Riepetown a tough place to live, even without extortion

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Last week, with the help of some readers, I found the meaning of scarifier, yes it was spelled wrong and thanks to all the readers who let me know.

I tried to get a photo of a scarifier, but at any rate it is a tool used to break up and loosen the road bed in maintaining roads. It sounded to me more like something I would be scare-ified -- as in terrified to use, not wanting to be skewered by it an' all.

Galen Denio sent along this definition from the Harcourt Dictionary: A machine with downward projecting teeth for breaking hard soil at quarries and opencast pits and on asphalt roads prior to rebuilding or resurfacing. Mystery solved, but I still don't want to use one.

The extortion incident in Riepetown, White Pine County, was also fun to search out, though I'm not yet finished. Charles Midkulin called and said he was raised in "Reeptown" -- that's how you say it. He moved there with his folks in 1927 from Virginia City and stayed until he got married in 1949.

Midkulin said "We had a flag pole, but no school and no city government. But we had 13 bars."

According to Midkulin, Riepetown, located about eight miles from Ely, was a rough town. He said the nearby company towns of Ruth and Kimberly shut down at midnight, but Riepetown was open all day and all night. "It's a tough town, you could say," he said.

The largest going concern in Riepetown was the Emma Mine. "It was named after the big star from Austin," he said.

The town, a mixture of ethnicities including Serbians, Mexicans, Croatians, Italians and Greeks, was served by a single local boarding house or store run by John Data, Midkulin said.

According to Bill Dolan's Pages of the Past, the state police in response to the Riepetown incident "in which they had to borrow 'automatic weapons' from outside sources, ordered a new gas gun, a Thompson submachine gun, a Reising machine gun, 'The Great Gun' gas hand grenades and 10 riot shotguns."

I'm still looking for a few more concrete details of the original incident. But Midkulin remembered a couple of guys were shot by the local police for trying to extort money from Data.

Sunny Martin's husband, "Sarge" Martin, was a deputy sheriff at the time. At 89, Sunny had forgotten the names of the storekeeper or storekeepers; she remembers two brothers running the place, but remembered her husband's involvement.

"They had quite a time getting those guys out of there. They were going to get money out of them or kill them or something. My husband was with the bunch that saved them. I can't believe I can't remember their names. I knew them as well as could be."

Sunny's husband -- Alfonso, "but nobody called him anything but "Sarge" -- came west in the mid 1930s with the 3-C boys, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and was the first sergeant at the Indian Springs camp.

"Miles of wind," also from last week's column, is a nearly useless measurement, according to state Climatologist John James. Using an ananometer, a person can measure how many miles of wind blow past you. According to James, it works like your car's odometer.

"Nobody uses it," he said. But a station to measure miles of wind was built in Boulder City in the 1930s and he had not heard it used in Nevada before that -- until learning last week that on April 1, 1897, the Appeal reported Carson City as having had 3,430 miles of wind.

Jim Perotti, of Brighton, Mich., wrote to say he's a Nevadan in training and that miles of wind "refers to a method of measuring wind speed. A device rotates in the breeze ( the spinning thing with the cups on the end of the arms, that you see in movies like 'Twister'). Those revolutions are converted into miles. The meteorologist will then take the number of miles over a given time frame and calculate the average number of wind speed in miles an hour."

And back to the "Merci Train" that's parked at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. It's an odd looking duck, with wheels in the middle rather than on each end. In railroad lingo, it's called a "40 and 8." They were used during World War I and World War II as dual-purpose railway cars hauling as many as 40 hommes or 8 chevaux (horses and men, to those of us not fluent en Francaise.)

By the time they arrived in America on Feb. 3, 1949, the "Hommes 40-Chevaux 8" had been removed and replaced by plaques bearing the coats of arms of the 40 provinces of France and the words "Train de la Reconnaissance Francaise" and "Gratitude Train." For it was with gratitude the French dispatched the stubby cars to the U.S.

On Feb. 23, 1949, Nevada accepted the "Merci Train." It was stuffed with gifts ranging from the ornate to the homemade, and with notes from those who had been bombed out of their homes and had nothing else to send but wanted to say thanks.

The contents went on display at the Nevada State Museum March 5, 1949. Nevada returned the favor by publishing an article about the contents and photographs of the exhibit in its Nevada Highways and Parks magazine and sending a copy to the French donors.

The railroad museum is waiting for funding for a new building before restoring the car. The contents remain in the state museum's collection.

As for the "Slippery Gulchers" from the March 17, 1877, Appeal, I'm still digging, but my limited knowledge of Nevada History guesses that John Ternau hit this one on the head.

The Appeal wrote: Our valued contemporary, the Gold Hill News, acknowledges itself in its 28th volume. We felicitate it upon its longevity and hope it may long live to enlighten the Slippery Gulchers and edify the rest of mankind.

As it concerned the Gold Hill News, and having grown up and climbed the slippery gulch of Gold Canyon, I thought it may refer to the inhabitants of the bustling metropolis that would have had, according to the census, a population of about 2,200 in 1880. But Ternau is more likely the better informed.

"As a member of the Clampers (E Clampus Vitus) we refer to Slippery Gulch as a place to imbibe in alcoholic beverages. Hence in your reference 'Slippery Gulchers' could be drinkers," he said.

Gold Hill Newsman Alf Doten was noted for his drinking. Henry R. Mighels would have been writing about his contemporaries up on the hill and was very likely referring to some pretty heavy drinkers.

As always, feel free to correct me. You can reach me at kelli@tahoe.com or call 881-1261.

Kelli Du Fresne, a Virginia City native, is features editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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