Agnes Train, Courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society
Courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society


The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources. If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.

At A Glance:

Born: March 24, 1905, Seattle, Washington
Died: July 17, 1991, Carson City, Nevada
Maiden Name: Agnes Hume Scott
Race/Nationality/Ethnic Background: Caucasian
Married: Percy Train June 7, 1928; John Janssen May 28, 1944
Children: None
Primary City and County of Residence and Work:
Genoa, Douglas County; Carson City
Major Fields of Work: Nevada State Museum curator, naturalist, author
Other Role Identities: Artist


Nevada State Museum curator devoted her life to natural history, Genoa’s Pink House

Agnes  Train Janssen, one of the first curators of the Nevada State Museum, made significant contributions to Nevada natural history, preserved important pieces of Genoa history, and donated artifacts to many organizations to ensure public access for research and reference.

Agnes Hume Scott was born March 24, 1905, in Seattle, the first child of Margaret Hume and Walter John Scott. Margaret, a talented musician, emigrated from Scotland with her family. Walter, born in Ohio, worked for U.S. Steel, eventually becoming a manager. The family moved to Chicago where a son, Wallace Bay Scott, was born in 1908.

In 1924, Agnes graduated from Austin High School in Chicago, where the yearbook indicated she was one of the more active members of the senior class. Nicknamed “Scotty,” her interests included many art-related activities with future plans to become an “Artist Extraordinary.”

Agnes didn’t attend college, but worked as a librarian in the Chicago Public Library civics department. This training would provide invaluable skills she would use in the future for cataloging Nevada fossil and plant specimens, managing collections of the Nevada State Museum and recognizing the importance of selecting the proper storage for such fragile items as historic newspapers.

Saving her earnings to buy two train tickets, Agnes and her mother traveled to Seattle in 1926 to tour the area of her birth. But a chance meeting in the dining car with Percy Train, a renowned fossil hunter, archeologist, mining engineer, and field representative of the Smithsonian Institution, would lead to correspondence and an engagement.

The Trains, Courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society

On June 7, 1928, Agnes, age 23, and Percy, age 52, hiked up Lone Mountain near Lovelock, Nev., where they were married at sunrise. The couple would go on to spend much of the next 11 years collecting fossils, minerals and plants in the remote areas of Nevada and Death Valley.

Agnes used her art talent for sketches of the specimens that were sent to the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Nevada and museums across the country. In 1937, the Trains joined a statewide survey, originally sponsored by the University and the Carson Indian Agency, to identify and collect native plants. One important aspect was the interviewing of tribal members on the medicinal and other traditional uses of these plants, an area in which Agnes excelled. The  1941 publication of a major work, “Medicinal Uses of Plants by Indian Tribes of Nevada” by Percy Train, et al., a groundbreaking study, unexpectedly led to a breakthrough discovery in 1942 by the University of Minnesota’s pharmacological research team that helped preserve food rations in the Pacific during World War II.

On August 2, 1928, the Trains had passed through Genoa on the day of Judge Daniel Webster Virgin’s funeral where they glimpsed the Virgin house that would become their home in April 1939. Purchased with all of the Virgin/Finnegan family possessions — such as furniture, clothing, housewares, trunks, saddle, papers, books, portraits and records — the house was restored to its original pink color in July 1941 and was known once again as the “Pink House.”

Agnes quickly became an active participant and officer in community groups such as the Carson City chapter of the Business and Professional Women’s Club. She also enjoyed such events as the Admission Day parades, receiving first-place honors two years in a row for authentic period costumes and riding in Genoa’s award-winning historical floats. She was a founding member of the Nevada Academy of Natural Sciences, attended the Astronomical Society of Nevada events, and was an accomplished artist. She often showcased Genoa history by hosting club meetings in the Pink House that sometimes included a “show and tell” of the house’s artifacts.

