Lute Olds’ Nine Lives

Think you have problems? Carson Valley pioneer Luther Olds most likely has you beat.

Lute Olds, circa 1869.

Among the disasters in his disaster-prone life:

  • A “row” took place at his residence in 1858 in which women were said to be hanging out the windows in horror and several men were stabbed in the arm, back, and hand.
  • Olds was arrested in 1858 for “harboring horse thieves” and threatened with the same fate as not-so-lucky Lucky Bill. (Olds escaped hanging and was fined $875 and banished from the valley “on penalty of being shot.”)
  • He was indicted in Judge Cradlebaugh’s court in 1860 for larceny.
  • A fire in 1861 not only burned Olds’ hotel to the ground but also killed his first-born daughter, leading his wife to later divorce him.
  • Olds was aboard the ill-fated steamer “Active” in 1870 when it hit a rock in heavy fog on its trip from San Francisco to Victoria B.C., shipwrecking him off the coast of Mendocino.
  • A windstorm in 1873 carried his barn off “so clean that no one would suppose he ever had a barn.”
  • Lute’s oldest daughter died of diphtheria in 1879 and he lost a second child that same year, a son who died shortly after birth. As if that weren’t enough, Olds lost his ranch that same year to a Sheriff’s Sale to satisfy a money judgment in favor of his arch-enemy, Anthony McGwin.
  • Trying to get even with McGwin in 1880, Lute sued McGwin for making off with some property. Lute not only lost that lawsuit but was ordered to pay McGwin’s court costs.
  • Resorting to drink, Lute wrecked his buggy in an alcohol-fueled accident in 1881. Pieces of the buggy were reportedly strewn “from Genoa to Walley’s.”

His nine lives over, Lute’s luck finally ran out for good in 1882. He drowned in yet another drunken buggy crash after visiting his brother, David, near Bishop.

Lute’s younger brother, David Olds.

Lute Olds was born about 1828, and came west with his brother David about 1850 from Michigan, settling in Sacramento. Lute, David and friend Lucky Bill came to Carson Valley in the Fall of 1853. Lute filed one of the earliest land claims, taking up a ranch on the Emigrant Trail near Fay Canyon and building a hotel there. He was reputed to be a member of the Border Ruffian gang who stole horses from passing wagon trains in Woodfords Canyon and ferried them back through Horsethief Canyon to its outlet near Olds’ ranch, reselling them to oncoming wagon trains.

#CarsonValleyHistory #EmigrantTrail

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