Lovelock Assay Office holds keys to past

Lovelock Assay Office holds keys to past

Lovelock Assay Office holds keys to past

Like the fireworks at its recent Centennial Night celebration, Lovelock bursts with history. The names of some of her sons and daughters retain a spark. Most are forgotten.

But the town's mining spirit survives. Those willing to dig can unearth a treasure trove of life stories at the Marzen House Museum.

Andrew Humboldt Scott (1890-1967) built his two-room assay office in Rochester, Nev., during the town's boom years, between 1912 – 1915.

Scotty's tastes ran towards the utilitarian. He covered his wooden building with metal siding. A window allowed him to assess his customers before they knocked on the door. But the metal swirls at the top of his creation hint at an artsier side.

When the boomtown busted, Scotty hitched up his horses. They transported his building about thirteen miles from Rochester.

The assayer set up shop behind a bank building near a train depot. He hung a shingle over the door said "Lovelock Assay Office."

For the next forty years, he lived nearby with his wife, Lalla McIntosh Scott. There was only one break in his tenure.

WWI pulled Scotty away from his blast furnace to serve as a Lieutenant in the US Army.

While Scotty assayed and soldiered, Lalla chased dreams of her own. Before her marriage, she studied journalism and writing.

In Lovelock, Lalla Scott met Sarah Winnemucca and became fascinated with Paiute culture. In 1966, Lalla received good news. The Reno University Press would publish her book, Karnee: A Paiute Narrative.

Scotty padlocked the door for good in the mid-nineteen-fifties and left Lalla behind a decade later. As far as anyone knows, the couple had no children.

The City of Lovelock moved the building to the museum grounds in the early nineteen-nineties. Visitors report feeling as if Scotty could enter any moment to heat up a can of beans or perform the art and science of fire assay.

Today Scotty's back room might be called a man-cave. A scratchy grey blanket covers a wooden cot. A stove, cooking utensils and reading material fill the tiny space.

Scotty taught himself to draw from instructional manuals. But like many fledgling artists, he may have tossed most of his work in the fire. Only one piece remains – a pencil drawing of a thistle.

Indoor plumbing did not reach rural America until the 1930s, so there is no bathroom or sink in the building.

In 1928, about 10 miles out of Hazen, a tractor salesman overtook a hiker dressed in WWI army clothing. Howard F. Steiner offered Scotty a ride home. The assayer was on his way back to Lovelock from a field trip. Their friendship lasted the rest of Scotty's life.

After Scott died, Steiner wrote an article about him for True West (Nov-Dec, 1979). Today it covers an entire wall of the old assay office.

When they got out of the jalopy to stretch their legs, Steiner complained to Scotty about "this godforsaken land." The roads were terrible. The wind blew dust without cooling the air.

Scotty replied, "You're new to the desert, aren't you?" The old man pointed to the visible shorelines on the mountainside. He told the greenhorn that they stood on the floor of Lake Lahontan, now as dry as a bone.

Scott reached down and picked up a chunk of white float. He handed the light, gritty, and chalk-like object to his friend.

Scotty told Steiner about the two-celled organisms called diatoms that once lived in the lake.

"All that's left are these skeletons," he said.

"Be careful," he added. "You can fall in love with the mountains and seas, and you'll get over it, but if you fall in love with the desert, you're lost; you'll never get over it."