Sitting in the center of one of the most scenic and historic areas in the country, Carson City is the perfect starting point for sightseeing. The habitat of the Eastern Sierra must have been a welcome refuge for explorers Kit Carson and John C. Fremont as they rode into Eagle Valley during their 1840s quest to map the West. To the east, long stretches of desert mark the difficult terrain settlers had to endure to get here. To the west, the Sierra Nevada Mountains stretch out as a gateway to the Pacific.
Northern Nevada saw its first wave of white settlers in the 1800s. The Bidwell-Bartleson party is believed to have made their way through the area in 1841. Westbound traffic increased, spurred by the big boom of 1848-1849 when the discovery of California gold ignited the frontier spirit and transformed Eagle Valley.
By 1851, Eagle Station, a trading post and small ranch on the Carson Branch of the California Emigrant Trail, served as a stopover for travel-weary gold prospectors. According to historical accounts, the station and surrounding valley took their names from an eagle shot by Frank Hall with his ball-and-cap Colt and mounted on the trading post wall. Frank’s, brothers W.L. Hall and George Jollenshee ran the ranch, located at the current site of Fifth and Thompson streets.
In 1858, Abraham Curry bought Eagle Station when he found properties in Genoa to be too expensive. Acre plaza was the city center for his predicted location of the state capitol as he laid plans for the city’s future.
In 1859, gold prospectors hit silver in the hills east of Carson City. The Comstock Lode, as it was called, was the largest silver find in world history. Tens of thousands of miners poured into Carson City and Virginia City. In the 1860’s, Carson City was a station on the Pony Express and the Overland mail routes under both Butterfield and Wells, Fargo and Co. In 1861, true to Curry’s prediction, and largely because of his shrewd maneuvers, Carson City became the capital of the Nevada Territory. Despite its small population and expansive territory (Nevada is the seventh largest state), statehood was inevitable. War was brewing in the east, and Nevada’s wealth, as well as its congressional votes, would prove vital to the Union war effort.
Nevada was granted statehood on Oct. 31, 1864. Each year Nevada’s “Battle Born” roots are celebrated in Carson City with the Nevada Day parade. Prosperity continued when the Big Bonanza, another major silver strike, was discovered in 1873. Construction of the V&T Railroad served the mines by transporting ore and timber.
State Animal The Desert Bighorn (or Nelson) Sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) is smaller than its Rocky Mountain cousin but has a wider spread of horns. The bighorn is well-suited for Nevada’s mountainous desert country because it can survive for long periods without water. The large rams stand about 4 1/2 feet tall and can weigh as much as 175 pounds.
State Fish The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (Salmo clarki henshawi), a native trout found in 14 of the state’s 17 counties, is adapted to habitats ranging from high mountain creeks and alpine lakes to warm, intermittent lowland streams and alkaline lakes where no other trout can live.
State Reptile The Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), the largest reptile in the Southwestern United States, lives in the extreme southern parts of Nevada. Its hard, dome-shaped shell ranges from tan to black in color. This reptile spends much of its life in underground burrows to escape the harsh summer heat and winter cold. The desert tortoise can live to be more than 70 years old.
State Flower Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) grows abundantly in the deserts of the Western United States. A member of the wormwood family, sagebrush is a branching bush (1 to 12 feet high) and grows in regions where other kinds of vegetation cannot subsist.
State Trees The Single-Leaf Pinon (Pinus monophylla) is an aromatic pine tree with short, stiff needles and gnarled branches. The tree grows in coarse, rocky soils and rock crevices. Though its normal height is about 15 feet, the single-leaf pinon can grow as high as 50 feet under ideal conditions. The Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata) shares the state tree designation. The bristlecone pine is the oldest living thing on Earth, with some specimens in Nevada more than 4,000 years of age.
State Precious Gemstone Among the many gemstones found in Nevada, the Virgin Valley Black Fire Opal is one of the most beautiful. The Virgin Valley in northern Nevada is the only place in North America where the Black Fire Opal is found in any significant quantity.
State Semi-precious Gemstone Nevada Turquoise, sometimes called the “Jewel of the Desert,” is found in many parts of the state.
State Song In 1933, the Legislature adopted “Home Means Nevada” as the official state song. Mrs. Bertha Raffetto of Reno wrote the song to honor the state. The refrain of the song goes as follows: “Home means Nevada, Home means the hills, Home means the sage and the pines. Out by the Truckee’s silvery rills. Out where the sun always shines. There is a land that I love the best, Fairer than all I can see. Right in the heart of the golden west. Home means Nevada to me.”
State Metal Silver (Chemical symbol: Ag)
State Colors Silver and Blue
State Flag On a cobalt blue background; in the upper left quarter is a five-pointed silver star between two sprays of sagebrush crossed to form a half wreath; across the top of the wreath is a golden scroll with the words, in black letters, “Battle Born.” The name “Nevada” is beneath the star in gold letters. Design adopted March 26, 1929, revised in 1991.
