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Pahrump Mirror
Pahrump, Nevada
April 10, 1997     Pahrump Mirror
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April 10, 1997

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1ursday, April I0, 199"/Pahrump Valley Gazette Nevada - then and now Daniel Bonelli: Colorado River Pioneer by Phillip 1. Earl Nevada Historical Society orn Johan Daniel Bonelli in Switzerland on February 25, 1836, Daniel Bonelli was a Colorado River pioneer. An early convert to Mormonism, he left his native land for his missionary work in 1857 and spent the next two years in London. In 1859, as he sailed for America, he met and fell in love with Ann Hight aboard ship. They were married in New York City shortly after landing. A few weeks later, they embarked for St. Louis where they joined a wagon train bound for Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake City, he worked as a weaver and a tailor and took part in church activities before accepting a missionary assign- ment in the southern section of the Utah Territory, leading a group of Swiss converts. Arriving in Santa Clara on November :: 28, 1861, Bonelli and the colonists set out the first grape arbors in that section of the territory, having brought cuttings from France and Spain.  While Bonelli and his wife were living at Santa Clara, he happened to meet an Indian who was exhibiting specimens of silver and lead ore from which he had molded bullets. When word of this reached church authorities in Salt Lake City, Bonelli and two other Mormons were ordered to investigate. In 1863, they made the first mineral locations in what was later to become the Meadow Valley Mining District and later the Pioche District in Southeastern Nevada. They knew nothing of mining law, how- ever, and the claims were taken over by General Patrick Connor and some of his soldiers out of Ft. Douglas, Utah Territory. Bonelli and his growing family--a son and a daughter-- moved from Santa Clara after a flood, settling in Beaver Valley in 1867, only to be flooded out again on December 24, 1868. Determined to find a home, the family moved to St. Thomas on the Muddy River a few weeks later. They were once again frustrated, however, when an 1870 survey determined that the communities of the Muddy were within the boundaries of the State of Nevada and had been for four years. Nevada officials were soon on the scene to collect back taxes and the first of the Mormon families began returning to Utah in February 1871. All but the Bonelli family. "I've twice been washed out by floods and to pick up now and leave everything after getting a home started again is too much," he told George Perkins, a writer. Other Mormons considered him an apostate for remaining, but he always maintained that he was a believer in the original tenets of Mormonism and that the church had left him, not the other way around. He retained his farm at St. Thomas, but began to look at the prospects of establishing a river ferry at the junction of the Colorado and the Virgin rivers to serve the mines of Mineral Park, Arizona Territory, and those of Pioche, Nevada. He started the ferry business in 1872 and moved his family there. Bonelli's Landing, as it was known, became the community of Rioville when a post office opened on November 2, 1881. BoneUi also cleared a hundred acres on the west bank of the Virgin to raise hay, started a cattle herd to raise beef for the mining camps, put in a large vegetable gardeh and opened a trading post. In 1882, he discovered a large salt " deposit near St. Thomas and began freighting the mineral to mining camps where it was used in the smelting processes. He also developed a market for salt in the Eldorado District, downstream on the Colorado, ferrying it down by barge. He was never able to patent the claims because salt deposits were considered public domain under U.S. mining law until 1902, however. Thereafter, he was engaged in litigation with others seeking to exploit his claims. For example, he had mica claims fifteen miles up the Colorado and was involved in suits over his patents. He also took part in water suits vcith his neighbors to the north in St. Thomas. As the first citizen of his remote section of the state, Daniel Bonelli took a hand in local educational affairs, served on the Nevada State Board of Agriculture and put together agricultural and mineral exhibits for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and San Francisco's Mid Winter Fair in 1894. Among the exhibits were blocks of his famous translucent salt, sheets of mica and figs, peaches, grapes and almonds he grew himself. In November 1903, he traveled to Pioche in connection with a salt suit in district court. He returned to St.Thomas on November 16, remaining a day with his son, Frank. He continued on to Reoville the next day, but apparently suffered a stroke on the way. He was suffering from dementia when he arrived home and never recovered his sensibili- ties. He died at his home on December 20 and was buried behind his house. Some thirty years later, Rioville was due to be covered by the waters of Lake Mead backing up behind Boulder Dam, so a son, George, had his father's body disinterred and moved to a cemetery in Kingman, Arizona where he was reburied on December 21, 1934. NEED SOME X.TRA CASH? LOANS S75 * $750 Personal Loans Vacation Auto Home Management We want to give you a loan today/ CALL NOW! 6 Mo. Redence 8 Mo, Employment With Approved CrKlit Licensed by the State of Nevada GENTRY FINANCE 2031 E Winery Rd #6, Pahrump 751-1133 f