A Lady in Boomtown: Miners and Manners on the Nevada Frontier - Page 101
men and prospectors, the fabulous wealth he had acquired in mining. As the years went on, he engaged not only in mining but in cattle- raising and hotel operation. He was also a powerful behind- the- scenes figure in state politics. George Nixon, Wingfield’s old partner, died while he was United States senator, and Tasker Oddie, then governor of Nevada, offered the appointment to Mr. Wingfield. But he preferred to remain a private citizen. The state hummed with stories of George Wingfield’s benefactions. Cattlemen without number would tell of personal loans he made that were never collected, and prospectors recalled innumerable grubstakes that came from his lavish hand. After weathering the early years of the Great Depression, GeorgeWingfield’s banking empire collapsed. The failure was tremendous and complete. In subsequent years Mr. Wingfield struggled against a tide of ill luck, but at last his benefactions paid off. One day an old friend came into possession of a low- grade surface indication on Kelly Creek, near Winnemucca. His first act was to ride into Reno, where he took George Wingfield into partnership without a dime of investment. Thanks to the loyalty of his old friend, Mr. Wingfield rode the crest of another wave of prosperity. Hugh’s legal affiliations spread all over the state. We traveled when we attended meetings of the American Bar Association. We went onto New York for the theatrical season. With the advent of the Great War in Europe, Hugh became devoted to the cause of world peace, journeying first to Philadelphia to attend a conference that led to the formation of the League to Enforce Peace, then, as a member of the executive committee for the Pacific Coast, making endless speeches on behalf of the League in Nevada and California. Strong Republican though he was, Hugh supported President Woodrow Wilson in his fight for the League of Nations. The crest of Hugh’s wave at the American Bar began to roll in about this time. The president- elect of the American Bar Association for 1918, an Illinois judge, asked Hugh to speak at the next year’s banquet. Eastern lawyers, the judge said, thought that there were no lawyers with brains west of the Mississippi. He wanted to show them they were wrong by selecting a speaker from the extreme West. But after the invitation was voiced, we both sensed an unmistakable note of uncertainty in his attitude. But when the occasion arrived, Hugh delivered his tribute to the western pioneer, “ The Spirit of the West.” I was immensely proud as little notes began coming to me from hand to hand while Hugh was still speaking: “ This is great!” “ Hugh’s going fine!” “ Hugh is stealing the show.” And as I sat in front of the president of the association, the benevolent smile he bestowed on me told me he was not disappointed.
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