State Seal Adopted February 24, 1886. The seal has the words “The Great Seal of the State of Nevada” around the outer edge. Within this, is a composite picture showing the mining, agriculture, industry and scenery of Nevada, under which is the state motto, “All For Our Country.” The seal’s 36 stars symbolize the fact that Nevada was the 36th state to enter the Union.
V & T Railroad
The Original Virginia & Truckee Railroad
Following the discovery of rich silver and gold deposits in Virginia City, it soon became apparent that something beside freight wagons was needed to carry heavy ore from the mines to the mills along the Carson River for refining. Additionally, a better transportation system was needed to bring lumber from the Lake Tahoe region to Virginia City, where it could be used to timber the underground mines and feed the mining furnaces.
Given Carson City’s close association with Mark Twain—a writer known to have spun a tall tale or two—it makes sense that there are a few colorful myths and legends involving the community, including: Carson City’s Prehistoric Human Footprints—In the late 1870s, convicts working at the quarry at the Nevada State Prison began uncovering fossils as well as unusual footprints in the stone. In 1881, Warden William Garrard wrote to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco to request help in determining the source of the footprints. While his letter went unanswered, a year later, W. J. Hanks, sheriff of Storey County and a former prison employee, met with Charles Drayton Gibbes, the academy’s geologist, who agreed to investigate. Gibbes, along with H.W. Harkness and several California University professors, visited the quarry later that year. In a follow up report, Harkness noted that the site was most likely once a pond or lake and that “we see the footprints of a variety of animals, among which we recognize those of the mammoth, the deer, the wolf, of many birds, of a horse, and most important of all, the imprints of the sandaled foot of a man.” The news generated considerable attention as Harkness noted that the human footprints measured 19-inches long, eight inches across, and appeared to indicate a stride of two to three feet—about that of a six-foot man wearing sandals. Other scientists studied the prints and came to different conclusions. Several noted that the prints resembled those of an extinct gigantic ground sloth, which often appeared to walk on two legs because its hind feet fell almost exactly over the prints of it forefeet, which also served to lengthen the size of the print. In 1919, paleontologist Chester Stock, who had aided in the excavation of the Rancho Le Brea asphalt deposits, finally solved the mystery. After studying the tracks, Stock said the Carson City prints were nearly identical to sloth prints found at Rancho Le Brea. Additionally, he examined fossils uncovered at the quarry and found that they included sloth bone fragments. He said this “removes still further the possibility that the Carson footprints are to be attributed to a member of the Hominidae (human race).” Mystery of the Ferris Wheel—One of the most popular stories told in Carson City is how architect George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., who grew up in Carson City, was inspired to invent the Ferris Wheel after recalling the many afternoons he spent watching the large water wheels used by local mines and imagining what it would be like to ride in one of the buckets. Many historians, however, aren’t so sure that this is the case because Ferris himself never cited the water wheels of his youth as his inspiration and instead said he thought up the idea one day while scribbling on a napkin at lunch.
|State Capitol in 1871 photo courtesy Nevada State Museum|
The State Capitol Fence Myth—For many years, a popular legend about the iron fence around Nevada’s State Capitol was that when the construction of the fence was bid, the contract was awarded to a woman, Hannah Keziah Clapp, because the Capitol Commissioners did not recognize her initials, H.K., and believed they were giving the job to a man. That story, however, isn’t true. According to Nevada historian Guy Rocha, in 1875, when the contract was awarded, Carson City had only about 3,200 residents and Hannah Clapp was very well known member of the community. She was a long-time educator, who operated the Sierra Seminary with her partner, Eliza C. Babcock, and had lived in the community for more than 15 years. As additional proof, Rocha notes that the May 4, 1875 Daily Appeal reported “let there be no further complaints about the non-employment of their rights by the women of Nevada. The contract for the furnishing of iron fencing for the Capitol Square has been awarded to Misses Clapp and Babcock, Principals of Sierra Seminary; their bid $5,500 in coin for the delivery of the fencing upon the grounds is the lowest by some hundreds of dollars.”
|White House Hotel photo courtesy Nevada State Museum|
The Great Carson City Stagecoach Robbery—In the 1930s, a story began circulating that sometime in the late 1860s a stage filled with $60,000 in gold bullion was robbed outside of Carson City. According to the story, the stage was traveling from Virginia City to the Carson City Mint when it was stopped a few miles east of Carson City by armed gunmen, who escaped with the gold. A posse quickly formed to hunt the robbers and gave chase. They soon overtook the thieves, killing three in a gun battle, and capturing the fourth, a man said to be named Manuel Gonzales. They didn’t, however, recover the gold. Gonzales was sentenced to 20 years in prison and refused to reveal where the booty had been hidden although he reportedly remarked that he could see the location from his prison cell window. After eight years, Gonzales was granted early release from prison for health reasons. According to the story, a local butcher befriended him and convinced him to lead him to the hidden loot. But just before they could reach it Gonzales had a seizure and died. The treasure is supposedly still buried somewhere near the State Prison. Historian Guy Rocha has researched this tale and traced its roots to a book called “Pots O’Gold,” published in 1935 by former prison warden Matt Penrose. According to Rocha, it’s unlikely that a stagecoach would have been used to transport gold from Virginia City to the Mint in the late 1860s because the Mint didn’t open until 1870, and the Virginia & Truckee Railroad began operating between Virginia City and Carson City that same year. Additionally, Rocha found no mention of such a significant robbery in any newspapers, historical records, or other primary sources of the time. His conclusion? It never happened.
