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Dennis Cassinelli: Winnemucca, Cowboy Country

By Dennis Cassinelli

Being from a ranching family, I can relate to cowboys and ranchers, especially in the area of Winnemucca. I have noticed that in recent years, Winnemucca has advertised along Interstate 80, “Welcome to Cowboy Country.” 40 miles north of Winnemucca is the ranching town of Paradise Valley.

Just north of Paradise Valley is the Old Mill Ranch bought by my late Uncle, Bob Cassinelli, many years ago. When Bob and his family moved from our ranch in Sparks to Paradise Valley, my wife and I helped them with the move. In appreciation, Bob gave me one of the original mill stones from the 1860-era flower mill on his ranch. This millstone is now a favorite piece of yard art in my front yard. Bob Cassinelli’s wife, Jean, and my wife, Mary, are sisters, so we made many trips with our kids to their ranch to visit and go hunting and fishing in the mountains with their family. Jean and her son, Dan still own the Old Mill Ranch. The historic old flour mill is still standing today.

One time, I needed to practice some horseback riding to prepare for a week long pack trip over the Sierras to Yosemite Valley. While visiting Bob at the ranch, he took me back to a place called Hardscrabble, and let me ride his horse all the way back to his ranch so I would not get saddle sores on my trip. What a guy he was!

Just southwest of town is the Singas Creek Ranch owned by Laura, David and Tom Cassinelli. My late Uncle Chester had bought the ranch several years ago. Every fall, they had a cattle drive to bring the cattle back from the Santa Rosa Mountains for the winter. My son, Tim Cassinelli, and several other cowboys, gathered up the cattle with their horses and brought them back to the ranch in the valley for the winter. Tim, having his own horse, volunteered to do this, just for the experience of being a cowboy, even for just a week. Every year, Chester gave each of the volunteer buckaroos a nice gift in appreciation for their help.

I made many trips to Winnemucca during the years when I worked for NDOT on the Interstate 80 projects. The Basque restaurants at the Martin Hotel and Ormachea’s were favorite dinner places. I once stayed at the Martin Hotel for a week studying for an exam while I was working in town. I also did programs at the Humboldt County Library in Winnemucca about the books I have written. One of my books, Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians, has drawings and photos of many of the Humboldt Series of Projectile Points (arrow heads) that have been found throughout the region. Just as Elko having a series of arrowheads named for their area, Humboldt County has a series of points named for their area as well.

There was a series of Indian skirmishes in the 1860s that prompted the establishment of Fort Scot on the east side of Paradise Valley, not far from Indian Creek. A hunter and trapper named Claude Dallas killed two Idaho game wardens in 1981. Years later, he was located in Paradise Valley and apprehended. He was then sent to prison for the crimes. Bob Cassinelli knew Dallas and met with him when Claude came to his home at his ranch on one occasion.

Winnemucca advertises the belief that the Wild Bunch robbed the First National Bank in Winnemucca of $32,000 in gold on Sept. 19, 1900. It is now believed that Harry Longbaugh, also known as the Sundance Kid may have been one of the perpetrators. Butch Cassidy (Leroy Parker) was elsewhere at the time and could not have been one of the robbers. Whoever the robbers were, they escaped with cowboy boots full of gold coins on horseback and the gold was never recovered. The bank building where the robbery occurred still stands at the corner of Fourth Street and Bridge Street in WInnemucca.

Dennis Cassinelli is Dayton author and historian. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at denniscassinelli.com