A popular stop on a scenic drive around Lake Tahoe is Logan Shoals Vista Point, near historic Glenbrook on Nevada’s beautiful east shore. This overlook is easily accessible by a short stroll off Highway 50, where locals, tourists and wedding photographers appreciate the stunning views. The shoals below were formed by sediment-loading from nearby Logan Creek, but the history behind the family name ascribed to this location is not well-known.
Interpretive plaques at Logan Shoals Vista Point rightly inform visitors about the Washoe Indians who summered at Lake Tahoe for thousands of years. Over millennia the tribe had respected the bounty of the land and water and treated it as such with minimal impact on the region. Starting in 1860, however, the Tahoe Sierra was ravaged in less than 50 years; exploited by gold seekers, timber barons, commercial fishing enterprises and resort entrepreneurs that also privatized much of the property in the second half of the 19th century. But who was Logan?
This story is about Tom Logan, a frontier Nevada lawman, but it was his parents, Carson Valley ranchers Robert and Mary Logan, who established the Logan House hotel at Lake Tahoe in the summer of 1864. The couple bought the choice square-mile parcel with timber and lake frontage in July 1863 for $1,500 — a relatively high price at the time. But with the new Bigler Toll Road passing right by his hostelry, Robert figured he’d make the money back in no time. They opened Logan House in the summer of 1864, just months before Nevada became a state in time to support Abraham Lincoln’s re-election.
Logan House was one of the first commercial teamster and tourist accommodations built at Lake Tahoe, but ultimately the business went bust and the Logan family moved to southern Nevada. I couldn’t find an image of the old hotel, but this is a view from the porch. Note that the building was much closer to the water than the Vista Point.
Thomas W. Logan was born in Franktown, Utah Territory, in 1861, the oldest of seven children. Franktown was an early settlement in Washoe Valley, southwest of present-day Reno. Mary Logan suffered from frail health and died at age 38, six months after giving birth. Robert Logan hired 23-year-old Hannah Hamblin to cook, clean and help raise the kids. Tom was 21 now, and he quickly fell in love with his attractive Mormon caretaker. They married and over the next 20 years had 8 children.
In 1898, at age 37, Tom Logan was sworn in as sheriff of Nye County, Nevada. Tom was a big man at 6’ 4” but well-educated by his father in matters of law and justice and no brute. Nye County is huge; more than 18,000 square miles. It took Sheriff – Tax Assessor Logan 8 days to cross it by horse and buggy. In this photo Big Tom is standing third from left.
In 1900, silver was discovered and Tonopah sprung up as “Queen of the Silver Camps.” Crime in Sheriff Logan’s district went from 22 criminal cases in 1901 to nearly 1,000 in 1904. To acquire more money for their children’s education but against wife Hannah’s moral principles, Tom bought a saloon. Famed gambler/lawman Wyatt Earp also owned a saloon in Tonopah at this time.
In 1902, Logan lost his law badge by 6 votes to miner James Cushing, but Tom was re-elected again in 1905. In early April 1906, Sheriff Logan paid a visit to prostitute May Biggs at a brothel. The two were apparently in a relationship. The following morning, an argument broke out between May and an unwanted loitering customer who attacked her. Dressed in only a nightshirt and unarmed, Logan pursued the culprit to the street where the lawman was shot 5 times without warning. Logan died 2 hours later.
Logan’s death while patronizing a brothel stained his honorable reputation, but the city held a massive funeral for the beloved lawman, complete with marching bands, fire trucks and crowds of mourners. Despite many eyewitness accounts of the brazen killing, the well-known murderer with a long rap sheet was acquitted in what was called “The McCarran Miracle,” named for his defense attorney and future four-term Nevada Senator Pat McCarran’s unwarranted and ferocious attack on Logan’s reputation.
In 2011, more than a century after the killing of Sheriff Tom Logan, the current sheriff of Nye County awarded Logan the department’s Purple Heart and Medal of Valor, thus vindicating and validating his years of distinguished service for the state of Nevada. And the Logan family name is no longer tarnished by a corrupt verdict from so long ago.
To learn more about Tom Logan, read Jackie Boor’s 2014 book “Logan: The Honorable Life and Scandalous Death of a Western Lawman.”
Looking west from Logan Shoals is this view of Cave Rock, an eroded volcanic throat from eons ago. Highway 50 has tunnels bored right through the geologic remnant. Cave Rock has its own fascinating history – see Tahoe Nugget 282.
View of Mt. Tallac and Desolation Wilderness from Cave Rock.
Classic Tahoe scenery from Logan Shoals Vista Point. Note the distant “cross of Mt. Tallac” under the tree branch. The cross forms each spring as the winter snowpack melts away.
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