Nestled snugly in Carson Valley is the charming community of Minden. Downtown, the historic brick buildings have over a hundred years of stories to tell and the shops, eateries and lively bars whisper, “welcome.” Though it sits off the major thoroughfare of Highway 395, Minden is a spot that is worthy of driving to - not through.
History of Minden
Heinrich Friedrich Dangberg Sr. (Photo courtesy of University of Nevada, Reno)
The birth of Minden can be attributed to one very important pioneer family of Carson Valley: the Dangbergs. In 1857, predating statehood, German immigrant Heinrich Friedrich Dangberg Sr. (also known as H.F. or “Fred”) put down roots and built one of the earliest ranches in what would later become Nevada. H.F. was ambitious to say the least, and he began growing his family, land and herds by way of exchange with immigrants: their tired cattle, oxen and horses for supplies.
He became a citizen and urged his friends and family back home to come to America and work on his ranch. He’d even sweeten the deal by paying their fares and encouraging them to homestead their own acreage. If they decided not to stay, he’d acquire their land. H.F. also purchased land from other new settlers who opted to leave after getting title to their property. Almost always paying in cash and rarely selling, he was able to amass around 30,000 acres of land – leading to the creation of the Dangberg Land and Livestock Company. In 1902, he transferred ownership of all his land holdings to the company and issued out shares to his family.
He and wife, Maggie Ferris Dangberg, had five children: four sons and one daughter. While all sons would have roles in the family business, the oldest Henry Fred Jr. (also known as “Fred”) would become its public face and driving force. H.F. Dangberg Sr. passed away in 1904 and his sons continued the Dangberg legacy, though they envisioned opportunities very differently than their late father. In particular, they saw the potential wealth that could be gained by developing their land and adding a railroad terminal for the burgeoning V&T railroad. However, V&T did not want to build their depot in an unpopulated area, so Fred and family set out to drawing plans for a brand-new town, but what to call it? Reportedly, they sought to name it Halle after their father’s birthplace in Germany, but V&T officials quickly rejected the name for fear it would be mispronounced as “Hell”. Probably rightfully so, can you imagine trying to sell “tickets to hell” or “take the train to hell”? As an alternative, the Dangbergs chose to name the town Minden, the capital of Halle’s province.
On July 2nd, 1906, the Douglas County Commissioners approved the official plat of the town of Minden, and the Dangberg Company deeded all the streets and town park. Two days later, the first train arrived and Minden was up and running. The first business to open was the Minden Flour Milling Company – hailed as one of the finest of its kind in the West. Others began to follow suit, including the Dangberg Land and Livestock Company and Meyers Mercantile, Minden Butter Manufacturing Company, Carson Valley Hay and Produce Company Warehouse, and the Farmers Bank.
Of course, there was a lot to celebrate, what with the birth of a brand-new town, extension of the railroad and bustling economy. To showcase the area, in 1910, the very first “Carson Valley Day” was planned with the goal of bringing people from all over the state to experience the area. It was quite the success, with 3,000 in attendance and the tradition continues today (Learn more about Carson Valley Days held annually, the second week of June).
Though you could truly point to H.F. and Fred Dangberg as the founding fathers of Minden, there are no streets or buildings that reflect that fact. Aside from the nod to their German heritage in the name of the town, there is a simple “D” for Dangberg etched on the face of the Carson Valley Farmers Bank building. However subtle, there is no refuting the fact that without the Dangberg family there wouldn’t be the town that is known and loved today. Though many years have passed since its conception, much of Minden’s history still lives and breathes in the buildings and surrounding atmosphere, and you can even pay homage to the Dangbergs themselves by visiting their historically preserved ranch.
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