Peleg Brown Ranch

The ranch was established by pioneer Peleg Brown in 1858 and bought by Louis Damonte in 1940.

Peleg Brown, along with his brother Joshua, settled at the north end of Steamboat Valley in 1857. The brothers had left their home in Rhode Island, traveling first to Kentucky where they purchased 211 head of cattle. They drove their cattle west, arriving in the Steamboat Valley in September with 170 head remaining. In 1858, for the lofty sum of $6.56 and 12 heifers, Peleg acquired 620 acres of land of which approximately 20 acres became rights-of-way for the Virginia & Truckee Railway and, later, U. S. Highway 395.

In January 1863, Peleg Brown married Elizabeth Gill of Indiana. Together, the Browns began improving the increasingly successful ranch. In 1864, they invested $4,000 on the construction of the three-story Greek Revival-style main house. The following year they spent another $800 on a large barn and $2,400 on the Truckee Ditch, followed by a foreman's house, a granary, and a stone cold-storage building. During the early years, the Browns operated a waystation for travelers, since their ranch was the last place to feed, water, and rest before reaching the mines on the Comstock Lode.

Peleg Brown was a successful and respected rancher, who is credited as one of the first in the area to grow alfalfa and was instrumental in bringing irrigation to the southern Truckee Meadows. Brown died in 1878, but Elizabeth kept the ranch going until her death in 1918. The Brown’s daughter Laura and her husband George Wilcox controlled the ranch thereafter. It became known as the Wilcox Ranch until Laura’s death, when it was placed on the market and purchased by Louis Damonte in 1940.

Louis Damonte had emigrated from Genoa, Italy in 1909, settling in the Truckee Meadows, where there were other Italians, in 1913. Louis learned how to ride, care for livestock, and grow crops, especially grain and potatoes. He married Louise Anselmo in 1916. The couple leased land and later, with a partner, they began buying established ranches throughout the Truckee Meadows. Louis developed into an expert on irrigation and he managed the Steamboat Canal and Irrigation Company until 1965. Louise Damonte died in 1955 and Louis in 1975.

The original 620 acres have been purchased by other owners, subdivided, or have become part of the highway right-of-way. The Damonte family continues to own the remaining 3.5-acre parcel with five historic buildings that were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

Images

The main ranch house ca. 1907
The main ranch house ca. 1907 Four unidentified people, likely members of the Brown family, stand in front of the main ranch house around 1907. Source: U.S. Library of Congress Date: ca. 1907
Main Ranch House, 1994
Main Ranch House, 1994 The main house, built in 1864, is a large Greek Revival style residence remodeled in 1940 and 1955. Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress Creator: Martin Fisher Date: 1994
Ranch buildings, 1994
Ranch buildings, 1994 Originally encompassing approximately 620 acres, the core of the ranch today is a collection of five 19th and 20th century buildings. Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress Creator: Martin Fisher Date: 1994
Foreman's House, 1994
Foreman's House, 1994 The Foreman's House, built around the 1860s, is a wood frame, one-and-one-half-story house. The main portion is divided into a living room, bathroom, closet and staircase on the first floor and a bedroom on the second floor. The shed-roofed rear portion houses a kitchen. Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress Creator: Martin Fisher Date: 1994
Granary, 1994
Granary, 1994 The wood-frame granary sits on a stone foundation. The interior walls and floor were lined with tin to facilitate the storage of grain, both loose or sacked, and to keep rodents out. Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress Creator: Martin Fisher Date: 1994
Cold Storage, 1994
Cold Storage, 1994 The current double-car garage appears to have originally been a cold storage as it is constructed with heavy stone walls. Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress Creator: Martin Fisher Date: 1994
Play House, 1994
Play House, 1994 The play house was supposedly built for Peleg's granddaughter, Ethel Tyler, who was born in 1893. The small bungalow, built around the turn of the century, is designed in the Craftsman style. Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress Creator: Martin Fisher Date: 1994
The ranch house in 2016
The ranch house in 2016 In 2016, the main ranch house was 152 years old and beautifully preserved. Creator: Beesmill Date: 2016

Location

12945 Old Virginia Road, Reno, Nevada

Metadata

Mella Rothwell Harmon, “Peleg Brown Ranch,” Reno Historical, accessed July 19, 2024, http://www.renohistorical.org/items/show/169.