|Robinson Street from the Governor’s Mansion photo courtesy Nevada State Museum|
Carson City’s Ghost Stories—A handful of historic buildings in Carson City have been the subject of colorful tales involving specters and ghosts. One of the best known “haunted” houses is the Governor’s mansion. For many years, staff and overnight guests at the Governor’s mansion at 600 N. Mountain Street have reported seeing and hearing a woman in a long white dress followed by a young girl wandering the second floor. Despite numerous sightings, no one is quite sure of their identity or why they haunt the mansion, although some have speculated that they are former First Lady Una Dickerson and her daughter, June Dickerson, the only child ever born in the house. Additionally, it is said that sometimes when a person stands in front of an antique Grandfather clock on the first floor of the mansion, he or she can feel a mysterious cold air or cold breeze. The Brewery Arts Center is also the subject of ghostly reports. Several visitors to the building have reported that they have felt as if they were being watched or talked to, and heard unexplainable noises. One witness claimed to have seen a man dapperly dressed in a brown checked suit with a vest and yellow tie. The ghost is believed to be James P. Maar, a one-time officer in the local Masonic Lodge (which met for many years in the building) who was in charge of keeping order in the building. It is said that he is always polite and acts like a gentleman. The Edwards House at 204 N. Minnesota St., is another haunted residence that, according to local lore, houses a ghostly housekeeper. In the late 1800s, Mrs. Maria Anderson served as the housekeeper and nanny for the Edward family. It is said that her favorite furnishing was a piano that was shipped around the Cape to Carson City. The piano never needs dusting—even today—because the ghost of Mrs. Anderson continues to keep it clean. Additionally, several people have reported seeing Mrs. Anderson sitting in the home’s big bay windows—like she once loved to do when she was alive. Yet another ghost story involves the Ferris House, boyhood home of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. In the early 1900s, a lavish wedding party was being held in the home. Several guests at the party spoke to a woman dressed in a wedding gown, who was not the bride, near the back gate. The guests later asked the confused father of bride why there were two brides at the wedding. He said there was only one bride despite their claims to having seen a second one. Later, it was discovered that there had been a wedding party in the house years earlier. It is said that the ghost of the first bride returned to watch over the party.
|King St., Carson City photo courtesy Nevada State Museum|
Carson City: Nevada’s Historic Capital City
Carson City prides itself on preserving and celebrating its past—a big reason why the editors of True West magazine recently named it the “Best Western Historical Site.” When visiting Nevada, Carson City is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of Nevada’s rich and colorful history. The city’s origins are closely linked to the creation of the state of Nevada. In 1861, when the Nevada Territory was established, Carson City was named the capital of the territorial government. Three years later, when statehood was bestowed, Carson City was designated the official state capital. Carson City’s first residents, however, were ranchers, not politicians. In 1851, a trading post was established in Eagle Valley, in which Carson City is located, to provide goods and services to travelers visiting Nevada on their way to California. A few years later, Abraham Curry, B.F. Green, J.J. Musser, and Frank Proctor purchased the trading post and most of the surrounding area. The four laid out a town site, which Frank Proctor named after the Carson River, which flows through the area. In 1844, explorer John C. Fremont had named the river in honor of his scout, Kit Carson. Early Carson City was a classic frontier town. Writer Mark Twain, who arrived in the community in August 1861 on a stagecoach, wrote, “visibly our new home was a desert, walled in by barren, snow-clad mountains. There was not a tree in sight. There was no vegetation but the endless sagebrush and greasewood. All nature was gray with it.
