, who was the sheriff of Washoe County for three terms. After marriage, at Crissie's insistence, he did not run for sheriff again. Crissie had been running the ranch alone since her brother's death in 1894, the result of a kick in the stomach by a horse on the ranch.

Betsy was the youngest of the four children of Crissie and William Henry Caughlin. She was born in the front room of the main ranch house, which was moved from Virginia City by wagon and the Virginia and Truckee Railroad in 1900. The family raised alfalfa, wheat and cattle on the ranch until 1918, at which time the ranch was leased to local ranchers.

Pastures within the park continue to be leased by local ranchers for ranching activities. The ranch house remains in place as part of the private home parcel, which remains under family ownership.

The Caughlin Ranch attracted many notable historical personalities during its early years. Crissie Caughlin became friends with writers Mark Twain and Bret Harte. Cowboy poet and artist, Will James, worked at the ranch. Boxing legend, Jack Johnson, trained at the ranch for his heavyweight title bout with Jeffries in 1910. 

You may want to run your own training program in the park, work out on its lawns or sit on one of those benches in the park's southeast corner, reading or overlooking orchard and pasture. The latter is used for kite flying, when the winds are right. The picture below captures a northwest view from the park across Reno neighborhoods towards Mount Peavine.

No comments: