CARRIE ELIZBETH MILLER TOWNLEY PORTER
The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources. If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.
At A Glance:
Born: July 27, 1935, Belton, Bell County, Texas
Died: December 6, 2014, Rancho Cucamonga, California
Maiden Name: Carrie Elizabeth Miller
Race/Nationality/Ethnic Background: Scottish, Caucasian
Marrried: John Mark Townley, January 7, 1954. Divorced April, 1978. Married Louis Keith Porter, November 8, 1985
Children: Two daughters – Cynthia Anne Townley and Barbara Elizabeth Townley, one son – John Mark Townley, Jr
Primary City and County of Residence and Work:
Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada and Reno, Washoe County, Nevada
Major Fields of Work: Records management consultant, archivist, researcher, writer
Other Role Identities: wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, Chautauqua performer
Archivist, researcher dedicated herself to promoting historic Nevada women
Carrie was the middle child born to Weldon Marion Miller and (“Mim”) Evelyn Lamar Kirchner Miller. Carrie’s brothers were Edward Marion Miller and Weldon Allen Miller. Carrie and her siblings were born in Texas and spent most of their young lives travelling as their father’s employment required. He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Texas National Guard, then he transferred to the Texas Highway Patrol and then served in the Army as a Provost Marshall. After World II ended he served in Frankfurt, Germany in the Army of Occupation. Returning to Texas, Weldon continued his career as a Texas Ranger Safety Officer.
Growing up, Carrie’s father ingrained in her the importance of getting a good education. She should always be able to financially take care of herself. Since his father (Carrie’s grandfather) died when Carrie’s father was young and his mother (Carrie’s grandmother) had to scrub floors to make ends meet, he did not want that for his daughter. Carrie was an avid reader. Many nights her father would find her asleep with a book in her hands. He would close her book, remove her glasses, and turn off her light.
She loved the book “Gone With the Wind”, reading it several times. Later in life she collected Gone With the Wind memorabilia as a hobby. She always felt a connection to her birth state of Texas. It was demonstrated by her love for fields of Texas Bluebells and the slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas”. She and her husband Keith hosted an annual Texas New Year Celebration held at their home on January 1st for many years and later on March 1st. Enjoyed by all it featured Texas dishes, ham, black-eyed peas and corn bread.
Carrie’s mother Evelyn (“Mim”) suffered from the consequences of poor health. She was born prematurely and thought dead until someone saw her moving. Struck down with rheumatic fever at age 14, she was never the same. “Mim” was a home maker, and also enjoyed her activities in many social organizations, including Gideons International.
During frequent moves Carrie, her mother and brothers frequently stayed with their grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Kirchner, in Belton, Texas. She also lived in Harlingen and Austin where she attended middle and high school. She graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School in in 1952. She continued her education at the North Texas Women’s University, aka University of Texas. Carrie left the University of Texas as a junior to be with her husband John Mark Townley whom she had met at the university. Since John had joined the ROTC while at the University of Texas, he was obligated to serve active duty once he had graduated. His first assignment was to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Carrie and John purchased a house trailer as housing was scarce at that time. Their first child, Cynthia, was born in Iola, Kansas in1954. Their second daughter, Barbara, followed her sister in 1957. By Fall of 1957, John had been discharged from the Army and the family moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where John went to work in his father’s business. In 1960 the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to open their own business. Their son John Mark (TJ) was born in 1960.
In 1962 John was hired as Project Manager for the Atomic Energy Commission and the family moved to Las Vegas. Carrie began classes at Nevada Southern University (now University of Nevada, Las Vegas). She graduated with a minor in Mathematics and a Teaching Certificate in 1967. In 1971 she earned her Master of Arts Degree in History with a minor in Archaeology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
While attending school, she worked as a substitute teacher. Once she earned her Bachelor’s degree she taught History and Mathematics at Gibson Junior High in Las Vegas. She also worked at UNLV as an archivist. Due to her analytical and organizational skills, she worked as a record analyst and records administrator for several different businesses.
Carrie became a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution as a descendant of James Sutton. She was also a member of the United Daughters of Texas, the Daughters of the Confederacy and Children of the Confederacy and later a member of the Texas Historical Commission.