|Early Carson City photo courtesy Nevada State Museum|
“By and by Carson City was pointed out to us . . . it was a “wooden” town; its population two thousand souls. The main street consisted of four or five blocks of little white frame stores . . . They were packed close together, side by side, as if room were scarce in that mighty plain. The sidewalk was of boards that were more or less loose and inclined to rattle when walked upon. In the middle of the town was the “plaza” which is native to all towns beyond the Rocky Mountains—a large, unfenced, level vacancy, with a liberty pole in it, and very useful as a place for public auctions, horse trades, and mass meetings, and likewise for teamsters to camp in.” Curry eventually bought out his partners and became an energetic promoter of his community, which prospered as a supply point for miners working in nearby Virginia City. In addition to selling lots and developing a number of businesses, Curry set aside 10-acres of land in the middle of his settlement, which he donated for a state capitol, which was completed in 1871. The gift proved to be worth its weight in silver as Carson City became the state capitol and the center of Nevada state government. As a result dozens of government buildings, many built in the 19th century, have been erected in the city, and state government remains one of the community’s largest employers. In the early 20th century, Carson City was the quintessential small American town. In “Basque Hotel,” writer Robert Laxalt, who grew up in the capitol city in the 1930s, recalled, “The capitol dome was not much of a dome, but then Carson City was after all the smallest capital in the United States. This was drummed into the children of Carson from day one by townspeople and schoolteachers and the Carson City Daily Appeal. The children accepted the boast and repeated it to each other as dutifully as if it were one of the Commandments.” Today, the best way to explore Carson City’s historic sites is with a stroll or drive on the Kit Carson Trail. The 2.5-mile tour, which is marked with a bright blue line, passes more than 60 of the community’s most historic buildings and homes, many constructed in the 1860s and 1870s.
|Lone Mountain Cemetery photo by Bob Custer Wilkie|
Lone Mountain Cemetery Spread over about 40 acres, Lone Mountain Cemetery consists of seven separate cemeteries including sections for Masons, Oddfellows, Catholics, and children. Among those buried in the cemetery are noted stagecoach driver Hank Monk (made famous in Mark Twain’s book, “Roughing It”), Carson City founder Abe Curry; Jennie Clemens (niece of writer Mark Twain and daughter of Orin Clemens, who died in 1864 of spotted fever at the age of nine); and five governors, including, John Henry Kinkead (3rd Governor); Roswell K. Colcord (7th Governor); John Edward Jones (8th Governor); Reinhold Sadler (9th Governor); and Denver S. Dickerson (11th Governor).
|the Stewart Indian School photo courtesy Nevada State Museum|
Stewart Indian School Located on Snyder Avenue at the south end of Carson City is the former campus of the Stewart Indian School. This complex encompasses several dozen buildings, many of which were built with walls of rough-cut, multi-colored native stones imbedded in dark mortar. According to historical reports, the “Stewart Indian School” architecture was a style borrowed in the early 1920s by then-superintendent Frederick Snyder, who had admired a church of similar design in Arizona. The first building of this design (the former Administrative Building) was completed in 1923. Eventually more than 100 buildings utilizing the stone architecture were constructed on the school grounds, most built by stone masons trained at the school. The Stewart Indian School story began in the 1880s when Nevada’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, C.S. Young, recommended to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Nevada State Legislature that an Indian industrial school be established because most of the state’s Native Americans were not being formally educated. The Nevada State Legislature passed legislation in 1887 that established an Indian school and authorized the issuing of bonds for the facility, provided the federal government agreed to operate the school. Nevada’s U.S. Senator William Stewart guided the appropriate federal legislation to approval, including congressional funding, and the Clear Creek Indian Training School, as it was originally known, was built by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on 240 acres. Later, the school was named for Senator Stewart (it was called a number of names over the years, including the Carson Indian School, the Stewart Institute and, finally, the Stewart Indian School) and officially opened on December 17, 1890. The school was operated much like a military school in its first decades. Historic photos show that students wore military-style uniforms. Academic classes consumed about half of each day, followed by vocational training in such skills as sewing, shoe and harnessmaking, blacksmithing, carpentry, printing and other work. Beginning in the 1890s, the Stewart athletic teams played a variety of sports, including football, track, basketball, boxing and baseball. While relatively small in size, the school won several state championships. In addition to educating Nevada’s Native Americans (who were actually a minority of those who ever attended the school), the Stewart facility housed Native Americans from throughout the country. In fact, in the late 1940s, the school became part of a special program for Navajos and by the mid-1950s, most of the students were of Navajo descent. The school was finally closed in 1980, after the federal government decided to phase out Indian boarding schools. The land was sold to the state of Nevada, which converted many of the structures into state offices.
