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Jean S. McElrath Papers

Identifier: 97-16
The collection primarily consists of Jean's writings in the form of clippings pasted into scrapbooks. In addition, a large envelope of loose clippings accompanied the scrapbooks. Other items included two scrapbooks about cats (the family loved cats in both physical and print forms); a biographical sketch of Jean, written by Esther Early (for the Nevada Women's History Project web page); financial notebooks detailing Jean's income and expenditures; report cards from her senior year in high school; a history of two local Episcopal churches in Clover Valley and Wells, Nevada, and worksheets used to formulate the contents of one of Jean's books. This collection does not include all of Jean's writings. Her two published books, Tumbleweeds and Aged in Sage are part of the monograph collection in the Special Collections Department. Numerous McElrath articles can be found in Nevada publications such as Nevada Highways and Parks (later called Nevada Magazine), the Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, and various Nevada newspapers.


  • 1943-1997
  • Majority of material found within 1943 - 1977



This 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.


1 Cubic Feet (3 boxes)


Included are scrapbooks and loose clippings, 1943-1969, composed mostly of McElrath's published articles about Elko and Wells, Nevada; financial notebooks, 1943-1959, detailing her sources of income and expenditures; and miscellaneous materials such as her report cards, a biography of McElrath written by Esther Early in 1997, and a history of St. Barnabus Episcopal Church in Wells and St. Luke's Church in Clover Valley, Nevada, by Terry Hickson, 1976.

Biographical Note

Jean Sybil McElrath was born to Mabell Paddock McElrath and Fenton Morrill McElrath on June 8, 1917 in Chloride, Arizona. She moved with her parents to Wells, Nevada in 1924 where she lived the remainder of her life. She had two sisters and one brother: Anita Cory, Marjorie Klein, and Thomas W. McElrath.

When Jean was in high school she fell from a horse and as a result, developed rheumatoid arthritis by the age of 16. The disease progressed so that by the time she was 19 she was unable to walk and by the age of 33, was blind.

Although confined to bed, Jean wrote extensively, publishing columns and news stories in newspapers in Wells, Elko, western Nevada, and Salt Lake City, Utah. Her sister Anita was an accomplished photographer and provided photos for many of Jean's articles. Using an electric typewriter fitted with Braille caps for the keys, and with the help of Anita, Mabell, and many community friends, Jean was able to maintain contact with the world outside her home and produce a steady stream of articles, including a weekly column, "Tumbleweeds" for the Wells Progress from 1940-1967.

Gleanings from her "Tumbleweeds" column were published by the University of Nevada Press in 1964 as the book Aged in Sage. A second book, Tumbleweeds was published posthumously in 1971 by her friends in Wells.

Jean McElrath received many awards for her work. In 1965 she was awarded the Distinguished Nevadan Award by the University of Nevada. She was active in many organizations, including the Girl Scouts, Nevada Historical Society, Nevada Federation of the Blind, and the National League of American Pen Women.

Jean McElrath died on October 7, 1967.


The papers of Jean S. McElrath are arranged into the following three series:

Series 1: Scrapbooks

Series 2: Financial Journals

Series 3: Miscellaneous

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Jean Wagner in 1997 .

Related Manuscript Collections

Additional manuscript collections for Jean McElrath are:

96-44: Jean S. McElrath Clippings, 1957-1991

99-65: Jean S. McElrath Papers, 1939-1998

2006-09: Jean S. McElrath Papers, 1934-1967
96-44: Jean S. McElrath Clippings, 1957-1991
99-65: Jean S. McElrath Papers, 1939-1998
2006-09: Jean S. McElrath Papers, 1934-1967



A Guide to the Jean S. McElrath Papers
Susan E. Searcy
August 1997
Description rules

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)