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Nevada Admitted to Union, 1864

Nevada was admitted to the Union, October 31, 1864, being the thirty-sixth in the sisterhood of States. In area she comprises an imperial domain, being almost as large as England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales combined. Her greatest length from north to south is 483 miles; the greatest width on the thirty-ninth parallel, approximately 320 miles, and the area 112,190 square miles, of which 1000 square miles are covered by the waters of lakes.

Nevada was the last of the States of the Union to be permanently settled, or to have established within her borders trading or military posts, which survived until submerged by the rising tide of settlement. The territory now embraced in the State was probably reached by some of the early Spanish exploring parties, but the earliest authenticated visit by white men was that of a party of Spanish friars under Father Francisco Garces who at the end of the trip in January, 1776, established a mission post and residence at what is now Fort Yuma, Arizona. There is no record of other white men having visited Nevada until 1825, when several hunting and trapping parties penetrated the State. Historians do not agree as to which of these parties came first. Bancroft says Peter Skeen Ogden was the first to reach the valley of the Humboldt in midsummer, coming up the Owyhee from Walla Walla. Henry and Ashley with a party of free trappers came to the Humboldt later the same summer, from Bear River. Myron Angel, in his history of Nevada, published by Thompson & West, says Jedediah S. Smith, a partner of Ashley's, was the first to reach the Humboldt, which he called Mary's River, after his Indian wife. Smith had come from his rendezvous on the Yellowstone River in 1825, and went down the Humboldt, thence to the Walker River country, and to the Tulare valley, California, through what was later known as Walker's pass. He re-crossed the State on his return later, the same year. For many years the Humboldt was known as either Mary's River or Ogden River; in fact, it was always so called until given its present name by Fremont. As it is generally agreed that these several parties visited Nevada in 1825, the question of precedence by a few weeks or months is of little importance. After this, the State was frequently visited by trappers, and in the course of the next sixteen years its principal streams and the routes across it became fairly well known to those hardy and adventurous men of the mountains. Joseph Walker, detached from Bonneville's expedition, crossed the State in 1833, and in December, 1843, and January, 1844, Fremont passed through the western portion of the State, skirting and naming Pyramid Lake, and bestowing on a river the name of his guide, the famous Kit Carson. This river afterward gave its name to the valley and later to the town now the capital of Nevada. The first emigrants to cross the State were those composing Captain J. B. Bartleson's party of thirty-five persons, bound for California in 1841. They came by the way of the South Pass and the Great Salt Lake, and followed the then well-known trail down the Humboldt. They had no wagons, all their goods being transported on pack animals. The Truckee River was so named in 1844 by a party starting from Council Bluffs in compliment to their Indian guide, who bore that name. In the summer of 1846 it was estimated that three thousand persons passed over the overland trail to Oregon and California. The route then followed up the Platte and Sweetwater, through South Pass and thence by Bear River to Fort Hall, where the Oregon and California trails parted, the latter dropping southwest to the Humboldt and down that stream. It was in the fall and winter of this year that so many members of the ill-fated Donner party perished of cold and hunger amid the deep snows of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Up to this time Nevada had been acknowledged Mexican territory, but now came the war between the United States and Mexico, resulting in the cession by Mexico to the United States, by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848, of all the country between the Gila River and the forty-second parallel, and extending from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. By agreement, the cession dated back to July 7, 1846, the date on which Commodore Sloat had raised the American flag at Monterey. In 1847, Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers settled in Salt Lake valley. In the following year gold was discovered at Sutter's-mill, in California, and in 1849 the great California gold rush came and thousands of men from the Eastern States poured through Nevada on the way to the land of gold. In March, 1849, the Mormons, who had already become numerous in the Salt Lake and adjacent valleys, organized what they called the "State of Deseret," and claimed all the country now included in Nevada, Utah and Arizona, southern California to the ocean, and parts of what is now Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. The so-called "State" was never recognized by Congress, but that body, in 1850, admitted California as a State with its present boundaries, and organized Utah Territory, which included all of the present area of Nevada, except the point of the State south of the thirty-seventh parallel.

In the meantime, the first white settlement in the State had been made at Genoa, in what is now Douglas County, by Mormons from Salt Lake valley. This settlement was on the road to California, and was called "Mormon Station." It seems to have been first established in June, 1850, and is mentioned by many who passed that way in that year, but when Stephen A. Kinsey, of Salt Lake, in the following year selected the same site for a home and trading station on the overland road, there was no one living there, and all buildings and other evidences of previous occupancy had disappeared. From this time on the settlement was permanent and within the next two or three years a number of families settled in the vicinity. The first land claims were legally filed in December, 1852, and in 1854 a saw-mill and a grist-mill were built. The place was called Mormon Station until surveyed in 1855, when the name w 7 as changed to Genoa. In 1852 a mail route was established from Salt Lake to San Bernardino, and a station on the line was erected at Las Vegas Springs, but it was abandoned after the Mountain Meadows massacre in 1857.

Gold was discovered near Dayton early in 1850, but as the workings were not as rich as those of California, they never attracted a great deal of attention, and Nevada did not become noted as a mining section until the discovery of the Comstock lode in 1859, located for its gold by placer gold miners who found it in following up the pay streak. It developed into the greatest silver mine the world has ever known. It has produced $325,000,000, of which $306,000,000 was produced in the first twenty years that it was worked. There was one year in which it yielded $38,000,000. As a whole, the values consisted of about two-thirds silver and one-third gold.

