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Nevada in the 1840s - 1850s


Nevada image
Nevada image

The hope of a bright future in California lured settlers west in the 1840s. The Bidwell-Bartleson group was followed in 1844 by the Stevens-Murphy party, which blazed a trail over Truckee River pass. In 1846 the Donner party tried to use this route but became stranded by heavy snows. Forty of its 87 members died of starvation and cold, and the survivors were reduced to eating the dead bodies to remain alive. Emigrant travel across the northern Great Basin slowed after the tragedy.

However, the end of the Mexican War and the discovery of gold in California, both in 1848, spurred further emigration, and by 1849 the Humboldt River had become an important link in the trail west to California. Temporary way stations grew up along the emigrant trails to sell supplies to the travelers. Mormon Station (present-day Genoa), a trading post built in 1850 by Mormon traders from Salt Lake City, became Nevada’s first permanent settlement. Although they abandoned the unfinished outpost in 1850, John Reese purchased the site in 1851 and built a store that became the center of Mormon Station. Other Mormons came to the region to farm and a few settlers on their way to California decided to stay, increasing the size of the settlement. By the end of 1851, about 100 settlers were living in Nevada’s western river valleys.

Territory of Nevada


The United States acquired Nevada, as well as California, Arizona, Utah, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, from Mexico under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

Two years later, the Congress of the United States created the Territory of Utah, which included much of Nevada, or Western Utah, as it was then called. The southern region of modern Nevada was included in the New Mexico Territory. Mormon leader Brigham Young was named governor of the territory, but his government was located in Salt Lake City and could not assert authority in Western Utah. Settlers there wanted to establish law and order and escape Mormon rule by joining California. To prevent this, Young created Carson County in 1854, which included most of Western Utah, and sent Orson Hyde to organize the county government. Hyde arrived at Mormon Station in June 1856 and made it the county seat. The establishment of Franktown in Washoe Valley and a Mormon mission in Las Vegas far to the south extended Mormon control in the area. Two years later, however, Young summoned all Mormons back to Salt Lake City to help repel a federal army sent to punish the Mormons there for allegedly ignoring the orders of federal judges. Mormon influence in Western Utah ended.

The settlers who remained petitioned Congress unsuccessfully for their own territorial government in 1857 and again in 1859. Representatives were sent to each session of Congress to plead the cause. On March 2, 1861, outgoing President James Buchanan signed a bill creating the Territory of Nevada. An important reason for congressional approval was the newly discovered Comstock Lode, a rich source of gold and silver that was first tapped in 1859. "Nevada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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