The following information was compiled by Pete Peterson. A proclamation honoring Annie Clinton was introduced both in the State Senate by Senator Pete Goicoechea and in the Assembly by Assemblyman Bert Gurr.
Almost 150 years ago, an incredible family moved to Lincoln County from California to chase the dream of wealth. Time has almost erased them from memory. But their extraordinary story demands to be told.
James B. Clinton and his wife Margaret moved from the homes where their daughters were all born in Bloomfield, California, and the surrounding area within Sonoma County. They came to Lincoln County. There were four girls: Mary, born in 1865; Ellen, “Lena,” born in 1867; Margaret, “Maggie,” born in 1875; and Anna, “Annie,” born in 1877.
James worked as a miner while Margaret stayed at home and saw to the needs of her children. After spending a few years working other mines, James laid claim to a couple of his own mines. By all accounts, he was rather successful.
All of the girls attended school at Pioche Grammar School. The eldest, Mary, was the first to earn her teaching certificate. The Pioche Daily Record dated April 16, 1881 reported, “Miss Mary Clinton, of Pioche, appeared before the County Board of Examiners on Wednesday last, and after passing an ordeal of a most searching examination, which she did with high honor, was duly awarded a certificate as a teacher for this county. The fact is more noteworthy as the young lady in question has received her education entirely in the public school of Pioche. We understand Miss Clinton leaves this morning for Bristol, where she has an offer to take charge of the school at that place. We wish her success.”
Mary met and married John C. Kelly of Pioche in June 1888. Tragically, he died before the birth of their second child. They had been married less than three years. But Mary was strong and headed to Delamar, where she again taught for the next three years.
The Record reported in the August 10, 1900 issue that “Mrs. Mary Kelley is well known in the county, having successfully taught in this county for the past fifteen years. No higher recommendation could be given her than the fact that her services were always asked for at a school where she has once taught.”
She went on to spend 30 years as the postmaster of Goldpoint, Nevada.
She passed away in 1944 in Great Falls.
Lena, according to the Record, was an exceptional student. She was the second Clinton girl to become a teacher. She attended teaching school at St. Mary’s Academy in Salt Lake City in 1895. Lena followed her big sister to Delamar and began teaching. She was there a few years before returning to Pioche. Then she was off to Spring Valley in 1888. Lena received a proposal in 1889 to teach in Spring Valley. By 1891 she was back in Pioche. The Pioche Record reported in 1897, “Our school now has two teachers. The arrangement was made on Monday, and Miss Lena Clinton will instruct the juveniles in their own department. The primary school will hereafter dismiss at recess in the afternoon, while the morning session will be held for full time. This arrangement will benefit both large and small children alike.”
Lena, who never married, was actively recruited by the many schools within the county. In 1896, she left education to become the deputy county recorder.
Lena died in Great Falls in 1945.
Margaret, or Maggie as she liked to be called, also went into education. She taught in Pioche and was reportedly a top-notch teacher. In 1892, she was the first assistant principal of that school. The Record reports that in 1893 she received more valentines than anyone else in town. Though she was reported to have made excellent progress with her students, Maggie was drawn to the rough and tumble community of Delamar, of which she became postmaster in 1897. A year later, she left the job to open the Clinton store. There, she, as the sole proprietor, carried a choice line of confectionery, stationery, fresh fruits and some of the best cigars and tobaccos anywhere.
Maggie married Henry W. Miles, a St. George native who had come to Delamar to be an accountant. There is no word of her working after their marriage. He became a Nevada State librarian in Reno and was a prominent member in Masonic circles. They had one daughter and are both buried in Reno.
Annie, too, was a teacher. She taught in Spring Valley from 1895 to 1897. She was a deputy recorder in 1897 and then took over the Pioche Telegraph business. There were three telegraph locations in Pioche at the time. Also in 1897, she came in second in the Lincoln County Beauty Pageant.
In Nevada, on November 3, 1914, the general vote was taken to decide whether Nevada women would be allowed the vote. It took several days for the results to be tallied, but the amendment passed, with the margin of victory coming from rural regions of the state. Women in Nevada voted for the first time in local races in 1915 and in statewide races in 1916. They weren’t given a vote in national elections until 1920.
The first woman to be elected to any position in Nevada was Annie Clinton. She ran for and was elected to be the county school superintendent. Prior to this election, the school superintendent was always the county district attorney. In 1900, the state changed the law to allow for separate positions. When she was elected, Annie was just 24 years old and not yet able to vote for herself. The community was so elated they threw her a surprise party (women only).
The next two superintendents in Lincoln County were women. It would be over 100 years before another woman became superintendent.
Annie married Carl Van Vleet and is buried next to her husband.
The Record used to provide student grades to the public. Each of the Clinton girls were at the top of their class. Each was an overachiever. Each had little more than an eighth-grade education. Each of them became teachers and taught in communities locally, including Bristol, Meadow Valley, Pioche, Spring Valley, Ash Springs and Delamar. And each has, sadly, faded from memory.
WHEREAS, someone once said, “If you educate a man, you educate a man. But if you educate a woman, you educate a generation,” and Anna “Annie” B. Clinton certainly reflected that sentiment as she served the people of early southern Nevada during the turn of the last century; and
WHEREAS, blessed with the trifecta of beauty, brains and brawn, Annie would go on to be a pioneering woman in the early days of Lincoln County, Nevada; and
WHEREAS, “Miss Annie,” as she would come to be known, was born in Pioche, once known as one of the wildest towns in the American West, to James B. Clinton, a miner, and his lovely wife Margaret, who remained at home as a mother to tend to the needs and domestic and secular education of their four daughters, Mary, Ellen, Maggie, and, of course, Anna; and WHEREAS, each of the Clinton girls grew up to become well-accomplished teachers, who achieved a number of celebratory feats, and with each girl deserving honors as leading ladies in the history of Nevada, Annie’s story stands out in a unique way; and
WHEREAS, Annie secured a teaching certificate in 1892, and just like her older sisters, she became an engaged and knowledgeable teacher in the Spring Valley area; and
WHEREAS, in 1895, she was employed as a clerk for the Lincoln County Recorder’s office, receiving public accolades in the Pioche Weekly Record for “uniformly obliging in the discharge of her duties”; and
WHEREAS, regarded as “a very esteemable young lady and all who have her acquaintance have only words of admiration and praise,” Miss Annie’s beauty and charm won her second place in the Lincoln County Beauty Contest in February 1898; and
WHEREAS, in 1900, she announced her candidacy for Superintendent of Public Schools of Lincoln County, at the same time being the only woman candidate for a superintendent position in the state of Nevada, and won with a majority of 488 votes; and
WHEREAS, Miss Annie was twice elected as Lincoln County School District Superintendent and, additionally, held the position of deputy county recorder for seven years, when many acknowledged her as “always pleasant, competent and efficient in any position, and her services were much sought,” and often referred to her as “the handyman about the courthouse”; now, therefore, be it
PROCLAIMED, that March is recognized as Women’s History Month, which is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of all women to culture, history, and society; and be it further
PROCLAIMED, that we celebrate and honor Miss Annie B. Clinton during Women’s History Month for her contributions to the representation of women in public office in our state, and especially for her dedication, goodness and hard work for the education of generations of Nevadans.
DATED this day of March 2023.
Pete Goicoechea, Nevada State Senator
Bert K. Gurr, Nevada State Assemblyman
Gregory T. Hafen II, Nevada State Assemblyman