Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Author’s Personal Connection With Gold Butte

The Whitney family has been a solid piece of the foundation of Clark County Nevada since its inception. When looking through the pages of Clark County’s historical account the Whitney’s can be counted with those who have done their best for a place we love.

George Burton Whitney was my Great, Great Grandfather. We was a school teacher in Bunkerville and St Thomas Nevada throughout the 1880’s and 1890’s. He was a member of the Nevada State Legislature in the 1896-1898 sessions representing Lincoln County (Clark County did not separate from Lincoln County until 1909). George was the father to twelve children including both Luke Whitney and Stowell Whitney. George Whitney spent many years in Bunkerville but later moved to St. Thomas in 1894 where he also became a school teacher. George later moved from St Thomas but his boys stayed behind to help pioneer this rough country into what we now know as Clark County.

The Luke Whitney name is a common name in and around the back country of Gold Butte. He helped settle what is now known as the Nay Ranch, Whitney Pockets and Bunkerville. The descendants of George B. Whitney still own and operate the Nay Ranch to this day.

Stowell Whitney was born in 1884 in Bunkerville Nevada. He is my Great Grandfather. Stowell became a freighter delivering ore, supplies and equipment to and from the mines all of Arizona and Nevada. Some of his more regular routes included the Grand Gulch Mine, the mines in Oatman Arizona and Pioche Nevada . Gold Butte was a regular part of many of his trips.

Great Grandpa moved to Las Vegas and began building a dairy farm and his family. In 1926 Donald George Whitney was born, who is my grandfather. The oldest unincorporated township in Clark County is named for my great grandpa and his family. About the same time the construction on the dam started to pick up Stowell packed up the family and headed for Logandale, 60 miles to the north of the Las Vegas Valley. My grandfather vividly remembers driving the wagon packed with all of their belonging headed for Logandale. Once in Logandale Stowell continued to farm and raise his family.

Donald George Whitney has spent the majority of his life in the Moapa Valley raising his six children, farming and ranching. In the 1970’s and early 80’s he ran cattle in the Gold Butte grazing allotment. During these years Grandpa became intimately connected with Gold Butte, its natural resources and its rich Native American heritage. He spent most of his days mending fence, checking springs and working the cattle. Still to this day Grandpa owns and operates the family farm where he taught his children, grand children and now great grandchildren to work and to love the land. Donald Whitney still owns one of the last remaining grazing permits that exist in Clark County. I have learned much from this old cowboy while checking the cattle on the desert mesas in Clark County. He has taught me to respect our beautiful deserts and love the land that our family has depended on for hundreds of years.

With the population growth in southern Nevada and the popularity of getting out and touring our beautiful deserts, the time for a positive management plan for our public lands is more crucial than ever. A movement has started to grow where certain groups want to close off our public lands and restrict access to our pioneer and cultural heritage. I cannot agree more that protection of our most valuable cultural heritage is needed. However I do not agree that this is accomplished by closing these places off.

As I have started my own family one of our favorite activities is to visit the back country of Gold Butte and see the places that my children’s Great, Great, Great Grandfathers pioneered. Protection to these places is needed, but just as important, so is access. Please join me in my campaign to create a management plan that supports protection with access to our county’s most important cultural resources. Get involved and stay informed by following our blog.