History of the State of Nevada

Unraveling the Captivating History of the State of Nevada

There's so much more to Nevada than the average person knows. Not just Vegas, but there is so much history that is a part of its journey, rise to prominence, statehood and the historical landmarks in Nevada form a unique amalgamation of history and culture. Let's take a virtual tour.
The history of the State of Nevada has been a colorful and eventful one. Right from its exploration by the white men to its inception into the U.S sovereignty as the 36th State, its history is marked with strife and constant struggle of the human spirit, to make the most in the harshest of conditions.

Historical Background of the State of Nevada

Early History

Although no concrete evidence is available as to who were the earliest Nevadans, it is believed that the Anasazis were the first to have inhabited the area around 8000 to 18000 B.C. The Anasazis were pushed out of the region by the neighboring native American tribes like the Paiute, the Shoshone and the Washoe people. These native Americans were the sole human occupants of the region till Fray Francisco Garces―the first white man set foot in Nevada in 1776 with the aim of setting Spanish missions in California. In 1826, Jedediah Strong Smith became the first American and the third white man to have entered the land of Nevada. He led a group of the first American fur traders into Nevada, hunting beavers whose fur was highly sought for making felt hats in the European and American fashion circle.

The Old Spanish Trail which was one of the first trading routes of the West was laid down by these hunters. However, civil war broke out the same year as Nevada separated from Utah, and in no time Nevada found herself playing an important role in the war that led to its dramatic statehood. In the presidential elections of the 1860, Abraham Lincoln's Republican party had campaigned against slavery. However the Southern states, where slavery was prevalent, could not accept its abolition. They declared secession from the American Union and came to be known as the Confederates. This led to a war between the Confederate States and the Union formed by the rest of the states.

The role of Nevada in the Civil War was multifarious. To abolish slavery, the U.S. constitution needed to be amended. This could be done with three-fourth votes of the States and the statehood of Nevada would complete the quorum. Secondly, the State of Nevada would readily provide military strength to the Union in its war against the Confederates. Thirdly, it was important that a Northern State be created that would ensure Abraham Lincoln's second tenure as President. Such was the urgency to induct Nevada as a State in the Union that the whole State Constitution was telegraphed from Carson City to Washington D.C. just eight days before the Presidential Elections that were to be held on 7th November 1864. It is one of the most elaborate telegraphs in the American history. With statehood being granted to it on 31st October, 1864 Nevada became the 36th State to join the American Union. Due to the role of the War in its recognition as a state, Nevada has earned the moniker "Battle Born".

Role of Mining

Till the discovery of rich deposits of silver in the mid nineteenth century, Nevada served as a passage for the fortune hunters who wanted to be a part of the famous California gold rush. However after the Comstock Lode was discovered in 1859 there was a reverse rush to Nevada for silver. The period saw a number of mining towns like Virginia City and Carson City that thrived in the economic boom. The mining activities brought along developments like the laying down of railroads to expedite silver and gold extraction process and made Nevada a prominent player in the U.S. economy.

Mining continued to drive the Nevadan economy till World War II. However as the State's mines went bust again during the Great Depression, new modes of raising revenue had to be formulated. This led to the legalization of gambling that had been banned in the early 1900s along with alcohol. In fact, it was the Divorce Industry of Nevada that had a greater impact on the State's economy than the gaming industry.

However, casinos and mega resorts started springing up in Nevada with investments by billionaires which resulted in the transformation of cities like Las Vegas which is known as the Entertainment Capital of the World. Though Nevada has achieved economic diversity to some extent in the 21st century, gaming and tourism continue to be major players in the state's economy.

Historical Landmarks in Nevada

According to the U.S National Historic Landmark program which is run by the National Park Service there are 7 National Historic Landmarks in Nevada. They are :
  • Fort Churchill State Historic Park: This U.S army fort was built in 1861 to provide protection to the early settlers from the native Indians. It was abandoned in 1869 when the State of Nevada took control of the site.
  • Fort Ruby: Labeled as the worst army post of its times, Fort Ruby was built in 1862 to protect the Pony Express that joined California to the Union from the Indian raiders. However, with the completion of the transcontinental railroad, this post was abandoned in 1869.
  • Hoover Dam: The Hoover Dam is the epitome of the undying spirit of human beings to raise marvelous structures in the face of the most adverse conditions. Built in 1936 during the Great Depression years, it transformed the entire Southwest region of America by taming the raging waters of the Colorado River that created havoc every spring by flooding the adjoining regions. The dam is now a major source of irrigation and electricity for most of the states of the Southwest.
  • Leonard Rockshelter: Discovered in 1936, this prehistoric site attains significance as archaeologists found "long continuum of sporadic cultural occupation" that dates from 6710 B.C to 1400 A.D.
  • Nevada Northern Railway, East Ely Yards: It was built in 1905 with the purpose of helping the local copper mining industry flourish.
  • Home of Francis G. Newlands, Reno: U.S Congressman Francis G. Newlands lived in this house from 1890 till his death. This house gains prominence from the fact that Newlands was responsible for passing major irrigation projects for the West.
  • Virginia City: Virginia City rose to prominence with the discovery of vast deposits of silver ore in the Comstock Lode in 1859. Fortune seekers from all around rushed to Virginia City and made this city a center of activities.
Despite Nevada being an arid land with rough terrain, it has been marked with tapping the opportunities at the right time. From the extent of its statehood being jeopardized due to dwindling of the population during the Great Depression, Nevada has advanced to become the fastest growing state of the U.S.A.