While living in Las Vegas, John and Carrie built their own home in 1967, doing most of the work themselves.
John was named Director of the Nevada Historical Society in 1972. He was also completing his Ph.D. at UNR. They moved to Reno that year. Shortly after the move Carrie and John separated. They were divorced in April 1978. After the divorce Carrie did some substitute teaching prior to being hired at Special Collections at UNR.
Carrie worked for Special Collections at UNR until she got a job at Caesars Tahoe as a Records Administrator. Tired of the heavy snow in Lake Tahoe, she returned to Reno to work as a Records Management Analyst for Sierra Pacific Power. While there she met her second husband, Louis Keith Porter. They were married in Pioche, Lincoln County, Nevada on November 8, 1985. He was the “wind beneath her wings” according to her friends. Sadly, Keith died in 2004 due to pancreatic cancer.
Carrie worked for the Washoe County Parks and Recreation Department doing presentations for “Boogie at Bowers.” She had several other assignments prior to her decision to open her own records management consulting business, “Townley Porter Associates”. During 1990-1991 Townley Porter Associates undertook one of their largest projects which was obtaining a grant from the National Historical Records Preservation Commission (NHPRC) to inventory the historical records being stored in Caliente, Ely, Churchill County, and Lincoln County in Nevada. The project involved going to the locations and actually creating an inventory, which included location, descriptions, and dates of documents stored by the various governmental entities. Once the inventories were completed, the information was entered into a Word Perfect format to be sorted alphabetically by location, description, and date. Copies of the completed inventories were sent to the State of Nevada and to the various governmental entities.
Besides all her numerous writing projects and employment, Carrie was very involved in the Episcopal Church. She was Diocesan Historiographer for the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada. She created an inventory of the Church Archives of Nevada Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Nevada.
Carrie was involved in many organizations throughout her life. Included are Soroptimist International of Truckee Meadows, Am-Arcs of Nevada, Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Association of Record Managers and Administrators, (ARMA), National Association of Government Archivist and Records, Westerners International Reno Corral, and Nevada Society of Scottish Clans.
Carrie became an early member of the Nevada Women’s History Project (NWHP) which was founded by Jean Ford in 1994-1995 to research information on Nevada women. In late 1997 Jean Ford had to relinquish her position as State Coordinator for the NWHP due to her fight with cancer. Kay Sanders originally served as State Coordinator, but due to family health concerns, Kay had to resign and Carrie was hired in May 1998. She held that position for two years. Carrie was nominated by the Nevada Women’s Fund to be honored as the first Women of Achievement Awardee representing NWHP. Her column “Carrie’s Corner” was featured in the Nevada Women’s History Project quarterly newsletter. She was named to the NWHP Roll of Honor in 2005 and in 2014 she was awarded a lifetime membership to NWHP.
In 2001 outstanding Nevada author Sally Zanjani published her biography on Sarah Winnemucca, an American Indian princess who was one of the most influential and charismatic Native American women in American history. She and Carrie discussed the possibility of Sarah being Nevada’s second statue in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. That idea was taken to the NWHP governing Board and was approved. Assembly Bill No.267, submitted to the 2001 Legislature by Assemblywoman Marcia de Braga, where it passed unanimously, but without funding. Carrie and Mary Anne Convis helped to create the NWHP Sarah Winnemucca Statue Committee to raise the money needed. In 2003 Carrie was named co-chair of the State Sarah Winnemucca Statue Committee together with former First Lady Dema Guinn. This Committee’s main purpose was to choose the sculptor. Benjamin Victor, a young man of 25 from South Dakota, was chosen for this honor. On March 9, 2005, the Sarah Winnemucca statue dedication took place in Washington, D.C. A duplicate statue was dedicated on April 6, 2005 in Carson City, NV.
In the summer of 2006, Carrie spent about a month assisting Mary Greenfield in Jarbidge, Nevada as part of “The Jarbidge Archive Brigade”. Mary was interested in old records of the Elkoro Mines Company dating back to 1916, which she discovered in the old Jarbidge jail.
