George Wingfield of Nevada !
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George Wingfield of Nevada !

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G eorge was born outside Fort Smith Arkansas August 16, 1876, the son of Thos. Y. And Martha M. Wingfield. Soon after in 1881 the family moved to California and a year later on to Lakeview, Oregon.[1] The environment George grew up in settled the question of what was to be his first occupation. He grew up a cowboy and worked on some of the great ranches of the Northwest. In 1896, he moved to Nevada from his fathers ranch. In the country around Winnemucca he Make a living as a cowhand, saloon owner, and gambler. From there, he joined in the stampede to the new rush of excitement that broke out in Tonopah. Along with many other miners and prospectors, he followed many of the later booms in Nye, Esmeralda and other counties. However, it was at Goldfield that his name was to stand out among many.[2]

H e had the ability to look clear eyed at any situation. He could face any form of physical danger, and moved quick and calm in times that sent most men running from that convulsive fever which is found in every mining camp. The mining country around southern Nevada during the early years produced the men who have yielded the greatest political and financial power in Nevada.[3] George arrived in Tonopah April 7th 1901 and had the good fortune to become associated with Senator Nixon in 1902.[4] Their individual qualifications made them into a combination that was one of tremendous power and influence for years to come in mining and banking.

T his new partnership with Republican George S. Nixon, who later became a U.S. Senator; never was legally formalized, but became know as Nixon & Wingfield. Goldfield would enable George to rise from financial obscurity, showing remarkable powers and out standing judgement to become the master organizer and consolidator of his times. He engineered one of the greatest financial deals of the early 1900’s by consolidation of the Mohawk, Laguna, Jumbo, Atlanta, Goldfield Mining Company, and Red Top into the Goldfield Consolidated Mines Company. This company had five million shares capitalization with par value at ten dollars per share.These properties would eventually produce over eighty-five million dollars gross and pay out over thirty million in dividends. Most men, if they had struck it rich in wealth would seek out some financial and social capitals of the world to live but George always remained loyal to Nevada. For many years to follow he continued as a mine promoter, pushing out into new areas to open up more properties such as the Booth, Sandstorm-Kendall, Blue Bull and others.

I n the later years he became a banker and president of many financial and mining corporations. Even though George was not a politian he fought and put up great resists to any influence, trying to divert wealth from the gold and silver out of the state. Knowing that the major wealth of the Comstock supported the California banks and what money did not go west went back east. George Wingfield should be remembered for his great contribution in keeping the mineral wealth of Tonopah and Goldfield in Nevada for the prosperity of her citizens.[5]

1908, George Wingfield married Maude Murdoch and moved to Reno, the following year the partnership of Nixon and Wingfield was dissolved. Wingfield was to maintain the mining properties while Nixon took over the banks. George also maintained a farm and ranch in Fallon with large herds of purebred dairy cattle. He built a large creamery plant and in a since made a signal contribution to Nevada’s agricultural resources as well.[6]

I n 1912 upon the passing of Senator Nixon, Wingfield was offered the appointment to fill Nixon’s turn in the senate. Wishing to remain in Nevada, Wingfield turned down the appointment and began to buy Nevada banks from Nixon’s estate.

B y the age of 30, George became a multi-millionaire and for a time owned every bank in Nevada. He now became a political and economic titan, making tremendous fortunes in the gold fields of central Nevada. George formed the Reno Securities Company in 1915 to buy Reno’s Golden Hotel, and pushed legislation to legalize pari-mutual betting on horse races in Nevada. Then 1920, George ventured into politics and became active in the National Republican party and made investments in banks, fuel refining, bonding company, road construction companies and many other fields. By this time he was known as the owner operator of Nevada.[7]

T he erection of the impressive and commodious Riverside Hotel by the Reno Securities company was listed as George’s great contribution to the growth of Reno. At a time when the nation was in great depression this feat took a large amont of courage and vision. That same year the Cole-Malley embezzlement of some $500,000 from the state of Nevada in which Wingfield’s cashier at the Carson Valley Bank was implicated, George made a deposit to cover the amount in full until matters could be sorted out.[8]

1 928, George Wingfield was elected as regent for the University of Nevada. A special session of state legislature settled the Cole-Malley case by which George paid one third of the loss. The state raised taxes to obtain the rest of the loss. This action caused high public comment and George was no longer the popular man in Nevada as many show resentment toward him. The following year George and Maude Murdock were divorced.

O n July 26, 1930 Wingfield married Miss Roxy Thoma the daughter of Dr. George Thoma of Reno, one of Nevada’s pioneer families.

G eorge’s power up to this time was unmatched. In 1932 the legend crumbled when all twelve of his banks collapsed and led the state into economic ruin. His legacy was highly controversial. Some called him a “friend in need”, others said he was the “sagebrush caesar”. Any way you look at it, George’s financial status was declining. He filed for personal bankruptcy in 1935. Later that same year Noble Getchell talked him into investing into some mining property and it turns into a gold mine. Now George was able to secure funds from Bernard Baruch and the Reno Securities Company buys Spanish Springs Ranch.[9]

T he Ranch would be his favorite place for the rest of his life. Once owned by the Reno Mayor E. E. Roberts who used it as a duck preserve. George devoted all his efforts to improve and extend the ponds to attract waterfowl. He built blinds and invited all his friend over to shoot ducks and grouse. This was to be George’s favorite passion. Besides hunting he raised quarterhorses and labrador dogs. The house in the old grove gave way to a majestic mountain view at sunset.

1 955, George sold the Reno Securities Company and the Riverside Hotel but kept ownership of the ranch. Although his second fortune never brought the height of power he had in the 20’s, but many Nevadans looked upon him as one of the great pioneers of the state. The facts that George with all of his fortunes never left Nevada, as so many others of the rich did. He had contributed so much to the prosperity of the state and seeing the economy grow with gambling and divorce related tourism that he worked so hard to promote. In 1957 he was awarded honorary Doctor of Mining Economics degree from the University of Nevada.

A fter suffering a stroke in 1959 George died in Reno on Christmas day. The ranch was left to his wife Roxy Thoma Wingfield.[10]

 

 





 



[1] Davis page 1265 - 66

[2] Scrugham  14 - 16

[3] ibid

[4] Davis

[5] Scrugham  14 - 16

 

[6] Nevadans and Nevada 14

[7] Davis

[8] Nevadan’s and Nevada

[9] Scrugham

[10] ibid

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