Pioneer spirit: James McIver Jr. had huge local impact
James McIver Jr. was the son of Truckee pioneers. His parents, James McIver Sr. and Sarah McIver, immigrated to America from Ireland, settling in Floriston where they lived for many years.
After James Jr. was born, the family relocated to Truckee and had three more children, Billy, Mary and Jane.
Known for their generosity, the McIvers adopted and raised five other children while operating a dray business and a family dairy at the site of today’s Villager Nursery, just west of the freeway overpass along Donner Pass Road.
The old McIver family home still stands on the north side of the road next to the nursery. The Town of Truckee now owns the old milk house and barn across the street. The adjoining meadow, once a dairy pasture, has become a popular, but illegal, winter sledding area. The natural pond at the west end of the meadow once served local townspeople as a natural ice skating rink.
Born Feb. 4, 1896, young Jim attended Truckee schools while working with his father, a general teamster, driving stagecoaches, freight wagons and delivering mail to Truckee and Tahoe City.
With the outbreak of World War I, McIver enlisted in the army, serving 21 months overseas service with the 26th infantry in France, achieving the rank of sergeant. Upon his return home, Jim again joined his father in the family business and worked as a Wells Fargo Stagecoach driver.
Jim became an expert farrier, which prompted him to open his own blacksmith shop where he handcrafted fine carriages and sleighs. He built several large horse-drawn sleighs that were used by film crews and for Truckee’s annual winter festivals.
With the advent of automobiles, McIver converted his blacksmith shop to a garage and machine shop, which he operated for 16 years; becoming the local Pontiac dealer. The garage was situated on the site of today’s Highway 89, between the Truckee Hotel and the Texaco station.
McIver married Victoria (Azad) Joseph Aug. 10, 1944. Victoria and her sister Roxie immigrated to this country after surviving the “Armenian Massacre” in Eastern Europe where thousands of Armenians lost their lives during the 1920s. The sisters joined their brother Richard in Truckee, who had emigrated in 1916.
Resembling Jacques Cousteau aboard his unique pontoon style, tractor-powered snowmobile, McIver became well known in the area for his fearless dedication, delivering mail and passengers through blizzards and sub-zero temperatures between 1934 and 1945.
Undeterred by storms that frequently blocked the road to Tahoe City, McIver would park the snowmobile and carry the mail on snowshoes or skis. On several occasions he became stranded by snowdrifts, but instinctively managed to find his way home.
As a longtime Truckee resident, Frank Titus Jr. fondly recalls, “McIver was always nice to us kids. When we heard his machine approaching would run behind his snowmobile and hitch a ride on our sleds.”
Always active in community and fraternal affairs, McIver served as chairman of the board of directors of the Truckee Sanitary district and was an active member of the board of the Truckee Public Utility District, was past master of the Truckee Masonic Lodge, a charter member of the Truckee Donner Horsemen’s Association, a past master Shriner and for two years served as foreman of the grand jury in Nevada City.
As past commander of Truckee American Legion Post 439, McIver was responsible for construction of the Veteran’s Memorial Building in 1939 which, at the time, served as a meeting place for most of the town’s community activities, including important town meetings, dances, parties and high school basketball games.
James McIver Jr. died in 1965 of lung cancer, due in part to his exposure to mustard gas during the First World War. Since his death, Mrs. McIver and her family as well as the Joseph family have continued to support various community causes and local organizations.
McIver’s classic snowmobile has been restored and is currently on display at the Hendrickson Farms Truck Museum in Woodland, Calif.