Nathan Abelman

Nathan "Nick" Abelman was born in 1875 or 1876 to Yiddish-speaking parents and with various partners owned saloons in Bessemer, Michigan, and Hurley, Wisconsin, before joining the rush to Goldfield in 1906. There, also with a partner, he operated the Bon Ton saloon and also ran an auto livery service. He became well acquainted with Harry Stimler, who is credited with the discovery of gold in the area, and from whom Abelman learned the technicalities of locating mining sites. By 1909 he registered twenty-one mine locations in neighboring Esmeralda County. As other camps flashed with the promise of riches, Nick ran clubs in some of them while they lasted. In 1912 Nick operated the Bank saloon in Antelope, Nevada.

Abelman relocated to Tonopah in 1913 and with Dell Hammond and John Manion operated the Cobweb saloon. Previously known as the Nevada Club, it had belonged to J. Grant Crumley. Later Nick would have an interest in both the Tonopah Club with James C. McKay and the Big Casino with William J. Graham. He, his partners and other club owners promoted prizefights to attract patrons. Indeed, virtually all of Abelman's businesses were partnerships. No one person could be on site for all the hours of a club’s operation. A partner would share the burden of watching the till and hopefully, limiting losses from theft.

Abelman's interest in locating and registering mining claims never flagged. He grubstaked dozens of men to work a mining site for a percentage of the profit. In other cases he bought into an established claim. His mining partners called him "Jew Nick." It was a moniker from which he never shrank. He even named two adjacent mining sites "Jew" and "Nick." He personally, or with others, registered hundreds of claims at Weepah, Round Mountain, Manhattan, Bellehelen, Gilbert, Beatty and Rhyolite. A few were multiple and adjacent claims running as large as 180 acres and were so remote that neither the claimant nor the county recorder could determine the mining district in which they were located. His co-ownership of some claims with the legendary Stimler likely increased their value.

Abelman married Audrey Marie Porter in 1921 and sold his South Street house in Tonopah in September 1927 as the local economy weakened. On October 8, 1927, Nick and Marie were registered to vote in San Francisco, California. They were listed in the 1930 Federal Census and also in the 1930 Polk Directory living in San Francisco and operating the Pacific Klean Rite Auto Service. Apparently dissatisfied with the profit level of the Auto Service, Nick moved from San Francisco. In 1931 both Salt Lake City and Reno newspaper accounts noted Nick as being "of Reno.”  In 1932 he opened the ornate Ship and Bottle Club, which catered to rich divorcees availing themselves of the State's new six-week residency requirement. In December, his wife, Marie, died of pneumonia. Her pallbearers included W.J. Graham, E.J. Bevis, Bert Reddick, Dell Hammond, Steve Pavlovich and Herbert Bell.  Several years later Nick married divorcee June Pettite, whose sons he adopted.

Abelman had arrived in Reno at a time when George Wingfield was experiencing the financial troubles which culminated in the closing of Wingfield’s banks in November 1932. Nick first purchased the Riverside Cigar Store from Klaus and Lawson on Nov. 30, 1933. Whether he maintained his interest in the Ship and Bottle at this time is unclear. He, Pavlovich and Reddick later leased and remodeled the former site of Wingfield’s Riverside Bank and took over the existent Club Room spending about $20,000 on the remodel. It appears the partnership did not lease the Hotel portion of the business. Wingfield even as property manager retained those decisions. At least part of the time, the partners did have food service associated with the Riverside Buffet. They did pay rent and also paid a percentage of the slot machine drop to the Crocker Bank which had named Wingfield the property manager. Under pressure from creditors to liquidate his assets, Wingfield was forced to sell his cherished 640 acre Spanish Springs Ranch, which was held by his Reno Securities Company. In what appears to have been a gentleman's agreement, Abelman was the only bidder. He purchased the entire spread for $3,000 and returned it to Wingfield at an unknown price, when the latter was no longer financially embarrassed.

In 1941, Abelman and his Riverside Buffet partners acquired ownership of the Stateline Country Club on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. Nick also had an interest in the Christmas Tree Lodge on Mt. Rose Highway and in 1950 a seventy-five percent of Reno's Waldorf Club. The Riverside Buffet’s month-to- month, handshake lease was not renewed in 1949 by George Wingfield. Wingfield first leased and then sold the property in 1955 to Mert and Lou Wertheimer.

Nick and a series of partners planned to open a new casino in an existing location on North Virginia Street.  The building at 232 North Virginia existed but the machines, layout and nature of the club were to change and be called the Sierra Club. It is suppositional, but Nick's presence was probably to help with licensure. The first group (Nick Sahati et al) had been denied at the City Council level despite having State approval. Nick was then included as Corporation President and a second application for licensure was approved at the State level in late October 1951. The application was before the City of Reno when Abelman became sick on a trip to Texas in November 1951. With Nick's illness, the application was withdrawn from the City Council's agenda on November 14, 1951. Nick died December 14, 1951 in a Reno hospital.

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