Harry Hawkins: An Oral History

Harry Hawkins: Douglas-Alpine History

Interviewee: Harry Hawkins
Interviewed: 1965
Published: 1967
Interviewer: Mary Ellen Glass
UNOHP Catalog #016

Harry Hawkins was born in Alpine County, California, in 1881. His grandparents were among the earliest settlers in the area of Woodfords, on the property where Mr. Hawkins still resides. His home, which he calls “the castle of mystery,” is a storehouse of local memorabilia—artifacts, documents, photographs.

Always interested in and friendly with the local Washoe Indians, Mr. Hawkins has observed their activities closely throughout his eighty-plus years. Mr. Hawkins’s oral history is a valuable source on the history of the meeting of two dissimilar cultures and peoples—the Washoe Indians and the white settlers of the 1850s and 1860s. His narrative provides specific case histories of Indian-white contacts and relationships. For example, we hear of instances of the Indians learning of new tools, foods, and ways of working from the whites. And we see the whites learning about foods, tools, and ways of coping with the sparse ecology of the Desert West from the Indians.

We also see other aspects of Indian-white relations which were as important as the economic relations. That is, the beliefs, attitudes and expectations—stereotypes in short—which the whites held or believed about the Indians. We see also, though less clearly, some of the beliefs, attitudes and expectations which the Indians held about the whites. The heritage of these stereotypes continues to affect Indian-white relations to the present day.

There are other topics that Mr. Hawkins discusses in his oral history. He describes the history of a relatively small geographical area—Douglas County, Nevada, and Alpine County, California. He discusses incidents and anecdotes of early Carson Valley and Alpine County history, problems of law enforcement, folklore, and details of primitive rural life of the Douglas-Alpine area. Yet in reading Mr. Hawkins’s narrative, one is caught by a sense of a broader perspective. One sees in microcosm the history of the settlement of the West; the history of miners and ranchers and farmers and their struggles with the land, the Indians, and with each other. It is an absorbing story.

This introduction and oral history is reprinted with permission from the University of Nevada Oral History Archive, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno.

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