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Washoe Valley Alliance

Established in 2013 by local citizens, WVA is a member supported organization working with other organizations and individuals to educate and preserve the unique qualities of Washoe Valley. Join us in keeping Washoe Valley a haven in an urbanized northern Nevada. Memberships are only $20 a year.

For information on how you can participate, email us at washoevalleyalliance@gmail.com or visit our website at:


Take Action!

Washoe Valley Citizen Alert

Verizon Wireless has filed an Application for a Special Use Permit to build a 100 ft. Cellular Communications Tower in North Washoe Valley. The tower would be located on the ridgeline behind Washoe Valley Storage on property leased to Verizon by Washoe Valley Storage. This tower would be of a lattice design to attempt to look like a very large, skinny windmill. The massive tower would be located in an open area with no terrain features or vegetation to conceal it. This tower far exceeds the size of anything in the surrounding area and would have a huge negative visual impact on residents. It would also contribute to the destruction of the rural character of Washoe Valley. The size and structure of this tower would easily allow other cellular carriers to add antennas in the future, making it even more of an eyesore. This Application was heard by the Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) on 03/13/14. The CAB recommended that an additional public meeting be held, or the project be delayed past the next CAB meeting, so Verizon could get additional citizen input. Verizon has not responded to these recommendations and is proceeding with the project on the original schedule.
Urgent – Help Stop This Project – Time is Short
The Application is scheduled to be heard by the Board of Adjustment on April 3, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. The meeting will be in the County Commission Chambers in Building A of the Washoe County Complex, 1001 E. 9th Street, Reno. Attend if you can. If not, email your comments to our representative or all the members of the Washoe County Board of Adjustment.
District 1 – Philip J. Horan – phoran@washoecounty.us
District 2 – Robert F. Wideman – rwideman@washoecounty.us  (Our Rep)
District 4 – Lee Lawrence – llawrence@washoecounty.us
District 5 – Kim Toulouse, Chair – ktoulouse@washoecounty.us
You may also contact our County Commissioner, David Humke, at dhumke@washoecounty.us. Please note that Commissioner Humke is not a voting member of the Washoe County Board of Adjustment.

Detailed information on this Application can be found on the Washoe County website. Select DEPARTMENT LIST at the top of the page and then select Planning and Development from the drop down menu. On the left side of the Planning and Development Home Page select Application Submittals. The project is listed under District Two (Commissioner David Humke). The Case # and Title are      SB14-002, Verizon Wireless. The assigned Planner is Grace Sannazzaro. She can be contacted at 775-328-3771 or gsannazzaro@washoecounty.us. Please contact her if you have specific questions concerning this application.

This notification is being provided by The Washoe Valley Alliance. Please contact us at washoevalleyalliance@gmail.com if you have questions about this notification.

The New Freeway

An aerial view of the new freeway. We are looking southwest with Pleasant Valley in the foreground, West Washoe Valley in the middleground and the Carson Range in the background. Photo by Roger Peterson.

Pleasant Valley Then and Now

The original postcard is circa 1930. You can see the V&T tracks on the right. There is a little bridge in the postcard on the left and the concrete abutment is still there. This is looking south near where the Alamo/Sparks Mansion is now.

Washoe Lake State Park Now On Facebook!

Like Washoe Lake State Park on your facebook wall and keep up on the latest happenings in and around the park.

Good Morning Washoe Valley!


Washoe Valley Royalty

Washoe Valley and the English House of Lords

This started out as a story of a prominent Washoe Valley resident of days gone by but it also ended up as a tale of historical research. I was rummaging the local papers of 1933-1970 and came with a variety of contradictory snippets of information. Very frustrating and I wondered if the story I was going to present would even be accurate. Then I happened to find a relevant article in the Oakland Tribune of California which wrote up the whole affair entertainingly and succinctly. What a relief. It also illustrated how different the reporting quality was between Reno and “the big city”. So, I will pretty much quote that article with some info brought in from other sources.

Oakland Tribune, Tuesday, November 14, 1933.

Earl To Seek U.S. Citizenship

Nephew of Duke of Wellington, Who Wed Night Club Girl, Will Live Near Reno

By James F. Wickizer
United Press Staff Correspondent.