Throughout the years Carrie gave numerous Chautauqua presentations, portraying Helen J. Stewart in period dress. In 1973 and 1974 Carrie wrote a two-part article for the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, “Helen J. Stewart: First Lady of Las Vegas”. Sally Zanjani offered to write the book on Helen J. Stewart. Carrie assisted her with the copious research she had done for over 40 years. The book was published in August 2011 by Stephen Press, Las Vegas, NV.
In October 2012 Carrie moved into her daughter Barbara Elizabeth Townley Codega and son-in-law Jeff Codega’s household in Reno. In March 2013 Barbara died from an accidental death, when she fell from her bed, hitting her head on the night stand beside her bed. Carrie never recovered from the emotional trauma of Barbara’s death. In the summer of 2013 Carrie moved with her son-in-law Jeff Codega to Rancho Cucamonga, California. Then in November 2013, at the age of 106, Helen Elizabeth “Betty” Hawk Townley, John Townley’s mother, died. This was a further blow to Carrie. Even though John and Carrie had divorced in 1978, Carrie was always considered part of the Townley family. Betty always referred to Carrie as her “daughter in love”.
On December 6, 2014 in Rancho Cucamonga, California, Carrie died in her sleep.
Carrie was once asked what of her accomplishments she was the most proud? She answered, “My children.”
In January 2015, NWHP created a memorial endowment in honor of Carrie Townley Porter. Her research material of the Helen J. Stewart book and some of her memorabilia are at the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada. Included are her costumes, which she wore during her Chautauqua performances as Helen J. Stewart.
Researched and written by Carolyn Gardner. October 2017. Posted to website November 2017.
Sources of Information:
Sources of Information:
- “Carrie Townley Porter Obituary”, Reno Gazette Journal, (Nevada), Feb. 8, 2015, p5 Section C.
- Townley, John, interviewed by Carolyn Gardner., personal interview, Reno, Nevada, March 13, 2017.
- Townley, Cynthia Ann, interviewed by Carolyn Gardner, personal interview, Reno, Nevada, March 20 and April 18, 2017.
- Scott, Patricia, interviewed by Carolyn Gardner, Telephone interview and Correspondence, March 5, 2017, March 29, 2017.
- Roberts, Joann, interviewed by Carolyn Gardner, telephone interview, March 20, 2017.
- Nevada Women’s history Project Newsletter. Varied authors, dates, and articles.
- Archives Summary 08/02/2016 F, A MS 001, Manuscript, Research papers of Historian Carrie Townley Porter, -Museums & History, Research papers of Historian Carrie Townley Porter, F, www.museums.nevadaculture.org/resources/1/nsmlv_manuscript_collection. As seen 3/31/2017.
- “Carrie Townley Wins $1000 Spot of Gold”, Las Vegas Sun (Nevada), July 30, 1965, p32:4.
- Ancestry.com. Nevada Marriage Index,Marriage Index, 1956-2005 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2007.
- Past Officers, Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists www.clmarchivists.org/officers.
- Clifton, Guy. Notable Nevadans: Friends we lost in 2015”, Reno Gazette Journal (Nevada), December 24, 2015.
- “Ceec Abrahams Award Recipients, 1993-94, Carrie Townley Porter”,Soroptimist International of Truckee Meadows.sitmnv.org/who-we-are/award. As seen 3-31-2017
- Carrie Townley Porter, sitnv.org/who-we-are/award recipients.
- Carrie Townley Porter, Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists. https://cimarchivists.org/past-officers
- “Historian Researches Jarbidge”, Reno Gazette Journal (Nevada), Feb. 8, 2015, p2.
- Susan Skuropa. “Project Brings Women’s History to Nevada”, Reno Gazette Journal (Nevada), Mar 17, 2017, p4:1.
- “Episcopal Diocese Meets in Virginia City, Nevada State Journal, May 15, 1976, p5:1
- “College Publishes Historic Book on S.Bar S. Ranch”, Reno Evening Gazette (Nevada), December 27, 1978, p19.
- “Carrie Townley Parker of Reno has been named state coordinator of the Nevada Women’s History Project”, Reno Gazette Journal (Nevada), July 23, 1998, p4B, Section: In and Around Town.
- “Carrie Townley Porter has Joined Bender Record Services as records management consultant”, Reno Gazette Journal (Nevada), May 4, 1986, p2F:4.