Park will commemorate unsung long-ago resident | NevadaAppeal.com
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Park will commemorate unsung long-ago resident

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer

Curry, Proctor and Musser are well known local names because of their early influence in building Nevada’s capital city and the state itself. Abraham Curry has a statue devoted to him on the legislative quad and all three men have downtown streets named after them.

A new park in North Carson, however, will be the first major recognition of another early settler: John Bracken Mankins.

Mankins was among a list of nominees submitted for recognition in the naming of the three-acre park in the Silver Oak subdivision. Other nominees included William Dolan, a longtime Nevada journalist and Donald Lee Campbell, a Silver Oak resident nominated because of his military and community service.

“We thought he deserved some recognition,” said Roger Moellendorf, the city’s parks director. “He was one of the area’s earliest settlers.”

Originally from North Carolina, Mankins arrived in Carson City around the time all Mormons were called back to Salt Lake City in 1857. Mankins for a time owned Eagle Ranch, Warm Springs and the state prison grounds, a total of about 800 acres.

The better-known men in Carson’s history were erudite and well connected, while Mankins embodied rugged individuality – a highly necessary quality for surviving on the early frontier, according to historic writings.

Many of the accounts of Mankins’ life here, however, were erroneous and sometimes “not very nice,” said Annette Mankins, wife of Leo Mankins, who is one of John B. Mankins’ many ancestors.

Chroniclers often spelled his name “Mankin.” One of the writers said he was able to obtain the Eagle Valley land only because he was a “fellow Mormon and a very tough old renegade, who secured all of the land by gift or for a very small money consideration.”

No one really knows how much Mankins paid for the land.

In 1858, Curry, Proctor and Musser agreed to Mankins’ asking price of $1,000. The deed said there was a $300 down payment with the balance to be paid within 30 days. Legend has it that part of the payment was with horses.

“Mankins left, so he didn’t get to tell his version of the story,” said Guy Rocha, Nevada’s archivist. “In the characterizations, this is why he gets the short end of the stick.”

Because Nevada wasn’t a state at the time, people actually didn’t own the land but sold each other rights to it, Rocha said.

Mankins moved to California, fathered 14 children and lived well into his 70s. He married four times – likely because it was an existence that proved physically difficult on women, family members say.

“He was tough, probably because he had to be able to survive and take care of his family,” Annette Mankins said of the stories. “He wasn’t a Mormon.”

An article by Alf Doten penned in 1899 for “The Nevada Magazine” said Mankins: “Proclaimed himself owner, warned everybody against interfering and, knowing his ugly temper, no one cared to dispute his possession. A year after however, a more energetic and decisive class of men had become members of the community.”

The writer was referring to Curry, Proctor and Musser in the last sentence. Energetic, however, is a description more aptly applied to Mankins, if this account in the book “History of Nevada” by Myron Angel is accurate:

Mankins was “a broad-shouldered man of fifty-four years, so active, that in sport he would run a race with anyone in the country, and there were some extraordinarily active men here in those days. The distance of fifty yards would be measured, and Mankin (sic) would lie flat upon his face, and at the word would rise and distance all his competitors.”

Mankins’ father, Peter, who lived to the age of 111, moved his family to Kentucky and while there provided for them by farming, hunting and operating a distillery. This is how John B. likely picked up his superior outdoor skills.

Silver Oak developers provided 13 acres for public use in 1993. Three acres of the 13 were sold to the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada which, in turn, sold it.

Seven acres were set aside for an elementary school and the remaining three acres were earmarked for a neighborhood park. Work on it began in late 2005.

The John B. Mankins Park will include a regulation basketball court, tennis court, concrete skateboard feature, covered gazebo, baseball/softball field with a backstop, and a playground.

The park is expected to be ready for visitors within the next 30 days and the first on the north end of the city, according to Moellendorf.

“We expect it to be a pretty busy park,” he said.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.