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From the Archives – Nov 2021

A Rummage Sale Find!

 Have you ever been to a yard or rummage sale and come across a “mystery box”? An old box filled with an interesting item or two, that might not look like much of “a find”, but yet you just have to take a look inside? 

Taking a look at the old photographs, Sonja noticed that several were taken by photographers in Virginia City, Nevada. She then wondered if there might be a museum in Virginia City that would be interested in the historical items. Sonja was referred to us at the Historic Fourth Ward School Museum & Archives by the Virginia City Tourism office. Our conversation with her began with a few texted photographs of the items. Inside the family bible was a July 13, 1857 marriage record for John Stephen Kaneen and Julia Ann Galvin in Sacramento, California. These names were not familiar to us either. With a little research though, we quickly discovered that her “mystery box” was in fact a real “rummage sale find” and we were definitely interested in her donation of the items for our Archives. 

In the 1990s, in Los Altos, California, this happened to Sonja Goedde when she stopped by the St. Simon’s Church rummage sale. She saw a box with an old bible and had to take a look. Under the bible were a stack of old photographs. While there were some family names and birth dates written inside the bible, the name of the family wasn’t familiar to her. But she just could not let the history be lost if no one purchased the box, so Sonja bought it and stored it away in hopes of one day finding an appropriate home for the items. Fast forward to early 2021, some twenty plus years later, while cleaning out a storage closet, Sonja discovered the “mystery box” once again. 

Our research found that members of the Kaneen family lived on the Comstock from the early 1860s until 1917, and they were quite active in the community. The first reference we found to John Stephen Kaneen being on the Comstock was in the 1864-65 Mercantile Guide and Directory for Virginia City, Gold Hill, Silver City and American City, which listed him as the superintendent of the gas works in Virginia City, where he also lived. According to the same directory, the Virginia City Gas Company was established in November 1863, with some 1,200 feet of pipes and able to produce 5,000 feet of gas per day by 1864.[1].

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