The Nevada Traveler: Pioneering Carson Valley Days on display at Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park
One of the most venerated family names in the Carson Valley area is Dangberg. Patriarch Heinrich Friedrich “Fred” Dangberg (he also went by Henry Fred Dangberg) emigrated from Germany to America in 1848 and arrived in the valley in 1856 to seek his fortune.
After filing a land claim, he cleared and irrigated the site he had selected and built a log cabin, becoming one of the first permanent settlers in the valley.
In 1866, he married Margaret “Maggie” Ferris, daughter of Carson City prominent horticulturalist George Washington Gale Ferris (he planted many of the trees on the State Capitol grounds) and sister of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., the famous Chicago architect who invented the Ferris wheel.
Over time, Dangberg’s ranching operation as well as his family grew. In the early 1860s, he built the ranch house that still stands on the property and during the next decade added a bunkhouse, cellar, and barn. His holdings also increased so that by the late 1800s, the Dangberg Ranch encompassed 48,000 acres (the largest ranch in the valley) and reportedly had 50,000 cattle.
He and his wife also had five children (four boys and a girl), including Henry Fred Dangberg Jr., who operated the ranch after his father died in 1904.
In 1902, Dangberg Sr. and his sons established the H.F. Dangberg Land and Live Stock Co. to manage the ranch’s business activities, which included raising cattle, pigs, and horses as well as growing hay and operating a slaughterhouse for their own and other ranchers’ animals.
Four years later, H.F. Dangberg Jr. established the community of Minden on company land just north of Gardnerville. Dangberg Jr. envisioned a planned and orderly community, which he named in honor of a town near his father’s birthplace in Germany.
Dangberg Jr. helped design and layout the new community and included a town square, and the concept of keeping the business and commercial parts of town separate from the residential areas.
Additionally, he convinced the Virginia & Truckee Railroad to extend its line from Carson City to Minden. The line was completed in 1906.
In the meantime, the ranch continued to grow, with several more buildings added to the property including a cook’s quarters, two garages, an entrance gateway and a slaughterhouse building.
According to ranch history, the company prospered until the Great Depression, managed to rebound following World War II, and more or less continued operations until 1978.
For a more complete history of how the family lost the ranch, read Steve Archard’s account (https://travelnevada.com/shows/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-forefathers-of-carson-valley-cause-you-really-oughta-know/). Archard is a fourth-generation member of the family.
During subsequent years, portions of the ranch property were sold. In 2004, the 15-room main ranch house (listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980), barn and several other structures were acquired by the Nevada Division of State Parks, which began to develop the site as a park.
In 2011, the property was turned over to Douglas County, which continues to operate it as the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park. A nonprofit group, Friends of the Dangberg Home Ranch manages the property.
A visit to the ranch is a chance to step into a time when Carson Valley largely was an agricultural mecca. The well-preserved main house is filled with period furnishings, many the originals, while the outer buildings feature historic period artifacts.
The ranch is located on Nevada State Route 88 west of Minden. The facility is a public day-use park, and guided history tours are available year-round by appointment.
For more information, go to https://dangberghomeranch.org.
Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.