PHOTO/DOUGLAS COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY: Agnes and Percy Train on one of their treks to collect specimens for the Nevada State Museum in 1935.

Agnes Scott fell in love with her future husband and Nevada at the same time.  She always thought it was her destiny.

On a train to Seattle in 1928, she saw Percy Train, a born storyteller, attired in a Stetson hat, plaid wool shirt, corduroys and knee-high boots. “It was fate that placed him aboard our Pullman car, and it was fate that decreed that the only vacancy in the dining car was at our table.” 

Mimicking Scott’s words from her autobiography, “Nevada though Rose Colored Glasses,” Mina Stafford portrays the early museum curator in a Chautauqua performance.  Stafford is the current curator of education at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City.

On June 7, 1928, Agnes, age 23, and Percy, age 52, hiked up a mountain near Lovelock and were married at sunrise.  Scott’s marriage and life with Train traveling through Nevada to collect and catalog specimens ranging from plants and herbs to animals and fossils for several museums, was new and exciting.

“It was so different from the big city life of Chicago. Every place we went, I was amazed,” Stafford (as Train) said.  “We saw the Mint and the Pink House on our first trip in 1928.”  The Trains bought the Pink House in Genoa as their residence in 1939. The Pink House restaurant was established in later years.

The contributions of Agnes Hume Scott Train Janssen, one of the first curators of the Nevada State Museum, will be honored with a special silver medallion coined on the historic coin press of the U.S. Mint in Carson City, now the site of the museum, on Sunday, March 13, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The museum will be closed except for the free event. 

A silver medallion

Attendees may purchase a silver planchet for $75 and watch it minted on the coin press that day.  Children’s activities, a display of artifacts donated by the Trains, and a Nevada Women’s History Project table will be available outdoors at the museum at 600 N. Carson Street in Carson City.

Agnes Train was enlisted by Judge Clark Guild, the museum’s founder, a week before the museum’s historic grand opening on Oct. 31, 1941, Nevada Day.

She was wearing her grandmother’s 1870s long dress with stiffly starched muslin petticoats when she met Judge Guild at the Mint building in Carson City. She unpacked boxes of pioneer treasures in the basement, labeled each one with the donor’s name, and for four days carried the boxes up the stone stairs to the second floor with her long skirt tucked under her arm.

At the end of the frantic race against time, “my weary legs could not carry me beyond the bottom stair,” said Stafford as Train.  Judge Guild appreciated her efforts. “He kissed one cheek and not a word was spoken by either of us.” The opening of the museum was attended by hundreds of Nevadans who appreciated the rustic relics of their neighbors and friends.

Coin press escaped destruction

The historic No. 1 coin press was rescued from destruction by another stroke of fate, said Debby Schafnitz, one of a cadre of volunteer coin press operators.  When a major crack put the press out of service in 1878, it was repaired at the Virginia & Truckee Railroad shops located near the Mint in Carson City.  Proud of their work, the railroad machinists replaced the Pennsylvania manufacturer’s plaque on the machine with one of their own.

After the Carson City Mint ceased coining in 1893, No. 1 went on a journey to mints in Philadelphia and San Francisco.  Slated to be scrapped in 1955, the coin press was recognized as an artifact with ties to the Nevada mint and was returned to her Carson City home in 1958.

PHOTO/JANICE HOKE: Jim Spain and Debby Schafnitz, volunteer coin press operators at the Nevada State Museum.

The gleaning copper plaque with the V&T name was “a kind of tattoo to bring her back to us,” Schafnitz explained. She and coiner Jim Spain enjoy their volunteer jobs at the coin press, now functioning as a commemorative medallion press.  “I like meeting the public, especially the little kids with really big excited eyes,” Schafnitz said.

“It brings fun to volunteering,” said Spain.  “It’s a highlight when someone is interested enough to ask questions.” He often adds context for visitors by profiling Abraham Curry, the first superintendent of the mint as well as the contractor who built it and the state Capitol, with sandstone from his own local quarry.

Series honors women in Nevada history

The medallion honoring Agnes Train was designed by Thomas D. Rogers, Sr., formerly an engraver for the U.S. Mint.  A drawing by Train of herself in the Nevada wilderness, learning against a large boulder, was the inspiration for the design.

 

Medallion to be coined Sunday, March 13

The new medallion is the first of an annual series to celebrate Women’s History Month each March, honoring women who made a mark in Nevada’s story.  “This medallion series is a great way to learn about the inspirational trail-blazing women of Nevada and to experience the one-of-a-kind historic Coin Press No. 1 operating in the famous Carson City U.S. Branch Mint building, said Myron Freedman, administrator of the Nevada division of Museums and History.  The Agnes Train medallion will be minted every Saturday in March and April, said Kelly Brant, museum coin press and membership manager. Contact Brant at (775) 687-4810, ext. 224, for more information.

Read more of Agnes Train’s story at https://www.nevadawomen.org/research-center/biographies-alphabetical/agnes-train-janssen/.  Biographies of other notable Nevada women can be found on the www.nevadawomen.org website under the RESEARCH CENTER tab.

When her husband’s death left Agnes Train a widow, fate wasn’t done with her. A chance meeting in the museum between Train and John Janssen, a dairyman, who had sought shelter there from a snowstorm, resulted in her second marriage in 1944 and their move to his home in California.

A Nevada mystery

A discovery by the Trains in the Nevada wilderness still remains hidden. The couple discovered the fossil of an ichthyosaur poking out from a hillside on one of their hikes. Those ancient creatures were at the top of the food chain when an ocean covered what is now Nevada millions of years ago. The beast had apparently died after a meal — or while pregnant.

“Something had happened to this lady fish-lizard a million years ago,” said Stafford as Train. Between the predator’s large ribs, the couple spied another smaller fossil skeleton.  The day they made the find,  darkness fell before they could document it. Various mishaps prevented them from returning and its exact location had faded from memory.

“We never found it again,” Train (Stafford) recalled.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Jim, what an interesting article! I Will share it with the rest of the family. The picture of you next to the press is fabulous, you are so lucky to be part is sharing Nevada’s history!

  2. Thank you for this article, Janice Hoke, I camped at Icthyosaur (sp??) many times , after the site was developed into a camping park. Maya Miller and her children engineered that. Although I now live in Maryland, your skillful writing brings me home.

  3. WOW! My grandfather, James W. Calhoun, would have known her as he was Director of the museum for so many years the state mandatory retirement age was lifted from 65 to 70. That means I likely met her as a child at some Museum party or another. I wish I would have been older to listen to the stories and actually know these interesting folks even better.

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