Eighty-three-year-old Fred Horlacher, regarded as Sparks’ much-beloved local historian, will be sharing the tale of “Jedediah Strong Smith” at the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m.
Jedediah Smith, a mighty mountain main of the West, has fended off a grizzly bear, combated the sweltering heat of the Mohave Desert, and crossed snowy peaks and rapid rivers of the Sierras.
“Jedediah is an interesting person and for many years he was a forgotten man in the West,” says Horlacher. “He didn’t get recognition for it I think partly because he died when he was 31 years old. He was only out here for eight years, but in that time he did phenomenal things that hadn’t been done before. He almost drowned in rivers, fought grizzly bears, and traveled to unforeseen places. He was a remarkable man who was regarded as a great leader amongst his men,” Horlacher adds.
An Ely native, Horlacher moved to Sparks over 20 years ago and taught social studies and Nevada history at Reed High School when it was first developed. “I wanted to teach at a high school level, so I went to Reed when it was first built,” he says. Horlacher added that the principal wanted someone who could teach a consistent Nevada history curriculum and that Horlacher was the most qualified.
“There are many great interesting places all over Nevada and the people who live here are unique characters. Once you get to know the area, the people and their struggles, it makes you appreciate the history,” says Horlacher.
Throughout his career, Horlacher has received the Milliken Outstanding Teacher Award and Teacher of the Year Awards in Nevada and Washoe County. Although Horlacher has been retired for 22 years, he periodically gives lectures throughout Nevada. His gregarious storytelling livens history for people of all ages.
“People come from all over to hear Fred’s presentations because he brings history to life,” says Sparks Museum Executive Director Kelly Reis. “Last year one of his former students flew up from Las Vegas just to attend one of his historic bus tours. He’s a beloved teachers that left a lasting impression on his students, and we’re so happy that he continues to share local history through presentations like this one at the Sparks Museum,” she adds.
While teaching at Reed High School, Horlacher formed a history club that had up to 180 student members. “We took field trips every spring, visited ghost towns and geological oddities,” he said.
“My philosophy is that if you see a place and its history then it means a lot more to you than if you just read it in a textbook.”
Tickets cost $10 per person to attend the Jan. 25 Jedediah Smith lecture at the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center on Jan. 25. Proceeds from the ticket sales will go towards helping the museum continue its mission to protect the cultural heritage of the Sparks and Truckee Meadows area. Seating to this event is limited, so to register early call 775-355-1144 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.