Bliss Family Records

Identifier: 96-53

Scope and Contents

The Bliss records document more than anything, the history of land acquisition and development at Glenbrook, Nevada, and Tahoe City, California. During the 1890s, as the lumber industry at Tahoe was approaching an end, Duane Bliss began to build three projects: a passenger ship to transport visitors across Lake Tahoe, a railroad to connect Tahoe City with the Southern Pacific Tracks at Truckee, and a luxurious resort hotel at Tahoe City, to be known as the Tahoe Tavern.

The collection covers the years 1869-1941 and includes a substantial number of legal papers, including deeds, patents, leases, agreements, bills of sale, judgments and decrees, abstracts of title, and documents related to options for land acquisition, rights-of-way, water rights, businesses, hotels (Tahoe Tavern and the Glenbrook Hotel), railroads, steamers, and other water vessels.

This collection also includes minute books, resolutions, notices of directors' meetings, articles of incorporation, and bylaws for several Bliss companies, including the Lake Tahoe Transportation Company, Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company, Glenbrook Improvement Company, Sierra Realty Company, and Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company.

Taken together, the legal and corporate records document the interconnected land, transportation and hotel interests of the Bliss Family.

This collection has been retained in the order in which it was received. An inventory, conducted in 1978, accompanied the collection and identified individual items. A number of those items were missing when received by Special Collections and those are noted in the following guide.

To achieve intellectual control of the papers, the original inventory is followed by a section which attempts to locate on paper, the relation of individual items to their creator companies. This section is arranged by company name.


  • 1869-1949



Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Administrative History and Chronologies

The Bliss family developed lumber, tourism, and transportation businesses at Lake Tahoe, especially at Tahoe City, Calif., and Glenbrook, Nev., between the late 1860s and the mid-1900s. Principal members included Duane L. (D.L.) Bliss; Duane L. Bliss, Jr.; Walter D. Bliss; and William S. Bliss.

The Bliss Family's history is closely linked to the development of Lake Tahoe. To put the family, their companies, and Lake Tahoe development into perspective, the following timeline has been abstracted from the book, Tahoe Heritage: The Bliss Family of Glenbrook, Nevada by Sessions S. Wheeler with William W. Bliss (University of Nevada Press, 1992).

Glenbrook History

Duane Leroy Bliss, age 16 leaves Savoy, Massachusetts, for California. In Panama he contracts "Chagres Fever" and is nursed over a period of 6 months until well enough to continue the voyage.
Glenbrook settled by squatters N. E. Murdock, G. W. Warren, and Rufus Walton. Capt. Augustus W. Pray also settles and buys out squatter claims in 1862.
Pray, Charles R. Barrett and Joseph D. Winters build water-powered sawmill at the south end of Glenbrook Bay. Pray obtains title from the U.S. government to 1,000 acres. 1861 & 1862 Pray elected to the Territorial Council of Legislative Assembly for Nevada.
Pray builds the lake's first steam vessel, the ferry "Governor Blasdel".
Toll road from Carson City over Spooner Summit built. Pray buys out his partners and builds cottages. Ex-partner Winters and Lou L. Colbath buy 45 acres from Pray at head of Glenbrook Meadows and build an inn, the Glen Brook House.
Glen Brook House acquired by Glenbrook Hotel Company, owned by William Sharon, Charles Bonner, and William Ralston.
Glenbrook becomes center for the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company operations in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Three sawmills constructed; Until 1875, lumber is hauled to Spooner Summit by wagon and sent east to Carson Valley by v-flumes down Clear Creek Canyon; Dam built at Marlette Lake to supply water for flumes.
Bliss and Yerrington contract with Mathew Culbertson Gardner for delivery of logs from Lake Valley at south end of Lake Tahoe; Gardner builds railroad on west side of Lake Valley to pier at Gardner's Camp (later, Camp Richardson). By the mid-1880s Gardner is bankrupt and the railroad is abandoned.
J. A. Rigby and A. Childers build Glenbrook's first store; after it burns in 1877 it is rebuilt by Pray.
Lake Tahoe Railroad built by D. L. Bliss between Glenbrook and Spooner Summit to haul logs from mills to flume (8.75 miles long).
Pray converts his planning mill into a hotel called Lake Shore House. Eventually builds 30 cottages, a sawmill, store, hotel, livery stable and meat market.
Frank Stephens Jellerson and his sister Amanda Jane build the Jellerson Hotel.
By this date the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Co. controls over 10,000 acres in the Lake Valley area and have built a 7-mile railroad to Bijou. Bliss' policy is to leave standing, trees less than 15" in diameter at base. Eventually gives State of California, 957 acres on the west shore of Lake Tahoe; now known as the D. L. Bliss State Park.
Jellersons built Dirego Hotel with a post office, restaurant and saloon.
Lake Valley and Lake Tahoe Railroads abandoned as mining and lumber industries declined.
Glenbrook Improvement Company organized. Directors: D. L. Bliss, Jr., Vice President and General Manager; E. J. Pomin, Secretary; J. V. Haley, member. Proposed that architect Walter Bliss design remodel of three Glenbrook buildings into the Glenbrook Inn: Lake Shore House, Jellerson Hotel, and Bliss House.
Glenbrook Inn receives first guests, offering simpler accommodations than Tahoe Tavern.
Construction begins on 9-hole Glenbrook golf course.
Early 1930s - highway encircling lake completed; Will Bliss finds capital to maintain the Glenbrook Inn by selling selected Nevada lake properties in large blocks to Max C. Fleischmann and George Whittell; With major renovations completed the Inn is reincorporated in Delaware and renamed the Glenbrook Inn and Ranch.
Will becomes owner/manager of Inn; both his children work there.
Decision made not to open Inn because of enormous costs of bringing wiring, kitchens, and sewer systems up to code. Golf course remains open.

