Family’s trunk finds a permanent home |

Family’s trunk finds a permanent home

Andrew Pridgen
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

One of the more well-traveled artifacts of Northern Nevada’s most-renowned settler clan has found a permanent home – the Nevada State Museum.

Tuesday afternoon Luetta Dressler Bergevin, great-great granddaughter of Augustus Frederick Dressler, former land baron whose 20,000-acre ranch on the West Fork of the Carson River was one of the largest and most prolific in the region, presented her family’s historic trunk to the museum.

The trunk, which sits about 3 feet by 4 feet and looks conspicuously like it belongs on center stage of the “Antiques Road Show,” is most likely two centuries old, experts surmised.

“I think when we had it appraised, they said it dated back to the early 1800s, or earlier,” said Sue Ann Monteleone, the museum’s registrar. “We had a skilled carpenter and an antique specialist look at it and they were impressed both by the craftsmanship and the condition.”

The trunk features two hand-painted images of knights on the front, which experts believe represent a pair of family crests.

“It’s possible (the crests) symbolize a family that married,” Monteleone said.

In 1866, the trunk sailed from Germany around South America and was then taken by wagon over the Sierra Nevada to the Carson Valley and delivered to Augusta Wilhelmina Dietz.

She stowed her worldly possessions in the trunk as she journeyed here to marry Dressler.

The trunk is bound with iron straps and though it is seemingly sturdy, museum officials said they’re currently raising some $3,000 necessary for small repair and restoration.

“We’re looking to stabilize some of the wood a little and get the front cleaned,” Monteleone said.

Though the trunk was appraised for tax purposes, museum officials were mum about its worth.

“That’s something we don’t like to get into,” Monteleone said. “Everything in (the museum) is insured by the state. So, we really don’t like to (reveal) what each artifact is worth.

“I will say, I was trying to Google some similar trunks – just to get an idea of how special this is and I couldn’t find anything. There were a lot of steamer trunks, but nothing quite like this.”

Bergevin, 86, said she was quite pleased to find her family’s trunk a permanent home. She said it was simply sitting in storage for many years and she wanted to find a place for it.

“When I contacted (the museum) they seemed very interested,” she said. “My father thought it was important enough to keep around.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t know what to do with it, then my son-in-law said ‘why don’t you give it to the museum?'”

Teresa Moiola, a spokeswoman for the Department of Cultural Affairs, said the museum and the State of Nevada are “overwhelmed and overjoyed” by the gift of the trunk.

“It’s something people can really look at and imagine what stories it would have if it could talk,” she said. “It’s just an important part of our history.”

The trunk will be on display for the foreseeable future at the Nevada State Museum, excepting any time taken for repairs and restoration, officials said.

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at or 881-1219.