Peleg Brown Ranch

Louis Damonte Ranch

Peleg Brown, along with his brother Joshua, settled at the north end of Steamboat Valley in 1857. The brothers had left their home in Rhode Island, traveling first to Kentucky where they purchased 211 head of cattle. They drove their cattle west, arriving in the Steamboat Valley in September with 170 head remaining. In 1858, for the lofty sum of $6.56 and 12 heifers, Peleg acquired 620 acres of land of which approximately 20 acres became rights-of-way for the Virginia & Truckee Railway and, later, U. S. Highway 395.

In January 1863, Peleg Brown married Elizabeth Gill of Indiana. Together, the Browns began improving the increasingly successful ranch. In 1864, they invested $4,000 on the construction of the three-story Greek Revival-style main house. The following year they spent another $800 on a large barn and $2,400 on the Truckee Ditch, followed by a foreman's house, a granary, and a stone cold-storage building. During the early years, the Browns operated a waystation for travelers, since their ranch was the last place to feed, water, and rest before reaching the mines on the Comstock Lode.

Peleg Brown was a successful and respected rancher, who is credited as one of the first in the area to grow alfalfa and was instrumental in bringing irrigation to the southern Truckee Meadows. Brown died in 1878, but Elizabeth kept the ranch going until her death in 1918. The Brown’s daughter Laura and her husband George Wilcox controlled the ranch thereafter. It became known as the Wilcox Ranch until Laura’s death, when it was placed on the market and purchased by Louis Damonte in 1940.

Louis Damonte had emigrated from Genoa, Italy in 1909, settling in the Truckee Meadows, where there were other Italians, in 1913. Louis learned how to ride, care for livestock, and grow crops, especially grain and potatoes. He married Louise Anselmo in 1916. The couple leased land and later, with a partner, they began buying established ranches throughout the Truckee Meadows. Louis developed into an expert on irrigation and he managed the Steamboat Canal and Irrigation Company until 1965. Louise Damonte died in 1955 and Louis in 1975.

The original 620 acres have been purchased by other owners, subdivided, or have become part of the highway right-of-way. The Damonte family continues to own the remaining 3.5-acre parcel with five historic buildings that were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

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12945 Old Virginia Road, Reno, Nevada