We’re starting a new feature today. We’ll highlight famous Washoe Valley residents. If you know of any, and there are quite a few, let us know. We’ll also include the famous who enjoyed Washoe Valley like Clark Gable and Eleanor Roosevelt. These will be available in the “Famous Residents” category.
Will James was an artist and writer of the American West taking much of his inspiration around his home in west Washoe Valley. Born in Quebec Canada in 1892, he made his way to Nevada where he spent a little time in the Nevada State Prison in Carson City for rustling near Ely. He then worked as a stuntman in movies and served in the US Army for a year until 1919. After marrying Reno native, Alice Conradt, he began to concentrate on his lifelong interest in sketching, drawing and writing. He began selling his sketches and in 1922 sold his first story. This allowed them to live in his father-in-laws 4 room cabin on 5 acres in west Washoe Valley at the south end of Franktown Rd from where he wrote his first book, “Smoky The Cow Horse” which won a literary prize in 1927. During his several year residence and after he traveled the west developing his art and making contacts and began to be published in regional and western magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Sunset. In the 1930’s he moved to a ranch on Montana and then to Hollywood to work on the movie adaptation of “Smoky”. He died in 1942.
He was one of the fraternity of early 20th century western artists capturing the disappearing culture of the romantic American west of cowboys and open land. A detailed biography is here.
He wrote 24 books and hundreds of drawings and paintings and was as “well known as Will Rogers and Tom Mix.” It will be interesting to learn more about Will and try to use his art and writing to understand more about life in the 1920’s in Washoe Valley and Nevada. Books and art are sold here.
We will add more info and the art of Will James in future posts.