MUSEUMS & HISTORIC EXHIBITS For a community its size, Carson City boasts a relatively large number of museums and historic exhibits, including:
|The Nevada State Museum photo by Scott Schrantz|
The Nevada State Museum Built in 1866 of native sandstone quarried by inmate crews at the Nevada State Prison, the structure that now houses the Nevada State Museum originally served as a U.S. Mint. From 1870 to 1893, the Mint produced more than $50 million in coins, most minted from Comstock silver. Today, the museum contains displays describing Nevada’s rich past and fascinating natural history. For example, the museum’s natural history section spotlights many of the plants and animals indigenous to Nevada. Species on display range from the rare cui-ui fish to the mountain bluebird (the state bird). The museum’s Native American section is highlighted by a large collection of handmade baskets crafted by Dat-So-La-Lee, the famed Washoe basket maker renowned for her meticulous handiwork. In other parts of the museum, visitors will find a large display of minerals, ranging from unique opals and gems to various crystal and quartz stones, as well as the reconstructed skeleton of one of the largest mammoths ever found in North America. The massive beast, which lived 17,000 years ago, stands 13-feet high at the shoulder and is posed in a simulated mud bog next to the bones of a 25,000-year-old horse. One of the most popular sections of the museum is its life-style replica of a typical Nevada ghost town. The mock mining camp contains all of the standard ghost town buildings—the newspaper office, the assay office, the general store and, of course, the saloon—constructed from weathered and worn wood. An automated old prospector and his mule serve as your guide in describing each building and the lifecycle of a 19th century Nevada mining camp. From the ghost town, you can take another interesting journey into the past at the museum’s reconstruction of a 19th century mine, located in the museum’s basement. Along the way, you can find out about the importance of Deidesheimer square-set mine timbering and why mining was such a dangerous profession a century ago. The museum’s gift shop is a warehouse of Nevada-related souvenirs, books and other items. Wandering around the shop, you can find anything from gold panning kits to Nevada flags. Location: 600 North Carson Street (Hwy. 395) corner of Robinson Street Phone: (775) 687-4810 Hours: Wednesday through Saturday 8:30am-4:30pm, closed Sunday, Monday, Tues. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Price: Adults $8.00, free for children 17 and under and museum members. Website: nevadaculture.org
|The Nevada State Railroad Museum photo by James Butler|
The Nevada State Railroad Museum Devoted to the history of Nevada’s railroads, the state museum’s primary focus is on the historic Virginia & Truckee (V&T) Railroad. The bulk of the museum’s collection of more than 60 locomotives and cars were once part of the V&T Railroad. In the 1970s, the state of Nevada purchased the pieces from Paramount Studios, which had used them in many motion pictures and television programs. The movie company acquired the rolling stock in 1937, when the V&T was experiencing financial difficulties. Today, visitors can view meticulously restored rail equipment that helps to tell the state’s rich railroad history. Inside the main museum building is the Inyo, a wood-burning Baldwin locomotive that was built in 1875, as well as V&T Caboose No. 9, built in 1873; Coach No. 4, the oldest piece of V&T equipment in the museum, constructed in 1872; and the Dayton, a shiny locomotive built in 1873 at the Central Pacific Railroad yards in Sacramento. Near the front of the museum, visitors will find the restored Wabuska Depot as well as a typical railroad worker’s cottage, and a reproduction of a square, bat-and-board style water tower, a type that was used in the 19th century. On summer weekends, rides are offered on tracks that encircle the museum buildings. Additionally, on selected dates, such as July 4th and Labor Day, the museum steams up some of the vintage locomotives for brief rides. Visitors shouldn’t overlook the museum gift shop, which has a large selection of railroad books, videos, posters, shirts, and other rail-themed gift items. Location: 2180 South Carson Street (US 395) at Fairview Drive, near the south end of Carson City Phone: (775) 687-6953 Hours: Friday through Monday 8:30am-4:30pm, closed Tues, Wed. & Thurs Price: Adults $5, Children 17 younger Free Websites: museums.nevadaculture.org Friends of the Museum website: nsrm-friends.org
|The Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada|
|The Nevada State Library and Archives photo by Martin R. Kalfatovic|
The Nevada State Library and Archives Nevada’s State Constitution is on display in the State Library and Archives building, which is directly east of the State Capitol. There, visitors can find an informative, multimedia display featuring the original, handwritten pages of the document, which was drafted during the constitution convention of 1864. Adjacent to the Constitution exhibit is a changing gallery that often features the work of Nevada artists and photographers. Location: 100 North Stewart Street Phone: (775) 684-3360 Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8am-5pm Price: No charge For more Museums located in Carson City click here
Carson City has served as one of the state’s centers for politics and business. Carson City has also played host to a number of fascinating historical figures including: Duane L. Bliss Kit Carson Hannah Clapp Abraham Curry Dat so la lee G.W. Gale Ferris Jr Laxalt Family Hank Monk Olcovich Family Mark Twain Sara Winnemucca
Dates & Events
The History of Nevada – Dates and Events
1844 Explorer John C. Fremont travels through Western Nevada, including the future site of Carson City. He names the river flowing through the valley, the Carson River, after his scout, Kit Carson.
1851 Frank and Joseph Barnard, George Follensbee, Frank and W.L. Hall, and A.J. Rollins open a trading post at what today is the intersection of Thompson and Fifth streets. It is called “Eagle Station.”
1854 Admitted as part of Utah Territory.
1858 Abraham Curry, John J. Musser, Franklin Proctor, and Benjamin F. Green purchase 865 acres in Eagle Valley for $500 and a herd of horses. The four soon begin laying out a community, which Proctor names Carson City.
1861 Nevada Territory is created and Carson City is designated the territorial capital.
1864 Nevada gains statehood on October 31 and Carson City is selected as the state capital. Now a state holiday.
1871 The State Capitol building is completed.
1875 Carson City, Nevada is formally incorporated.
1897 World heavyweight championship fight between James “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and Australian Robert Fitzsimmons held in Carson City.
