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Peak Back: Josephine Anna Hellwinkel

Josephine Anna HellwinkelMarch is Women’s History Month, a time we proudly look back with appreciation to honor the women that shaped Carson Valley into the destination that it is now. With help from the Douglas County Historical Society and their Van Sickle Research Library, we are happy to bring you their stories. From nurses to pioneers, Carson Valley has been home to many influential women and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Each year the Douglas County Historical Society (DCHS) recognizes women for their significant historical contributions. DCHS reached out to the community asking for nominees to be submitted into The Remembering Women in History Project. The women nominated have their histories archived at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center in Gardnerville. Future generations will have access to their stories, allowing them to appreciate the efforts it took to develop our beautiful Carson Valley.

Each story represents a nomination brought forth from The Remembering Women in History Project. This peak back in time features a nomination from 2003, Josephine Anna Hellwinkel. 

“Josephine Anna Hellwinkel was born March 3, 1890, at home, to Fred (or Fritz) and Anne (Winkelmann) Hellwinkel. The Hellwinkel farm is now known as Aspen Park in Gardnerville. The home has been moved to a different location on the same acreage and is now the “club house” for the Park residents. 

Her father came to Carson Valley from Otersen (Hannover) Germany in April of 1880, and her mother, Anna, in May of 1885 from Neddenaverbergen (Hannover) Germany. Josephine was the oldest of three brothers; Fred, George, Clarence, and two sisters; Marie and Edna. She attended local schools, graduating from Douglas County High School when it was located across the slough from her home. Her father had donated part of the land for the school, and served as a Douglas County Commissioner and on the local School Board.

Having attended the University of Nevada, she received her Nevada Normal Teachers Certificate in 1909. She taught in the eastern part of Nevada until 1914 before returning home to be a first grade teacher at the Gardnerville Grammar School. She retired in 1938 but continued working in her profession as a tutor, all the while ‘Sewing Seeds and Planting Ideas’.

Before owning an automobile, her transportation to and from school was horse and buggy, which she no doubt harnessed, after doing early morning farm chores. 

Known as Miss Hellwinkel by her students, she touched many young Carson Valley lives. She kept a complete handwritten list of her students with birthdates from 1920 to 1938. According to her records she taught 328 first grade students, students that to this day remark on how strict she was, but how well they learned under her tutelage. This list contains many Carson Valley pioneer names, familiar to us today. 

After the death of her parents and being the only one left on the farm (two of her brothers had passed away, the third brother moved to Minden to work and later own the C.O.D. Garage, and her sisters had married and moved to Californnia), Josephine sold the farm to Dr. George Cowden, DDS, and moved to Gardnerville, maintaining her home on Douglas Avenue until her death in 1972, at the age of 82. She was a lifetime member of Trinity Lutheran Church, and is buried in the family plot at the Garden Cemetery in Gardnerville. 

Miss Josephine never married, but had an extended family of first and second generation nieces and nephews who had the privilege of knowing her and fondly calling her Aunt Josa. 

Her students became good, prominent citizens that took pride in their community. She was a true educator in every sense of the word.” 

If you would like to learn more about Josephine Anna Hellwinkel and 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).

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