Christian Arthrur Wellesley, Fourth Earl of Cowley, who married a Reno nightclub hat-check girl last June, plans to give up his seat in the House of Lords and settle down to a pastoral life on a Washoe Valley ranch, he said today. Lord Cowley, grandnephew of the original Duke of Wellington revealed he had made application for American citizenship and had a purchased the Lakeview Ranch, a section of land 25 miles south of here in Washoe Valley.
“My wife and the life of the West mean more to me than titles”. said Cowley, who wears blazing red-and-green plaid shirts and chaps after the fashion of the Hollywood cowboy at his ranch.
Cowley’s marriage to Mary Elsie Himes, beautiful brunette hat-check girl of “The Cedars” Reno nightclub, startled two continents.

Wed Check Girl After Divorcing Lady Cowley

He married Mrs. Himes the day following his divorce from Lady Mae Josephine Cowley, known the London stage as Mary Picard. The divorce was granted on the grounds he and Lady Cowley, whom he married in New York City in 1914, had lived apart for five years. A settlement of $18,000 per year was made on Lady Cowley and their three children.
The new Lady Cowley is a native of Reno. She was born on the old May ranch.
She divorced Joseph T. Himes of Oakland, Cal. here on June 8, after she testified Himes made her mow the family lawn, build the fires, and left her sitting in the family automobile while he attended baseball games. (the charge was mental cruelty-ed).
Her 7-year-old son, George Hadley Himes, is living with the Earl of Cowley, who said he may adopt the boy.

Predicts happiness on Little Ranch

“We shall be immensely happy on our little ranch.” Lord Cowley said. “We shall have sufficient pasture for my horses, raise a little hay and settle down being happy living a simple life.”
Cowley’s Lakeview ranch is one of the most picturesque places in Nevada. It is situated on a rolling ill which overlooks Washoe Valley to the north where the half-million-dollar stone mansion built in 1861 by Sandy Bowers and Eilley Orrum, first “King and Queen of the Comstock,” now is transformed into a beer garden.
To the south is the sleepy town of Carson City, Nevada’s State Capital. Virginia City, the “billion dollar city” on the Comstock Lode, lies to the east.
In a clapboard ranch house of eight rooms Lord and Lady Cowley expect to spend the remainder of their days, Cowley said. (end of article)

The House of Lords is the upper house of Parliament in the United Kingdom and was once only made up of the upper class who inherited their seats. These inheritances were the result of titles given as “Kingly Favors” stretching back to the Middle Ages. Lord Cowley who evidently rejected the privileged but stiff lifestyle we see in the TV show, Downton Abbey, came to America in 1925 and pursued an artist’s life on the stage.

Lord Cowley insisted on being known as Christian “Bill” Wellesley when he lived in Washoe Valley. As outlined in the above article, he came to Reno for his divorce for unlike nearly everywhere else, Nevada had just instituted “quickie” divorces by only requiring a six-week residency. This created a divorce industry in Western Nevada employing lawyers, entertainers and funding many dude ranches in the area where wealthy divorce seekers could live their western fantasies. There were several in Washoe Valley.

Despite the unusual and scandalous circumstances of their union, The Wellesley’s apparently really did live happily ever after in Washoe Valley. They were married in the home of his divorce attorney and her immediate family were the only other guests. They had two sons and they both attended the one-room school house in Franktown on the west side of the valley. In fact, over the years, more than a few children from notable domestic and foreign families attended the school as their parents waited for their divorces to finalize.

Christian’s daughter, Lady Patricia Wellesley, visited in 1938 and made numerous friends in Reno and Carson during her visit of a year. In September, 1944, the Wellesley’s received news she was killed in London. It may have been the result of a robot bomb.  She was 28 and a member of the WRENS the British equivalent of the WAVES.

Christian passed away here in 1962 and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Reno. The Lakeview Ranch was purchased by the father of future governor Bob List. I have not had time to research the precise location of the 700 acre ranch but it may have included the Lakeview subdivision north to Franktown Road, west of Highway 395. It was modeled on the English style of self sufficiency with it’s own blacksmith, carpentry and butchery shops. Along with cattle, Mr Wellesley raised prized race horses.