One of Agnes’s most lasting contributions was her 1941 volunteer work three to four days each week tagging and cataloging the donations to the not-yet-opened Nevada State Museum. She was abruptly summoned a week before the October 31 scheduled grand opening by the Chairman of the Museum Board Judge Clark J Guild. As recounted in her 1977 book “Nevada through Rose Colored Glasses,” the Judge tasked her and a carpenter to unpack “pioneer treasured items brought to the Museum on loan from Carson Valley ranches” that had been left stacked in the basement in unopened boxes since the Museum Office staff thought they were too “folksy.” Judge Guild told her: “It is inconceivable these not be in view…none must be stolen, each must bear a label carrying the owner’s name. The integrity and honor of the Museum Board is in your hands. We cannot demean the generous motives of loyal Nevadans; they are the basic fabric of our future plans.”

Agnes, along with a carpenter, built display tables and finished moving all of the Carson Valley relics on the afternoon before Admission Day. The opening was a success with an estimated 5,000 people visiting the new museum.

Because of her work and background, Agnes was offered the position of Museum Curator six weeks after the opening—an achievement that was soon moderated by the sudden death of her husband Percy less than two months later.

Agnes became a tireless promoter of the museum by writing newspaper articles about the collections and by speaking to community organizations in Carson Valley and Carson City about Nevada history, museum collections and the Trains’ work with fossils and medicinal plants. She also oversaw the acquisition of the 1875 Glenbrook steam locomotive that would stand outside the museum for almost 40 years before being moved to the Nevada State Railroad Museum for full restoration.

Agnes would leave her Nevada home and career in May 1944 after she and John Janssen were united in marriage by Judge Clark Guild.  Agnes and John, a Dutch immigrant and California dairyman, had met by chance when he sought shelter in the museum from the snow.  The Janssens would continue in the dairy industry before turning to land development in Santa Rosa, Calif., and cattle ranching in Mendocino County, Calif.  After retiring to Salem, Oregon, Agnes resumed her career as a librarian.  In both California and Oregon, she held officer positions in civic, social and special interest clubs and organizations.

Agnes visited Genoa and Carson City regularly, often scheduling trips around Nevada Day and Candy Dance celebrations.  She continued to own the Pink House until 1956, providing a place for her parents to live and to act as caretakers of the residence and its contents, only selling the home after her widowed mother moved to Oregon.

As early as 1951, Agnes began to take actions to preserve both the Percy Train collections of fossils, minerals and flowers and the Pink House artifacts. In November, the fossil collection went to the Mackay School of Mines. Five years later, another Train collection of specimens was given to the school, including hundreds of pressed flowers and grasses from all over the state.

In summer 1956, she and her mother donated a collection of historical items belonging to Judge Virgin to what is now Mormon Station State Park. Also in 1956, the Nevada State Historical Society received a file of early Nevada and California newspapers from 1865 into the 1930s that were found in the Pink House. Some of the old Genoa ones were to be kept for the “Genoa Fort Museum” but because of the lack of display or storage space, they were placed in a Carson City vault until the museum could care for them properly. In 1979, Agnes donated another collection of Judge Virgin papers, correspondence, financial reports to the Nevada Historical Society.

In 1977, Agnes published “Nevada through Rose Colored Glasses,” the story of her life with Percy Train. One of the most important parts is the detailed description of the Pink House rooms and grounds when the Trains took possession in 1939. This in itself has helped preserve an understanding of the house and the families who lived there.

From 1974 to 1979, Agnes donated over 216 artifacts to the then Carson Valley Historical Society, further ensuring the preservation of the Virgin/Finnegan family and the history of the Pink House. Other objects were saved by keeping them with the house, where many, such as framed family portraits, were donated to the Historical Society by later owners.

Agnes spent the last two years of her life in Carson City, where her niece Ann Scott Cameron lived. On July 17, 1991, Agnes died at age 86 and is buried next to her beloved Percy in Genoa Cemetery. His headstone reads “Geologist…Botanist” and hers “Librarian….Curator.”

Even in her California and Oregon years, it was evident where her heart was. She ended her 1957 letter to the Nevada Historical Society that accompanied the newspaper donations with: “We shall not forget our sagebrush years. There is only one Nevada!”

Researched and written by Debbe Nye

Sources of Information:

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