Nevada in a nutshell
Nevada’s history is rooted in the Wild West, from cowboys and Indians to train robberies and silver and gold mines. Though much has changed over the decades – Nevada now draws more than 50 million visitors each year and attracts international audiences – much of the allure of the state is still found in its western heritage and wide-open spaces.
Originally belonging to the Native American tribes Washoe, Paiute and Western Shoshone, the area we now know as Nevada was claimed by Mexico before becoming part of the Utah Territory and eventually attaining statehood in 1864.
Many famous explorers, including Jedediah Smith, John Fremont and Kit Carson, ventured into the vast expanse of Nevada to find a fast route from the eastern states into the wild frontier of California. Peter Skene Ogden explored what would become Southern Nevada in 1826, followed by Smith and his party just a few months later. In 1829, Antonio Armijo led a party into the present site of Las Vegas by way of the Old Spanish Trail from New Mexico to Los Angeles. Fremont and Carson later trekked through Northern Nevada, in 1844 and discovered Pyramid Lake.
While many temporary towns and trading posts were established throughout the rough Nevada frontier,
primarily in Northern Nevada by Mormon settlers and gold miners,
the distinction of Nevada’s first town is often given to Mormon Station
, which was founded
in 1851 near present-day Carson City and was later renamed Genoa
A nearby settlement in what is now Dayton, just a few miles from Genoa, was founded earlier
than Genoa but did not flourish, and the debate over which town was Nevada’s first settlement still lingers.
holds the claim as the site of the first gold discovery in the state in 1849.
While Nevada is known in part for its history of legalized gambling, it was actually illegal
before 1869 and again after 1910.
In 1931, Nevada again legalized casino gambling, this time as a means of raising
tax revenues and stabilizing the state’s economy.
With the legalization of gambling came the first casinos on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas,
which was soon to be known as “Glitter Gulch,” and in 1941, the first hotel-casino
on the future Las Vegas Strip opened its doors as the El Rancho Vegas.
The construction of the Hoover Dam in the early 1930s cemented Las Vegas as a viable, thriving community.
The constant supply of water from the Colorado River made farming dependable and profitable and
added an inexpensive source of electricity, allowing for growth and development.
In the northern end of the state, Reno was making a name for itself as the “Divorce Capital of the World.”
Initially, the Truckee River crossing became a town in the 1860s and in 1868 was named to honor
the fallen Union general Jesse Lee Reno.