Peak Back: Ida May Mcguire 1886-1979
Periodically we proudly look back to honor the women that shaped Carson Valley into the legendary destination that it is now. With some help from the Douglas County Historical Society and their Van Sickle Research Library, we are happy to bring you their stories. From pioneers to writers, Carson Valley has been home to many influential women and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Looking back more than 100 years, the final woman we are recognizing in the series made her first crossing of the steep, rocky Carson Pass as an infant in her mother’s arms in 1886.
With her classic features and raven hair, Ida May Mcguire was known as a stunning young woman. None of this was missed by the soon-to-be veterinarian, Frank Harvey Baker. The couple were married in 1911 in Oakland and had a son the next year. Around the same time, their life took a dramatic turn when Ida became ill with what doctors believed was tuberculosis. In those days, the only medical advice for the condition was to move to a high, dry climate.
Fate was watching over the young couple, it turned out that Nevada offered the perfect climate for Ida. Also, the Silver State was in need of a field veterinarian and Dr. Frank Harvey Baker was welcomed by the Governor’s office in Reno to fill the role. In another fortuitous turn of events, it was discovered that Ida did not have tuberculosis, and instead had the fungal infection, Valley Fever, from her brother’s ranch in the San Joaquin Valley that she was able to recover from in time.
Carson Valley was a wonderful new world for Ida and Dr. Harvey Baker. After a short stay in Minden, they bought an old house with 15 acres at 523 Main Street in Gardnerville. It was the perfect place for a busy veterinarian and his growing family which now included their son Jack. Ida and Harvey soon became and remained, active members of the community.
Ida explored many aspects of Carson Valley and was very interested in the Washoe language. She was fascinated by the story of Snowshoe Thompson and did a research paper on him for her literary club. By the 1920’s and 30’s, one side of her home was transformed into the Hat and Gown Shoppe. Ida made trips to San Francisco to buy supplies for her shop and would also pick up items requested by wealthy ranch wives.
In 1961 Ida and Harvey celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary at their home with more than two hundred family and guests. Governor Grant Sawyers wrote a letter to them that said:
“Although each of you has made notable contributions to the progress, culture, and welfare of Douglas County over the years you have lived there, I believe your greatest contribution to society lies in the rearing of your fine sons, John and Franklin. That compliment really belonged to every woman in Carson Valley. As they all worked together to provide a superlative community for their children”.
If you would like to learn more about Ida or the rich history of Carson Valley, stop by the Museum and Cultural Center at 1477 Highway 395 in Gardnerville from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday thru Friday (excluding holidays).