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: March 11, 1875 in Mineral City, Nevada
Died: January 18, 1966, Ely, Nevada
Maiden Name: Carothers
Race/Nationality/Ethnic Background: Caucasian
Primary City and County of Residence and Work:
White Pine County, Ely, Nevada
Major Fields of Work: Teacher, Bookkeeper, Secretary
Virginia Carothers, my Godmother, told me that her father, Joseph Carothers and family, came from West Virginia to the Ward/Taylor Mining District of White Pine County, shortly after the Civil War. I was unable to discover the names of her parents, but did discover that in an 1870 U.S. Census for the state, a “Virginia Carothers” was living in 1845 in Monongalia, West Virginia (1). Perhaps this woman was her mother.
The Ely Daily Times, January 19, 1966, noted that Virginia was born in Mineral City, Nevada (2), about three miles west of Ely, now known as Lane City. However, she told me her family lived in Ward, although her father and brothers, of whom I heard her mention two, mined also in Taylor. I don’t recall her saying anything about her mother. By the time I was a child all her family were dead except for a nephew, Harvey Buntin, and niece, Virginia Buntin, who lived in Salinas, California. She never mentioned them to me, but did sometimes go to Salinas to visit.
She was well educated, having attended high school at Mt. Mary’s School in Salt Lake City, Utah (3). This enabled her to become a ranch teacher in remote areas of White Pine County. She said how hard it was to haul wood and start the schoolhouse fire every day, when the temperature would at times drop to -20 F degrees. She shared her problem at one ranch where she taught as she was forced to sleep with one of the rancher’s young sons who was a bed-wetter. The child rolled and moved so that Jennie was forced into the dampness. Even though she had taught at several other ranches in multiple-grade schools, that unpleasant experience convinced her to leave ranch teaching.
Briefly, she taught at Ely Grade School, and told the story about how she caught a girl, Mamie, chewing gum in class. When she asked her to throw it away, the students objected, and said, “I can’t.”
“Why?” Jennie asked.
“Because I borrowed it from Frances for recess. I have to give it back now.” Mamie replied.
After teaching, she worked as a bookkeeper in Ely, first for Graham Mercantile and later at the Adams McGill Company and the Lincoln Highway Garage for John Eager.
By the time I was born in 1940, Jennie was sixty-five. Soon she sold her house on Campton Street and retired to an apartment on High Street, now part of the Idle Inn.
When I was very small, I would sit on Aunt Jen’s lap and play with her gnarled, wrinkled hands. She wore Old Rose nail polish that intrigued me, because none of the women in my family wore it except to weddings and funerals. Her hands were malformed and she limped because of arthritis, walking eventually with two canes. She was “Aunt Jen” to me and might as well have actually been a blood relative. My family called her Jennie. She was always included in family gatherings.
When I was nine my father, Bill Isaacs, suggested that I help Aunt Jen on Saturday afternoons. So I went for lunch, to help, and to be entertained. I dusted, sometimes vacuumed, and shared lunch with her. By then Jen was seventy-five plus, and so crippled that she could barely get around. She was full of humor, recounting stories about her teaching experience, and knowledge. Sensuality welled up in her, exemplified by the painting on her living room wall of a very seductive Spanish dancer twirling in a long scarf. Her expression twinkled, despite a huge nose, heavy wrinkles, and arthritic knots on her hands, knees, and ankles. She saw outgoing and read constantly.
She enlisted me in a conspiracy of shared ideas. After I washed dishes, the two of us would settle in for a visit. Usually we read poetry – mostly from the Victorian era. Sometimes she would bring art books from the library. We looked at pictures and talked about our favorites as well as those we disliked, and why. Her taste ran to the traditional. Nevertheless, abstract art would probably have been exciting to her, as her mind was open.
Sometimes she talked about science; certainly she helped instill life-long curiosity in me.
She never talked down. Books entitled High Times, The Tooner Schooner, Our hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner – adult and a bit risqué – were treasured gifts. These involved the funny, eccentric doings of three old women. We also read about the unsinkable Molly Brown, Ellen Berlin, and other strong women. These stories showed me that women could be funny, do unusual things, and have a good time.
A devout Episcopalian, Jennie was the secretary for St. Bartholemew’s church for many years. Not only did she attend church every Sunday, she also belonged to the Auxiliary. The two block walk became more and more difficult and eventually various people gave her rides.
Her best friend was Sophia Callaghan, who owned the two story house directly across High Street. Their nightly ritual was that Jennie would walk to Sophie’s. In the summer they sat and rocked on the porch, shared high balls and an occasional cigarette; during the winter they drank in the house. My mother excused these habits because of Jen’s pain.
As I became a teenager, I no longer went to her apartment every Saturday. However, I often saw her at holiday gatherings and occasionally at her place. When I left home in 1958, she was eighty-three, and was so crippled she rarely left her house. My family and other friends saw to her needs.
When Jennie died, I was living away from White Pine County and was unable to attend her funeral. She is buried in the Ely cemetery.
Researched and written by Liz Riseden. Uploaded to Website April 2016.
Sources of Information:
- New Ancestry Search, “All Results for Virginia Carothers.” http://search. Ancestry.com.
- Ely Daily Times, “Miss Carothers Succumbs, 90”, 19 January 1966: 1
- Ibid, “Final Rites Tomorrow For Pioneer Woman”, 20 January, 1966: 1.