1909 The Governor’s Mansion, located on the corner of Mountain and Caroline Streets, was completed.
1910 The first air flight in Nevada took place in Carson City on June 23, 1910. A Curtis biplane climbed 50 feet and traveled a distance of about a half mile in a field about three miles north of Carson City. 1911 A several-mile stretch of Carson Street is surfaced making it Carson City’s first paved road.
1919 The first trans-Sierra airplane flight landed in Carson City, Nevada on March 22, 1919. Three DeHavilands and a Curtis trainer landed in a field three miles east of Carson City. The flyers, who started at Mather Field in Sacramento, were welcomed by Governor Emmet Boyle, who flew with them on their return flight—making him the first civilian to cross the Sierra by airplane.
1941 C.B. Austin became the first elected mayor of Carson City, Nevada.
1950 The last train of the original Virginia & Truckee Railroad completes its run from Reno to Minden.
1969 The Nevada State Legislature approved the consolidation of Ormsby County and Carson City into the state’s only combined city-county government.
1971 The 96,000 square-foot State Legislative Building was completed. It was expanded in 1997.
1986 Great Basin National Park, the only national park in the state, was created. It includes the area around Wheeler Peak and Lehman Caves in eastern Nevada.
First Settlement | A friendly debate exists between the towns of Dayton and Genoa, both near Carson City, and both settled in 1851. Dayton is the site of the first gold discovery in 1849.
Name | Adopted in 1861 when territory was established; from Spanish meaning “snow-capped.”
State Capital | Carson City, selected 1864.
State Flag | On a cobalt blue background; in the upper left quarter is a five-pointed silver star between two sprays of sagebrush crossed to form a half wreath; across the top of the wreath is a golden scroll with the words, in black letters, “Battle Born.” The name “Nevada” is beneath the star in gold letters. Design adopted March 26, 1929, revised in 1991.
State Seal | Adopted February 24, 1886. The seal has the words “The Great Seal of the State of Nevada” around the outer edge. Within this, is a composite picture showing the mining, agriculture, industry and scenery of Nevada, under which is the state motto, “All For Our Country.”
State Animal | The Desert Bighorn (or Nelson) Sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) is smaller than its Rocky Mountain cousin but has a wider spread of horns. The bighorn is well-suited for Nevada’s mountainous desert country because it can survive for long periods without water. The large rams stand about 4-1/2 feet tall and can weigh as much as 175 pounds.
State Artifact | The Tule Duck was created by early Nevadans almost 2,000 years ago. Discovered by archeologists in 1924 during an excavation at Lovelock Cave, the 11 decoys are each formed of a bundle of bullrush (tule) stems, bound together and shaped to resemble a canvasback duck.
State Bird | The Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) lives in the Nevada high country and destroys many harmful insects. It is a member of the thrush family and its song is a clear, short warble like the caroling of a robin. The male is azure blue with a white belly, while the female is brown with a bluish rump, tail, and wings.
State Colors | Silver and Blue
State Fish | The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (Salmo clarki henshawi), a native trout found in 14 of the state’s 17 counties, is adapted to habitats ranging from high mountain creeks and alpine lakes to warm, intermittent lowland streams and alkaline lakes where no other trout can live.
State Flower | Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) grows abundantly in the deserts of the Western United States. A member of the wormwood family, sagebrush is a branching bush (1 to 12 feet high) and grows in regions where other kinds of vegetation cannot subsist. Known for its pleasant aroma, its gray-green twigs, and pale yellow flowers, sagebrush is an important winter food for sheep and cattle.
State Fossil | The Ichthyosaur (Shonisaurus) fossil was found in Berlin, east of Gabbs. Nevada is the only state to possess a complete skeleton (approximately 55 feet long) of this extinct marine reptile.
State Grass | Indian Ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides), once a staple food source for Nevada Indians, now provides valuable feed for wildlife and range livestock. This tough native grass, which is found throughout the state, is known for its ability to reseed and establish itself on sites damaged by fire or over grazing.
State Metal | Silver
State Motto | “All For Our Country”
State Precious Gemstone | Among the many gemstones found in Nevada, the Virgin Valley Black Fire Opal is one of the most beautiful. The Virgin Valley in northern Nevada is the only place in North America where the Black Fire Opal is found in any significant quantity.
State Semi-precious Gemstone | Nevada Turquoise, sometimes called the “Jewel of the Desert,” is found in many parts of the state.
State Reptile | The Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), the largest reptile in the Southwestern United States, lives in the extreme southern parts of Nevada. Its hard, dome-shaped shell ranges from tan to black in color. This reptile spends much of its life in underground burrows to escape the harsh summer heat and winter cold. The desert tortoise can live to be more than 70 years old.
State Rock | Sandstone, in its more traditionally recognized form or as quartzite, is found throughout the state. In areas such as the Valley of Fire State Park and Red Rock Canyon Recreational Lands, both near Las Vegas, it provides some of Nevada’s most spectacular scenery. The State Capitol, and the former United States Mint, are built of sandstone.