Even though he insisted on living as a “commoner” (but a wealthy one) he did do a couple of interviews for the local papers. In 1936, he gave his opinion of the controversy that rocked the world- King George’s decision to abdicate the throne of England and marry Wallis Simpson, a twice divorced American socialite. “The day of Kings marrying Princesses and nobility marrying nobility is gone forever-as well it should be”. In another article, this one in 1936, the Earl is asked to contribute to the Nevada State Journal’s feature, “One Sound State”. The title was, “Why I Chose Nevada”. It deserves it’s own article at a later date.

The Lord and Lady’s son, Garrett, excelled in school, college and corporate America and later moved to England to take part in his aristocratic connections. Christian’s first son from his first marriage became the 5th Earl of Cowley but due to life events, Wellesley’s Washoe Valley born son, Garrett, despite being an American and a “cowboy from Nevada” eventually assumed the title and his seat on the House of Lords. His mother, Elsie, the “Dowager Countess Cowley”, and his brother Tim continued to live in Western Nevada amongst the commoners. The Dowager Countess joined William at Mountain View cemetery in 2003 to spend eternity together in their beloved Nevada.

The Wellesley’s have made a complete circle and are now firmly back in England. Now, Garret’s son will inherit the title and his son. but now they are fortified with Nevada blood.

We can really be proud of our wonderful valley and those it inspired over the years. We have a history and heritage that most places can’t match.

Editors note: Additional information was obtained by contemporary articles in the Nevada State Journal and Reno Evening Gazette and an article by J. D. Deming, Reno born nephew of the Dowager Countess who’s article appeared on the Nevada Journal website.

Who Is This Man?

What does this guy have in common with Washoe Valley and the TV show “Downton Abbey” and British Royalty? Check back later to find out!

Start a WV Yardsale Page on Facebook!

I have noticed that some communities like Fernley have started yardsale pages on Facebook for buying, selling and trading among neighbors. It would be great if someone would start one up. Check out “Nevada County Yardsale” from California on what it looks like. They have 1700 members and a good disclaimer/rules page to copy.

The Dude Ranch Years

The following is a reprint of an article we ran several years ago:

The Dude Ranch Years, 1931-1960.
William McGee was a wrangler at the Flying ME dude ranch in Franktown for several years from 1947 on. His book, The Divorce Seekers, written in 2004 gives a fun account of ranch life, the divorcees, Washoe Valley, Virginia City and Lake Tahoe in the post-war 1940′s.  Along with the divorcees were wealthy socialites and others such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Clark Gable who found the valley, its ranches and inhabitants endearing. Famous (at the time) Washoe Valley residents were Gus Bundy, artist and photographer, and Will James “cowboy artist” and writer. The book has many photos of life around the area in the 1940′s and is available at local bookstores.

In 1931, Nevada reduced the residency requirement for divorces to 6 weeks and the grounds to “mental cruelty” which covered everything. This made Nevada the “Go To” place for divorce. A woman who wished to avoid the embarrassment of getting a divorce in her home town could be fairly incognito in sparsely populated Nevada. Thus, this route was popular with many women from prominent families. Many made the choice to stay in Reno for their 6 weeks at hotel/casinos like the Mapes and tough it out in the distractions of Reno nightlife. Others, who could take a lemon and make lemonade, stayed outside of town in a dude ranch and made a vacation out of it. This provided quite a business for many years and there were dude ranches throughout the area, mainly in Verdi, Pyramid Lake and especially south Reno and Washoe Valley. McGee recalls entertaining the guests with trail rides around Washoe Lake, to Virginia City via Jumbo Grade and up through Little Valley to Marlette Lake. A favorite outing involved taking a pickup full of women in the back to the present location of New Washoe City and racing through the sagebrush while the ladies took potshots at jackrabbits with a .22 rifle. He relates that the hares were never in much danger. Other outings involved bar hopping in either Virginia City or Carson City. These outings were accomplished in the ranch’s 1948 Chrysler convertible- the model that was covered with real wood trim on the body.  Other activities involved lounging at the pool, photography and making new friends. The book covers alot of the goings on around the area and is a fun read.

Christmas Craft Fair

Our church in Washoe Valley, WASHOE VALLEY CHRISTIAN CHURCH, 145 Esmeralda Dr. is hosting a community Arts & Crafts Festival this Saturday, Nov. 23rd. from 9:00 to 4:00, there will be over 40 crafters and artists represented, admission is free and everyone is welcome