By Ace Robison
One of her loving nephews
In a quiet family celebration last week my jaunty, bright, and vivacious Aunt Josephine celebrated her 96th birthday. Aunt Josephine is one of the last of a generation born during World War I, the war that was to end all wars, and is a true pioneer as the story you are about to read will prove.
Josephine Robison Walsh was born in Logandale, the youngest child of Joseph Hancock and Nellie Hinckley Robison. Aunt Josephine was the last of seven children born to Joseph and Nellie.
Joseph and Nellie came to the Muddy Valley (it was not yet called “Moapa Valley”) on New Year’s Day, 1909. Nellie’s brothers had purchased a large tract of promising farmland in Logan, and Joseph who owned many good horses and the necessary equipment was prevailed upon to make the journey to the Muddy to clear the dense brush and level the land for spring planting. Joseph and Nellie liked it here, bought land of their own, and decided to put down roots.
Six years and many challenges and hardships later, Josephine was born in time to be the unwitting participant in one of the last great sagas of the Old West.
Times were difficult and by 1916 Joseph was reaching the end of his financial rope. Hearing from reliable sources that a mining boom was taking place at Jarbidge in far-northern Nevada, Joseph and oldest son Ben loaded their horses and freight wagons on the train for the long haul north to Jarbidge.
Everything in Jarbidge had to be hauled in by horse team over 65 miles of mountain trails from Rogerson, Idaho. The long dugway grade into Jarbidge Canyon averaged not more than a foot wider than a wagon and the slightest miscalculation or mishap meant a fall of thousands of feet for horses, rig, and drivers.
Joseph and Ben, with years of experience building railroad grade in Montana and freighting between St. Thomas and the Grand Gulch Mines, were skilled teamsters and felt up to the challenge.
Things went well for them and by autumn Joseph sent for Nellie and the children including 6 month old Josephine. In late November Nellie, with her children in tow, took the train to Salt Lake City where she left oldest daughter Juanita to attend school in Provo. Nellie proceeded on to Rogerson where she hired a car and driver to take them to a roadhouse at a desolate place on the trail called Rattlesnake. There they were to board the Jarbidge-bound stagecoach for the final leg of the trip.
Unfortunately the weather turned bad (it was December 5th) and Nellie and the children arrived at Rattlesnake too late. The stage driver, fearing bad weather on the treacherous Jarbidge Canyon dugway, had left without them.
As it turned out their missing the stage was an act of Providence; although Nellie didn’t see it that way at the time; as she had to find a place for her tired children and herself to sleep in a none-too-civilized roadhouse. The kind-hearted tavern-keeper, seeing her plight, offered her the best he had; an attic loft where loose straw would serve as their mattress for the night.
As it turned out, December 5, 1916 was an historic night. The stage on which Nellie and her children should have been riding was carrying the mail and a strongbox containing the payroll for the mines. There were no other passengers except Frank Searcy the experienced and capable driver. Sometime after successfully negotiating the descent down the treacherous dugway the stage was held up, Searcy was shot and killed, and the strong box was stolen.
When the stage didn’t show up on time the postmaster sent a capable man on horseback to find the stage, assist if possible, and bring back the first-class mail. Several hours later the rider returned. He had ridden to the summit but had failed to sight the stage. A search was called for and the stage with the dead Searcy was soon found in a bramble of brush by the side of the road.
We can only guess at the anguish that would have been felt by Joseph and Ben as the search was underway and until they learned that only Searcy was on the stage and the family was safe at Rattlesnake.
And that, as the saying goes, is the rest of the story. The story is true and the stage robbery described was the last stage robbery of the Old West.
So you see, my 96 year old Aunt Josephine Robison Walsh truly is one of the last of the pioneers of the Old West.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNT JOSEPHINE!!! And may your jaunty smile and your love for chocolate see you through many, many more.