Weather Window: Titus as ‘Truckee’ as it gets
Ryan Summerlin August 21, 2013
Truckee is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1863, a significant benchmark for the historic town.
To honor the event, we continue with highlights from the family history of native-born, long-time Truckee resident Frank Lovell Titus, whose ancestors settled in Nevada Territory before moving to Truckee at the turn of the 20th century.
The Titus family legacy reaches deep into our regional history, and today, at age 91, Frank is one of the remaining few who can share personal experiences from Truckee’s pioneer days.
In December 1898, Duane Bliss incorporated the Lake Tahoe Railway & Transportation Company. Duane’s oldest son William Seth, an engineer educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was chosen to survey for a new railroad along the Truckee River, connecting Truckee and Tahoe.
The company assigned Frank A. Titus (Frank L.’s father) to help William Bliss engineer the line. Will Bliss was the son of Duane Bliss, a 19th century timber baron and Tahoe visionary who financed the classic steamer “Tahoe.” D.L. Bliss also constructed Tahoe City’s legendary Tahoe Tavern hotel, as well as the Lake Tahoe Railway that opened the door to modern tourism at the lake.
Frank and Will did such a good job surveying that years later when Southern Pacific Railroad converted the narrow gauge rail to standard, the exact same route was followed. Upon completion of the Lake Tahoe Railway in 1900, Titus advanced to locomotive engineer on the line.
In October 1904, F. A. Titus married Flora Cottrell in Carson City and early the next year they moved to Truckee, where both of Frank’s brothers lived. Flora’s father George Cottrell was a blacksmith and carriage-maker who worked in Carson City. The family had arrived by emigrant train in 1878 from New Jersey.
Her grandfather, George Chubbuck, originally worked as a logging contractor for the Bliss enterprise. In 1885 he struck out on his own and established the Lake Valley Railroad, a wooden tramway built to log Lake Valley, which runs from South Lake Tahoe up toward Luther Pass.
He later sold his operation to the Bliss family. Once in Truckee, Frank A. Titus hired his friend and architect Walter Bliss to design the newlywed’s new home in the Brickelltown neighborhood. (Walter also designed the Tahoe Tavern.) The Titus family home was built on the original site of the “Ohio House,” which had been constructed for the local lumber company’s workforce housing.
Prior to that, emigrant wagon trains heading west rested in the area. In an adjacent pasture were apple and pear tree orchards, as well as grass to nourish the pioneer’s exhausted oxen.
The Titus family lived in Truckee for many decades and Frank L. Titus is as “local” as it gets. Born in Truckee’s Brickelltown neighborhood during a driving snowstorm on Jan. 8, 1922, he lived there until 1951 when he moved to Portola and then Reno, Nev., where he resides today.
At the time of Frank’s birth there was significant concern due to his mother’s age, as Flora Titus had turned 45-years-old the month before. Indicative of the perceived pregnancy risk, Flora signed over her share of the home to her husband just prior to Frank, Junior’s birth.
In case of possible complications, not only was Truckee’s Dr. Bryant present at the Titus home for the delivery, but Flora’s younger sister Carrie was there from Carmel, Calif., as well as Aunt Elsie, a registered nurse. Frank’s oldest sibling, Jack, had been born in 1907 while his sister, Frances, was born in 1908, both on Jan. 6.
Jack was the shutterbug in the family and he took many photographs of Truckee during the early 20th century. Frank’s birth at such a late date in his mother’s life placed him at the tail end of an older generation, when Truckee was still frontier country.
Fortunately for all concerned, the birth went well and another future ski champion was added to the ranks of the sleepy railroad/lumber town that was on its way to becoming the vanguard of California’s winter sports industry.
Frank L. Jr. would be destined to ride the coming wave of American alpine skiing and become part of history. He was a member of the University of Nevada’s ski team during their undefeated 1939 season. The team was coached by Squaw Valley founder Wayne Poulsen. Frank Titus competed in all four events, cross-country, jumping, slalom and downhill.
And that’s a story better savored during this winter’s ski season.
Visit the Truckee Donner Historical Society’s Old Jail Museum on Jibboom Street this summer, which is featuring time capsule exhibits of Titus family memorabilia.
Historian Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. Find Mark’s books at stores or www.thestormking.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Mark’s blog: www.tahoenuggets.com.