State Song | “Home Means Nevada,” by Mrs. Bertha Raffetto of Reno, adopted February 6, 1933. “Home” means Nevada, “Home” means the hills, “Home” means the sage and the pines. Out by the Truckee’s silvery rills. Out where the sun always shines. There is a land that l love the best, Fairer than all I can see. Right in the heart of the golden west, “Home” means Nevada to me.
State Trees | The Single-Leaf Piñon (Pinus monophylla) is an aromatic pine tree with short, stiff needles and gnarled branches. The tree grows in coarse, rocky soils and rock crevices. Though its normal height is about 15 feet, the single-leaf piñon can grow as high as 50 feet under ideal conditions. The Bristlecone Pine (Pinus aristata) shares the state tree designation. The bristlecone pine is the oldest living thing on Earth, with some specimens in Nevada more than 4,000 years of age. The tree can be found at high elevations. Normal height for older trees is about 15 to 30 feet, although some have attained a height of 60 feet. Diameter growth continues throughout the long life of the tree, resulting in massive trunks with a few contorted limbs.
Did You Know? • The combined city/county of Carson City is 146.9 square miles. • The elevation of Carson City is 4,697 feet above sea level. • Carson City is the only combined city-county government in Nevada. • The population of Carson City is 56,146 (2004 estimate, State of Nevada Demographer) • The tallest point in Carson City limits is Snow Peak in the Sierra Nevada range, which rises 9,274 feet. • Carson City’s first newspaper was the Territorial Enterprise, which had been started in 1858 in Genoa, then moved to Carson City a year later. In 1860, it moved to Virginia City, where it gained its greatest fame. • Carson City’s first telephone line was strung in 1888. • Carson City has an average yearly rainfall of 11.8 inches. • Carson City has an average of 266 days of sunshine each year. • The highest recorded temperature in Carson City was 103 degrees, reached on August 8, 1972. • The lowest recorded temperature in Carson City was minus 18 degrees, reached on December 11, 1972. • Major William Ormsby opened Carson City’s first commercial store in 1858.
Movies Made in Carson City Historians believe that the first film shot in Carson City was footage of the “Gentleman” Jim Corbett vs. Bob Fitzsimmons prizefight in March 1897. During the next century, more than a dozen other movies have been at least partially filmed in the Capital City, including the following:
- A Little Journey Through Nevada (1918)—Silent movie documentary includes a tour of historic sites in Carson City. The movie was made to promote Reno and Northern Nevada.
- Desperate Trails (1921)—Silent movie about an innocent convict who seeks revenge on those who sent him to jail starred Harry Carey. Exteriors of the Nevada State Prison appeared in the film.
- Pioneer Days of the West (1921)—Documentary about Northern Nevada included a historic tour of Virginia City and Carson City with a ride on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad.
- The Remarkable Andrew (1942)—Comedy about an accountant accused of embezzling who is aided by the ghost of Andrew Jackson starred William Holden. Filming took place in the Laxalt Building (Old Federal Building), the Rinckle House at 102 Curry St., and many other Carson City homes and businesses.
- Chicken Every Sunday (1949)—This comedy about a woman looking back on her 20 years of marriage to an inept but loveable husband starred Celeste Holm and Dan Dailey. The south entrance to the State Capitol was used in the film.
- Roar of the Iron Horse (1950)—Western about sabotage during the construction of a rail line through the west starred Jock Mahoney. The Virginia and Truckee Railroad’s routes in Carson City and Brunswick Canyon appeared in the movie.
- State Penitentiary (1950)—Drama about a businessman mistakingly accused of embezzling starred Warner Baxter. Filmed at the Nevada State Prison.
- Train to Tombstone (1950)—Western about a train robbery starred Don Barry and Robert Lowery. The Virginia and Truckee Railroad line in Carson City was used during filming.
- Deathwatch (1966)—Historical film about a 1930s French prison starred Leonard Nimoy. The Nevada State Prison doubled as the French prison.
- A Howling in the Woods (1971)—This made-for-television mystery about a woman haunted by strange noises was filmed in Genoa, Dayton, Glenbrook, and Carson City and starred Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman.
- The Shootist (1976)—Classic western that was John Wayne’s last movie was filmed in Carson City’s historic district.
- Flesh and Blood (1979)—Film about an ex-con who becomes a professional boxer starred Tom Berenger. Exteriors of the Nevada State Prison were used in the movie.
- Honkytonk Man (1982)—This drama about an aging country singer dying of TB starred Clint Eastwood and his son, Kyle. The Brewery Arts Center was transformed into a nightclub for the film.
- An Innocent Man (1989)—This drama about an innocent man framed by corrupt cops who seeks revenue when he is paroled from prison starred Tom Selleck. The Nevada State Prison was used extensively in the filming.
