Idah Meacham Strobridge
At a glance:
Idah Meacham was an only child, born on June 9, 1855, to parents who were ranching at Moraga Valley, California. While still a young, impressionable girl, she moved with her family that homesteaded a ranch in northern Nevada at Lassen Meadows about halfway between Winnemucca and Lovelock. There her father built the Humboldt House, a popular hotel and cafe, which served as a rest stop for many travelers passing through Nevada from all over the country and the world. In Idahs everyday life she watched wagon trains headed west, the new railroad bringing more homesteaders, Mexican vaqueros, Chinese placer miners and Native Americans from the Paiute and Bannock tribes. From this eclectic childhood, Idah went on to pursue her formal education at the Mills Seminary in Oakland, California, starting in 1878 and graduating in 1883.
While there, she met and married Samuel Hooker (Whitmarsh) Strobridge of Auburn, California, who was the adopted son of James H. Strobridge. The young married couple moved back to Nevada and ranched on land near her parents which was a gift from Idahs father. She gave birth to three sons, Earl, Gerald and Kenneth, before her life spun out of control, presenting her with tragedies that would have broken most womens spirits.
Her first-born son died the day after his birth. Then came the devastating winter of 1888-1889 when the blizzards killed most of the familys herd of cattle and pneumonia took the lives of her husband and one other son. She was left with just one child who died a year later. Suddenly, Idah was stripped of everyone in her family except her parents. Later, in "The Lessons of the Desert," she left behind a haunting description of the desert that must have come partly from this experience:
Idah did not give up on life after her tragic losses; instead she found solace in her work and in the vast, silent Nevada desert. In July 1895, a Mining and Scientific Press reporter found Idah hard at work on the "Lost Mine" claim:
The luck predicted did not occur, and possibly to make ends meet, Idah began two other projects at her ranch house. One was the "Artemisia Bindery," a book binding business established in the attic of her ranch home. The other was to begin writing at the age of forty, first under the pseudonym of "George W. Craiger." She published three volumes of books, most based on her experiences and love of the desert. Editors of Sagebrush Trilogy, a compilation of those works, call her "Nevadas first woman of letters."
By May of 1901, she was finished with the ranching and mining phase of her life. She sold her property and moved to Los Angeles with her parents. Here she embarked on a totally different lifestyle among the cultural leaders of Southern California. Among her friends were authors like Mary Austin, and Charles Fletcher Lummis, publisher of the literary magazine Land of Sunshine, later renamed Out West.
Actually, she stopped writing at age fifty-four and spent the last twenty-two years of her life working on civic clubs and genealogical societies in the Los Angeles area. She was a member of the Friday Morning Club, the Southern California Press Club, and the League of American Pen Women, as well as the National Genealogical Society and its state organizations in California, Connecticut and New Jersey.
Although she lived her final years among the coastal cultural crowd of Southern California, she apparently never lost her love of the desert solitude. She created a special retreat in San Pedro called "The Wickieup" which she described to a Los Angeles Examiner reporter in 1904:
Idah died on February 8, 1932, leaving only two cousins, one of whom she made a home with in Los Angeles. She is buried in Oaklands Mountain View cemetery next to her parents, husband and sons.
Biographical sketch by Victoria Ford
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