%> Nevada Riches: The Land and People of the Silver State
People & Life Ways
Riches, Ranching & Railroads

Life in Elko County

The history of the Garat family in Nevada and the YP ranch in Elko County dates back to the early 1870s.  But the Garats have been in the United States much longer.  Like many Basques, Jean Baptiste Garat came to America in 1849 looking for gold.  He found his fortune, however, in the fertile land of California's San Joaquin Valley.

When California became "too crowded," the Garats sold their land and moved east, to Nevada.  It was a two year process.  A herd of 1000 cattle was driven over the Sierra, near Bridgeport, California, then on into Nevada.  The family spent the first winter near present day Fernley, Nevada.  They continued east and settled in Independence Valley, about 80 miles north of Elko.  The Garats started with 320 acres, but eventually owned 75,000 acres.  Including land leased from the federal government, the YP ranch grazed cattle on a million acres.

Four generations of the Garat family made a home on the YP ranch.  Like many western ranchers, the Garats had homes on the ranch and in the city.  The Garat children lived in California during the winter months and attended school there.  In the summer they came back to Nevada and the ranch.  In the 1890s, the large ranch house was built on the middle fork of the Owhyee River.  In 1910 this house was moved to another ranch the family purchased, the SL.  The house was taken apart, the boards numbered, and the house reassembled at the new site.

The YP was a large ranching operation.  After the cold and hard "white winter" of 1889, when the ranch lost 90% of its cattle herd, hay was raised to feed the cattle over the winter.  The ranch employed as many as 140 hands.

It was still, however, a family home.  Henry Garat had three daughters and no sons to take over the ranch, and the economic problems of the Great Depression had been hard times for the cattle industry in Nevada.  The ranch was sold in 1939, and the family moved back to California.

A year or so before the family moved, they took home movies of the children playing in the snow at the ranch.

Photo Credit:
Northeastern Nevada Museum