- Pink Cadillac (1989)—This action/comedy about a good-hearted bounty hunter starred Clint Eastwood and Bernadette Peters. Fuji Park in Carson City was used for some of the filming.
- Misery (1990)—This horror film about an obsessed fan that kidnaps a famous writer starred James Caan and Kathy Bates. Portions of the picture were filmed on Old U.S. 50 (Clear Creek Road) in Carson City.
- Sworn to Vengeance (1993)—Drama about a policeman seeking vengeance for the murder of three teens starred Robert Conrad. Parts of the movie were filmed at the State Capitol and other sites in Carson City.
- Cobb (1994)—This biopic about Baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, who once lived at Lake Tahoe, starred Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Wuhl.
- Showgirls (1995)—Drama about an ambitious exotic dancer determined to succeed as a Las Vegas showgirl starred Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan. Several scenes were filmed in Carson City.
- Trail of Tears (1995)—Drama about two women seeking the return of their kidnapped children starred Katy Sagal and Pam Dawber. Much of the film was shot in Northern Nevada including Carson City.
When visiting Nevada, you may notice historical markers throughout the state. Placed by the State Historic Preservation Office in Carson City, there are historic markers throughout the state. These provide a look into the history of Nevada, including information about historic sites and happenings.
They stand in tribute to the men and women who braved the elements, suffered lack of water and food and dealt with rough terrain to follow a dream of exploration and adventure. Throughout the history of Nevada, some of the explorers stayed, some did not – but all left a legacy to future Nevada generations of an adventuresome, independent attitude and spirit. The historic markers provide people who are visiting Nevada with a sense of the times, the vast distance involved within the states and the difficult conditions endured by the citizens. Nevada Historic Marker Guides are available from the State Historic Preservation Office on the second floor of the State Library and Archives Building, 100 Stewart St., and at the CCCVB Visitors’ Center, 716 N. Carson St., Carson City. To receive a brochure with a listing of Nevada’s historical markers, call the Nevada Commission on Tourism at 1-800-NEVADA-8
Completed in 1871, Nevada’s splendid Victorian capitol was built of sandstone from the quarry of the town’s founder, Abe Curry. The octagon annex was added in 1907, the north and south wings in 1915. Notable features are its Alaskan marble walls, French crystal windows, and elegant interior.
Built by Duane L. Bliss, lumber and railroad magnate, in 1879, this was in its time the most modern and largest home in Nevada. It was the first home in Nevada entirely piped for gas lighting, and was built entirely of clear wood.
The Nevada Orphan’s Asylum, a privately funded institution, was opened in Virginia City in May, 1867, by Sister Frederica McGrath and two other nuns of the Sisters of Charity. By 1870, most of its functions were taken over by the Nevada Orphans’ Home at Carson City, authorized in 1869 by the Legislature and constructed on this site. The first child was admitted October 28, 1870.In 1903, the first building gave way to a larger one, constructed of sandstone from the state prison quarry east of Carson City. This edifice, a Carson City landmark, served until 1963 as Nevada’s home for dependent and neglected children. In the 1940’s, its name was changed to the Nevada State Children’s Home. During the 1950’s, the name “Sunny Acres” was also used. The stone building was in turn replaced in 1963, in accordance with the modern concept of family- sized groups housed in cottages.
One of several buildings of identical architecture built throughout the country during the Victorian period. It is now the last structure of its type standing west of the Mississippi River. The cornerstone was laid on September 29, 1888, and the building was first occupied in 1890. Judge Thomas P. Hawley directed the cornerstone laying and became the first United States District Judge to preside here. Bruce R. Thompson was the last judge to preside in Carson City. The court was moved to Reno, August, 1965. Sylvester H. Day was the first postmaster and W.E. (Bill) Dunfield the last when the post office was moved September, 1970. The building became the State Library in September, 1972. The Carson Opera House formerly occupied this site.
“Myriads of stars shine over the graves of our ancestors.” Dat-So-La-Lee had seen some 95 winters, mostly in Carson Valley, when death came in 1925.She was the last of those Washo weavers whose ancient art had been practiced by countless generations. Gathering willow, fern, and birch with the aid of her husband, she wove into her masterpieces the legends of her people and their love of nature. Her baskets are unsurpassed for artistic conception and symbolic importance. She is buried in the adjoining cemetery, yet her memories and her visions are so woven into her baskets that she will live on to remind us of the history and unique tribal artistry of her people.
The original Carson City building is a formal balanced, sandstone block edifice, two stories high with a centrally located cupola. The sandstone blocks were quarried at the Nevada State Prison.On March 3, 1862, Congress passed a bill establishing a branch mint in the territory of Nevada. The output of the Comstock Lode coupled with the high bullion transportation costs to San Francisco proved the necessity of a branch in Nevada. From its opening in 1870 to the closing of the coin operations in 1893, coinage amounted to $49,274,434.30.
Nevada has 253 Historical Markers. For complete information visit the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs Web site.