Sheep Shearer’s Children In Lake Tahoe

 William Bolt was my two-times great grandfather. An adventurous spirit, as a young man in the late 1880s he traveled back and forth from St. Louis, Missouri to Laramie, Wyoming with his cousin Harry to work as sheep shearers. Lucky for me, his passion for storytelling compelled him to keep a detailed journal of his escapades – most notably falling in love with my two-times great grandmother, Mollie King.

I caught my breath when I came across his entries about one of my favorite places in the world, Lake Tahoe. His descriptions of the early days of Reno, Truckee and Lake Tahoe made my heart swell; what a tremendous gift to know we walk the same path. I now know for sure that there’s a special reason the Universe calls us there so often. I’m sharing an excerpt from his journal; sometime soon, I will flesh out his stories for all to enjoy.

 Winter, 1883

We are climbing the Sierra Nevada mountains. I ride most of the time on top of the freight cars. We stop for a long time at Reno, a rough town. Harry and I leave the train at Truckee. Smith goes on to California to spend the winter with relatives. Harry heard we could get a job of early shearing near Lake Tahoe. We stayed around Truckee a couple of days, a sort of a lumber camp of saloons and gambling houses and I could always see a bunch of Indians and white men sitting on the ground gambling. The Truckee River runs through there, a raging torrent all the way from Lake Tahoe. I seen some Indian women fishing. I went to them – they had a fire of only a couple of sticks and they catch a fish, hold it over the fire a minute, then give it to the little children. I seen them little two year old Indians eat the fish just the way it was and the only thing they threw away was the head and tail.

Harry had arranged with the stage driver to take us up to Lake Tahoe which is about 15 or 20 miles away. We could always count on Harry to plan everything without trouble or expense. He had a way of talking to everybody and always made friends and we always traveled as workers. We rode on top of the stage up through the mountains to the lake. The scenery was grand. Where we wanted to go was about six miles from headquarters – a yacht was going to our landing that took the mail and of course, Harry had him take us and our big roll of blankets. It was a grand ride. Lake Tahoe is so large you can scarcely see across it and they say there is no bottom. The Indians are afraid to go on it because if you went down you never came up – even the wood goes to the bottom. I can see a stack of wood laying on the bottom . The water is so clear we can see to a great depth.

McKinney's Landing, Lake Tahoe, CaliforniaWhen we got to our landing we found out there was no shearing to be done. The owner of the camp would like us to work for him. Harry told him we would stay a few days and work for our expenses. Our job was snaking in logs and we lived with the timber men. The fishing is very fine. We just go out a few short distance from shore in a boat and drop a hundred foot line and catch Speckled Mountain trout.

The time came to take the yacht back again. Sailing in a yacht was new to us – it was very grand on that beautiful lake on top of the mountains, then the stage ride back to Truckee.

This post was inspired by The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy, a novel about two women are connected by an Underground Railroad doll. Join From Left to Write on May 19th as we discuss The Mapmaker’s Children. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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11 thoughts on “Sheep Shearer’s Children In Lake Tahoe

  1. Thien-Kim says:

    Oh wow! I hope you take good care of his journal so you can pass it along to your children and their children!
    Thien-Kim recently posted…Comment on Giveaway: Deborah Harkness’ Book of Life Bundle! by Heidi SlossMy Profile

    1. Jennifer Wolfe says:

      Kim, I’m definitely super careful. I have boxes of mementos and other special relics of my ancestors. They take up half of my closet, but it’s worth it!

  2. […] Jennifer Wolfe from mamawolfe shares stories from her ancestors that reveal surprising connections to her present life. […]

  3. It’s so cool that you have that journal! My dad’s family is from Wales and I feel like there are tons of interesting stories there that I don’t know anything about…
    Jane T. @ live like it’s shark week recently posted…The Mapmaker’s Children: Learning to CookMy Profile

    1. Jennifer Wolfe says:

      Jane, I hope you can get into those stories…there’s so much history hidden inside! I hope our kids have some sort of real-life documentation..not sure that Facebook will leave quite the same legacy.

  4. Jenn says:

    What a lovely legacy to have been left!
    Jenn recently posted…The Best Laid PlansMy Profile

    1. Jennifer Wolfe says:

      Jenn, it is so cool! I love having the journals and letters and clippings – the photo I used on the header is from a ticket stub he pasted in the back! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Farrah says:

    That’s so awesome that you have that journal! <3
    Farrah recently posted…On regional foods + being enoughMy Profile

    1. Jennifer Wolfe says:

      Thanks, Farrah. It is really pretty special to have his words in his handwriting…such adventures to tell! Thanks so much for commenting!

  6. […] Jennifer Wolfe from mamawolfe shares stories from her ancestors that reveal surprising connections to her present life. […]

  7. […] I read more historical fiction than any other genre, and this was one of my favorites. The main character, Sarah Brown, is the daughter of abolitionist John Brown, and embraces the cause of the Underground Railroad all on her own. The author weaves a parallel story set in current time about a woman struggling with infertility who finds a mysterious porcelain doll head in her root cellar. I loved the mingling of past with present, and the ideas that women throughout history have challenged themselves to create the life they really desire. I tried to write my own bit of family history after reading this book – you can get the story of my great, great grandfather in my blog post, “Sheep Shearer’s Children In Lake Tahoe”. […]

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