Nevada History by John C. Evanoff

Visitreno.com is excited to present this series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

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Nevada’s Terrific Trivia Part II

November, 2011
By John Evanoff

If you've lived in Nevada for more than two decades, you are a bona fide Nevadan, but you may not know everything about Reno and Northern Nevada to answer some unusual trivia questions. So, here is a footnote in hisorty to add to your knowledge of insignificant facts, attractions, destinations, geography and individuals represented throughout Nevada’s history.

Washoe was to become the name of the state until someone made it Nevada. Did you know who and how? The Nevada we know today was once the provisional State of Deseret (March 1849) which covered all of present day Utah and Nevada to well past the Sierra Nevada Mountains and into what we now know as California. Just a few months later, in September 1849, the new state of California argued for a state line just west of the Sierra Nevada calling the Great Basin east of the Sierra a barren wasteland of no consequence or worth. About a year later, the Utah Territory was created by the U.S. Congress and the Mormons fully moved into the western portion including what is now Washoe, Storey, Douglas, Lyon Counties and Carson City until Brigham Young called them back to Salt Lake City in September, 1857 to guard against a possible attack by the federal government upon the Mormons. For two years until 1859, most immigrants just moved through to California, not wishing to make any part of the area their home. CW Fuller from Honey Lake put up a wooden bridge across the Truckee River where Reno is now located and when the Comstock Lode was discovered in the summer of 1859, the area became known as Washoe and miners from California and the eastern United States flooded into the region to find their dreams of wealth in Dayton, Silver City, Gold Hill and Virginia City. In 1860, there were just over 100 people living in the Truckee Meadows and more than 500 living in the area known as Washoe. In November 1860, the Utah Territorial Governor and legislature decided it was too hard to govern the western portion of the territory and four months later, the Nevada Territory was created by Congress. James Nye became the first Governor of the Territory of Nevada. Washoe had tripled in population from 500 to more than 1,600 and in 1861, the legislature divided the territory into nine counties. Washoe City became the county seat of Washoe County. Myron Lake had bought the land and flooded out bridge pilings at Fuller's Crossing in 1862 and named it Lake's Crossing, soon to become Reno. In less than a year, several settlements grew into towns and cities overnight including Ophir, Washoe City, Carson City, Galena, Steamboat, Huffaker's and Lemmon Valley. In 1862, Lake County just northwest of Washoe County was renamed Roop County after the first provisional governor of the Territory of Nevada, Issac Roop. Between 1862 and 1864, Washoe and Roop County and the Territory of Nevada were in a battle of state lines with California. California wanted all of Roop County and the population of the western part of the territory bitterly legislated against it. The county and the young territory was close to going to war with California over the line and so cartographers were dispatched to find some reasonable line of equity to make both sides content. In the summer of 1864, the Constitutional Convention was very near naming the territory the new state of Washoe. John Neely Johnson, the fourth governor of California and the youngest at only 30 years of age, came to the Utah Territory after frustrating vigilante events in San Francisco led to his eventual loss in the 1857 California general election after only two years as governor. He was named President of the Constitutional Convention of the Territory of Nevada in September 1864. President Abraham Lincoln needed votes for his own re-election and knew Johnson had the law background to get the job done quickly to make Nevada a state. To quell the argument of naming the state Washoe, Johnson merely pointed to the President's and the United States Legislature's terms of admission for the state being asserted in writing from the beginning as "State of Nevada." On October 31, 1864, Lincoln approved the admission and the State of Nevada was born. Johnson was appointed to the Nevada Supreme Court in 1867 and served until 1871. He died in 1872 in Salt Lake City at age 47 after a short illness. Nevada was in its infancy as a rapidly growing addition to the Union and the United States, but more to the point, it was finally Nevada, but only because John Johnson made the Constitutional Convention’s legislature go with what was written in the terms.


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