With the mining discoveries of 1859, there came trooping over the Sierra Nevada mountains a motley population from California and the western border of the State from Honey Lake, on the north, to Walker River, on the south, which, up to that time, had been occupied by a few scattered ranchers and placer miners, swarmed with miners, prospectors, adventurers and gamblers. This influx of people induced Congress to create the new Territory of Nevada from the western part of Utah Territory, which was done March 2, 1861. At first the eastern boundary was fixed at the 116th degree of longitude, west from Greenwich, which left all the present counties of Clark, Lincoln, and White Pine, most of Elko, and parts of Eureka and Nye in Utah. In 1862, the line was moved east to the 115th, and March 21, 1864, again east to the 114th degree, and at the same time the triangle between the 37th parallel and the Colorado River w r as added from Arizona, and the act passed to admit the State to the Union with its present boundaries.

The general geological character of Nevada is volcanic, and it presents a more pronounced desert aspect than any other division of the Union except Arizona. With the exception of a small area in the north, which is drained by the Owyhee, Bruneau, Salmon and other streams into the Snake River, and the southeastern corner, which drains into the Colorado, the entire State lies in the great basin, and its few and comparatively feeble streams discharge into lakes or are swallowed up in sinks amid the abounding sands of the valleys and plains. This basin section of the State is the bed of an ancient sea, whose shore lines can be distinctly traced in a number of places. It is now mainly a plateau, with an average elevation of perhaps 4000 feet. On this rise numerous mountain ranges, in most cases running north and south, and varying in elevation above the surrounding country from 1000 to 8000 feet. These are separated by valleys from one to twenty-five miles in width. This general condition is so marked a feature of the State that its surface has been aptly likened to a corrugated iron roof. These ranges are usually broken down or eroded at intervals, but in many cases are continuous for hundreds of miles. In many cases ranges have been worn away until only isolated peaks of the hardest material remain. The valleys are usually filled to a great depth with loose, sandy soil formed by the volcanic ash and ancient sea deposits, together with the more recent wash from the mountains and the dust deposit of centuries of winds. The lowest portion of the State is the extreme southern point, on the Colorado River, where the elevation above sea level is but slightly over 500 feet. The highest point is 13,058 feet, reached in Wheeler Peak, in the Snake Range, about half-way along the eastern border.

Nevada, having but little rain and not much snow, except in the mountains, has but few rivers, and none of them are large. The Humboldt is the longest. It rises in the northeastern part of the State, and flows southwest for about 375 miles to Humboldt Lake. It has cut through all the mountain ranges, in its length, thus affording the best path across the State east and west. This was first taken advantage of by the Indians and trappers, whose trails followed it. Later the emigrant wagon road took the same route, then came the Southern Pacific Railroad along the same path, and later the Western Pacific, after trying in vain to get a satisfactory line across the mountains elsewhere, was forced to get into the Humboldt valley and parallel the Southern Pacific half-way across the State. The Truckee is the outlet of Lake Tahoe, and is a clear, bold stream, which, after a short course in the plain, discharges into Pyramid Lake. Its basin includes a considerable portion of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, where the snowfall is exceedingly heavy, and its annual flow exceeds that of the Humboldt. The Carson and Walker flow into lakes of the same name in the western part of the State. In the north are several streams tributary to the Snake, and in the southeast two unimportant ones, discharging into the Colorado. Other than these, the only streams in the State are the creeks issuing from the mountains and sinking in the sands or sinks in the valleys. Many of these in spring and early summer are veritable mountain torrents that flood large areas of the adjacent valleys, forming shallow lakes many miles in extent. Then in late summer and autumn the stream-bed may be only a dry canyon, while the lake it fed soon disappears. Besides those of a temporary character, Nevada has a number of permanent and beautiful lakes. Pyramid Lake is the largest, with a length of thirty-five miles and a width of ten miles. Lake Tahoe is on the California line, at an elevation of 6225 feet, in a region of mountain and forest. Because of its altitude, its great depth, the clearness of its waters, and the remarkable beauty of its surroundings, it is one of the foremost of American mountain lakes. It is becoming a noted summer resort and is visited each year by many tourists. Other important lakes are Walker, Winnemucca, Humboldt, Carson and Snow Water lakes.

The climate of Nevada is dry, mild and beautiful. The percentage of bright, sunny days is extremely high, and severe winds are unusual. The average temperature for January is about twenty-eight degrees and for July seventy-one degrees. Great extremes of either cold or heat are not common, and, when they do occur, are minimized by the dryness and tonic qualities of the atmosphere. The State is the most arid in the Union, the average precipitation being less than twelve inches, and this is very unevenly distributed as to time and locality. Nearly all the precipitation occurs between December and May. It is much greater in the mountains, especially the higher ranges, than in the valleys, and is about twice as great in the northern as in the southern half of the State. In some of the valleys rain seldom falls, and there are some sections of the southern part of the State that are practically rainless. The way the rains come in the open country of the southern triangle of the State was well expressed by a stage-driver. When asked by a passenger in what way, if it never rained there, the dry gulch the stage was wearily toiling up had been formed, he replied: "It only rains about once in fifteen years, and then w r e have a cloudburst that floods the country."

 

Index

Source: Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States, Utah, Idaho and Nevada, Published by The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909 

 

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