Bliss Family Chronology

Duane Leroy Bliss, age 16 leaves Savoy, Massachusetts, for California. In Panama he contracts "Chagres Fever" and is nursed over a period of 6 months until well enough to continue the voyage.
Arrives in San Francisco. Works a small claim east of Marysville; uses earnings to acquire interest in store/hotel at Trinity Center, northern California, with John P. Jones.
Moves to Gold Hill, Nevada, and is hired to manage a quartz mill at Silver City. Becomes a partner in the Gold Hill banking firm of Almarin B. Paul, Duane L. Bliss, and W. H. Baker. Firm is purchased in 1865 by the Bank of California.
Returns to East Coast to marry Elizabeth T. Tobey of South Wareham, Massachusetts They have five children: William Seth Bliss, born 1865; Charles Tobey Bliss, born 1867; Hope Danforth Bliss, born 1870; Walter Danforth Bliss, born 1872; and Duane Leroy Bliss, Jr., born 1875.
Bliss, Henry Marvin Yerington, and Darius Ogden Mills form Yerington, Bliss & Co. and begin buying timber land in the Tahoe region and on the east slope of the Sierras along Clear Creek. Partnership is highly successful and lasts until the death of the partners.
Bliss moves family from Gold Hill to Carson City and builds summer home at Glenbrook.
The Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company is formed; stockholders are D. L. Bliss, H. M. Yerington, D. O. Mills, and James A. Rigby. Bliss is president and general manager. The company has three divisions: logging, milling, and transportation.
William Seth Bliss graduates from M.I.T with a degree in civil engineering. From 1889-1892 he is superintendent of the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company's southern Lake Valley logging and transportation operations.
W. S. Bliss marries Mabel Williams of Empire, Nevada.
April 17, son Will M. Bliss born to W. S. and Mabel Bliss. Mabel dies 11 days later. William's mother, Elizabeth Bliss, cares for baby.
D. L. Bliss builds winter home in Pacific Heights in San Francisco, designed by his architect son, Walter.
William S. Bliss goes to Alaska to mine gold in the Nome District, returning to San Francisco during most winters. Very successful
December 23, D. L. Bliss dies. Son William S. becomes president of the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company and the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company.
Will M. Bliss graduates from Harvard University with degree in architecture. After WWI he joins his uncle Walter's San Francisco architectural firm, Bliss & Faville.
Elizabeth Bliss dies, April 5.
Will S. Bliss marries Hatherly Brittain; they have two children, Hatherly (Sis) and William W.
Will's architectural career declines because of the Depression; he becomes a stock broker; Charles Bliss retires to Piedmont, Calif. after sale of Tahoe Tavern.
Duane Bliss, Jr. dies.
William S. Bliss declares changes at Lake Tahoe are so disturbing he will never set foot in the Tahoe basin again.
W. S. Bliss dies.
Will's son Bill (William W.) begins assisting his father in management of the Glenbrook Inn.
February, Will dies.

Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company

D. L. Bliss plans for new industry in Tahoe Basin - tourism. Plan involves interrelated projects: luxurious passenger ship, railroad to connect Tahoe City with Truckee, and world-class resort hotel. Forms Lake Tahoe Transportation Company.
Luxury steamship "Tahoe" launched to haul passenger from Tahoe City to Glenbrook and other points around Lake Tahoe; Bliss purchases railroad equipment, shops, and rolling stock of the defunct Lake Valley and Glenbrook Railroads and ships all to Tahoe City to build maintenance facility for new rail line.
Bliss incorporates the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company which acquires all property of the Lake Tahoe Transportation Company. Stock owned by Bliss family members and Elizabeth's brother Walter D. Tobey.
Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company purchases steamers and gasoline launches "Tallac," "Wild Goose," "Emerald," "Catalina," "Annie," "Tahoe," and "Meteor."
Railroad between Truckee and Tahoe Tavern opens and eventually extends south to Ward Creek to haul timber for the Truckee Lumber Company.
Tahoe Tavern opens at Tahoe City on 40 acres of forest purchased from the Pacific Improvement Company. Designed by Walter D. Bliss, it accommodates 450 guests in elegance and comfort.
Annex added to Tahoe Tavern.
Casino and ballroom added.
Declining rail travel and freight loads lead to William's proposal to Southern Pacific Railroad allowing the S.P. to lease the railroad right-of-way from Truckee to Tahoe City for $1.00 per year and rehabilitate the roadbed, converting it to standard gage tracks. When completed, Bliss Family gives title of all their transportation companies, excluding the steamers, to the S.P. for $1.00. Work and transfer accomplished in 1927.
Linnard Hotel Company leases Tahoe Tavern properties and operates steamers until 1934.
Decline in passenger and freight business due to increased automobile traffic ends steamer service.
Steamers "Meteor," "Nevada," and "Tahoe" berthed at piers.
William Bliss buys steamers and scuttles them with dignity off Glenbrook.
Tahoe Tavern closed.
Brockway Inn closed. Proliferation of other housing and hotels at Tahoe and increase in property values and taxes makes it increasingly unfeasible for old-style inns to survive.


15.875 Linear Feet (20 boxes)

Language of Materials



Records of the Bliss family businesses which centered around Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada, include those of the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company, Lake Tahoe Transportation Company, Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company, Sierra Realty Company, Truckee Lumber Company, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco Water Works, and Glenbrook Improvement Company. Topics include the lumber industry; Lake Tahoe development; Lake Tahoe tourism industry; Tahoe Tavern at Tahoe City; railroads and steamships at Lake Tahoe; development and history of Glenbrook, Nevada, and the Glenbrook Hotel; and controversy over the use and levels of water at Lake Tahoe. A small number of personal papers of the Bliss family and a collection of photographs are also part of this collection (1869-1949).


Arranged in the donor's original order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by William W. Bliss in December 1996.

Related Materials

William W. Bliss manuscript maps and drawings, collection 97-24;,Special Collections Department, University of Nevada, Reno.

Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company records, collection NC72;,Special Collections Department, University of Nevada, Reno.

The provenance of the Bliss collection is intertwined with that of another collection in the Special Collections Department, the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company records (NC72). Both collections document nearly a century of the history of the Bliss Family enterprises, including the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company, Glenbrook Company, Glenbrook Hotel Company, Glenbrook Improvement Company, Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company, Barr Realty Company, Sierra Realty Company, and Nevada Lumber Company. A separate guide is available for the Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company Records (NC72).

Separated Materials

All photographs have been transferred to the photo archives of the Special Collections Department and are cataloged as collection UNRS-P1997-01. Some of the photos which are noted as "missing" on the inventory were used in Session Wheeler's book, Tahoe Heritage and may be seen in that volume.

Physical Description

Many of the documents bear evidence of fire damage and are extremely fragile. According to Lee Kosso, former manuscript curator of the Special Collections Department, this damage was caused during the fire which followed the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Those documents have been photocopied and the copies are to be used to prevent further damage to the originals.


A Guide to the Bliss Family Records
Susan Searcy
January 1997
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)