What began as a casual internet inquiry by Sue Silver, assistant director of the Mineral County Museum, has resulted in the museum acquiring a significant piece of Mineral County history. In December 2015, Sue was doing some genealogy research for her study of the burials in the Hawthorne Cemetery and reached out to W. A. “Butch” Edison with an inquiry about a gravesite. Mr. Edison responded and over the next couple of months, it came to light that he was in possession of a photographic portrait of one “A. A. Bass.” He emailed Silver that his father, “Swede” Edison had discovered the photograph at a deserted mine south of Mina in the early 1970s.
Swede, a lifetime resident of Northern Nevada, was for decades a supervisor at Basic Industries at their Luning shipping plant. He, like many other “desert rats,” was a part time miner and spent many weekends in the mountains of Mineral County. His discovery of the picture is a story unto itself.
Swede found an abandoned mine and homestead high in the arid mountains. He was astonished at the complexity and innovation he found there. A cabin tucked into the apex of a large protruding boulder with curtains suggested a woman’s touch. The stove could be used inside during the winter for cooking and heating; then moved outside during the summer. A window cut into the back of the cabin could be opened in the hottest months allowing cool air to fill the cabin. The little homestead had a garden and a mule barn, replete with harnesses and tack.
An extensive array of mortar had been laid on the flat faced boulders surrounding the mine and cabin, catching precious rainwater and funneling it into a rock cistern. This provided some water for the occupants, the mules and garden. The mine had been professionally and extensively developed, as well. Swede made several visits to the mine and homestead simply to admire the innovations and accomplishments of the occupants.
On one visit, however, he was distraught to find the homestead had been ravaged by looters. Every piece of mine equipment was gone, grounds dug up and buildings destroyed. What was left was the shell of the cabin, part of a chair, and a table. As Swede sat at the table eating his lunch, he noticed the table was “odd.” Upon further inspection, he found the table was, in fact, a packing crate and that inside was an elegantly framed photograph and a letter from a local judge to A. A. Bass, who had to be the man in the portrait.
Swede took the packing crate home, satisfied that at least that had not been destroyed or taken to be sold for profit by vandals. He stored the photograph carefully until his death, when it went to his son, Butch, who made a wooden storage box to protect the aging wood frame from damage and deterioration. Over the years the Edison’s had many times discussed what to do with the portrait. Most importantly, could it be donated to some entity in Nevada where its significance would be known and appreciated?
As it turns out, the photograph has indeed found its proper home right back here in Mineral County, Nevada. The photograph, taken in Chicago sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s, was delivered to the museum on July 30 by “Butch” and Jan Edison of Ferndale, Wash. and will be on display soon at the Mineral County Museum.