Frog Lake ... or Nona Lake History

Thursday, October 11, 2018 - 8:00am

The Truckee Donner Land Trust and its partners have kicked off the Campaign to Conserve Frog Lake, Red Mountain and Carpenter Ridge - nearly 3,000 acres of open space just north of Truckee. Read more about the campaign and these amazing lands here.

A Land Trust board member encountered a post card, dated 1906 and labeled Lake Nona, that looks a whole lot like Frog Lake.

Here's an image of the postcard:

And here's a current photo of Frog Lake and Frog Lake Cliff as a comparison:

The McGlashan family generously shed some light on the lake – and its name's history.

Charles McGlashan (1847-1931), a lawyer known as one of Truckee's patriarchs and famous for interviewing surviving members of the Donner Party, christened the little-known lake "Nona" for his wife Leonara, who went by Nona McGlashan. It was then owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad, part of the "Sierra Checkerboard" gift of every-other-square-mile in the area from President Abraham Lincoln to Southern Pacific to get the trans-continental railroad built.

According to "Give Me a Mountain Meadow," a book about Charles McGlashan written by his granddaughter, also named Nona, Charles had a unique plan for Nona Lake.

"In recent years frog legs had been in demand at gourmet restaurants in San Francisco. Virginia City and Truckee residents too would pay good prices for such delicacies," she wrote in the book. "It occurred to him that production of frog legs might be profitable if frogs could survive the sub-zero winters."

McGlashan ordered two dozen French frogs from San Francisco, then hired a man to carry them, slung in two milk cans across the saddlehorn of a horse, up to Nona Lake.

Now it sounds like we're leading up to how the lake came to be known as Frog Lake, but here the history takes a turn. The author wrote that the frogs didn't make it through the first snow, and the lake was named for a frog-shaped boulder on its shore instead.

The Smith Family, who is selling Frog Lake to Truckee Donner Land Trust in our current campaign, purchased the land and lake from the Railroad in the 1930s and have been fantastic stewards of the land and lake ever since.

The Land Trust is grateful to the McGlashan family for sharing this history, and to Rick and Sue Lundblade for sharing their copy of the post card. We are excited to share this special place with the public in 2020 when we celebrate the conclusion of another conservation victory in the Truckee Donner area! (Please contact the Land Trust to support the campaign.)

Thumbnail photo by Olof Carmel.