November 7, 2005
Nevada's Online State News Journal
ORMSBY COUNTY 973
BY SAM P. DAVIS.
[From The History of Nevada, edited by Sam P. Davis, vol. II (1912)]
Geographically, Ormsby is the smallest county in the state. It was named after Major William M. Ormsby, who was one of its pioneers and prominent citizens, and who met his death at the battle of Pyramid Lake, where the force under his command was defeated by the Indians.
By an act of the Territorial Legislature, approved November 25th, 1861, the boundaries of the county were defined as follows :
Beginning at the northeastern corner of Douglas County, and running in an easterly direction along the northern boundary thereof to a point where it crosses El Dorado Canyon ; thence down the center of said canyon to a point there on due east of Brown and Cos dam, on Carson river ; thence in a westerly direction, crossing Carson river at said dam ; thence to the Half-Way House, between Carson and Silver City ; thence northwesterly to the summit of the mountains east of Washoe Lake; thence in a westerly course along said summit to the tops of the Sierras ; thence due west to the California line to the place of beginning.
It is bounded on the north by Washoe and Lyon counties, on the east by Lyon, on the south by Douglas, and on the west by Placer County, California. The total area of the county is 172 square miles, and twenty-seven of these are under water, being a portion of Lake Tahoe. Nearly one hundred square miles are covered with picturesque mountains and the rest is valley land of great richness, capable of producing all kinds of fruits, grain and vegetables.
At the west the Sierra Nevada range, whose peaks are sometimes covered with snow until late in autumn, rising to an altitude of eight thousand feet above the sea. These mountains were originally covered with dense growths of pines and cedars. But of late years they have been denuded by the lumberman's axe. Square miles of these forests
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were cut down to supply timber for the mines of the Comstock. Happily for the interests of the country a second growth of pine is appearing on the slopes of the mountains and being protected by law, and at some future day the forest glories of the past will be restored.
The Pine Nut Mountains are at the south and east, and so named from their growth of the Nut-Pine, but they have also been denuded of their forest growth to supply the needs of an advancing civilization.
Once a thing of beauty, they are now bare and unattractive. Gold has been found in both these ranges. In the early days the Pine-Nut range was the home of cattle rustlers and bandits and many a skeleton has been discovered there which tells of robbery and murder and crimes whose mysteries will never be solved.
After entering Ormsby County the valley of the Carson widens. It is covered with prosperous farms and abounds in beautiful scenery. It is known as Eagle Valley, and has an area of about twenty-five square miles.
The altitude of the Valley at Carson City is 4,015 feet above the sea. The Carson river runs about eighteen miles through the county. It has a variable flow. In the spring its swollen torrents sometimes sweep away its bridges and in the fall it dwindles down to a mere brook, not more than a foot in depth. Clear Creek is a mountain torrent in the spring from the melting mountain snows, and after a short course runs into the Carson. Mill Creek is a still smaller stream and there is another in El Dorado Canyon. These streams constitute the water courses of Ormsby County.
In addition to these are three hot-springs which burst out of the ground with water hot enough to boil an egg. One is at the States Prison, one just at the southern edge of the County, and the other, more commonly known as Shaw's Springs, is about three miles northeast of Carson and has been a public resort for many years. The waters, are highly mineralized and medicinal and known for their curative qualities all over the Coast.
Prior to being Ormsby County it was known as the County of Carson, having been so named by an act of the Territorial Legislature January 17th, 1852. At that time it was a part of the Territory of Utah. The history of Ormsby County becomes almost entirely the early history of the State.
ORMSBY COUNTY 975
Carson City, the county seat and also the Capitol city of the State, took its name from that picturesque character, Kit Carson, a hunter, trapper, explorer and venturesome frontiersman who entered the county by way of the river which also bears his name.
The first people to make a permanent stay in what is now Carson City were Joseph and Frank Barnard, Frank and W. L. Hall, A. J. Rollins and George Follensbye. They were gold-hunters, and came from the placer mines of California. Realizing that the country offered advantages for trading and agriculture they set up a station at that point. This was in Nov., 1851. Having killed an eagle they stuffed the bird and placed it over the front of the station as a sign and this gave the name of Eagle Valley to the surrounding country. The section they had selected was without a name or a government and a part of Utah.
The Legislature that created the county of Ormsby selected as its first Commissioners F. A. Tritle, J. S. Albro and H. F. Rice. The Commissioners held their first meeting Dec. 24th, 1861, with Rice acting as Chairman. Acting under the general statutes they organized the first election precincts designated as follows :
No. 1 Carson City at Ormsby House.
No. 2 Empire City at Kinney 's Hotel.
No. 3 Clear Creek at Haskell's Saw Mill.
No. 4. at Half Way House.
The following were appointed as Judges of Election : Polls No. 1—W. G. Bingham, W. D. Torreyson and Seymore Pixley ; Polls No. 2-- Kinney, Abe Jones and D. C. Clark ; Polls No. 3—H. G. Haskell, R. Walton and Charles Jones ; Polls No. 4—W. F. Bryant, H. Howell and George Pringle.
The first election was held on January 14, 1862, at which time nearly 1,000 votes were cast. To illustrate the interest taken in the election there were fourteen candidates for the office of Justice of the Peace. The following officers were elected : D. J. Gasherie, Sheriff ; Parker H. Pierce, Clerk ; W. D. Torreyson, Treasurer; A. H. Pierson, Assessor ; S. D. King, Recorder ; Rev. A. F. White, Superintendent of Schools ; J. S. Lawson, Surveyor.
On Sept. 3rd of the same year Gavin D. Hall and J. C. Lewis were elected to represent Ormsby County in the State Senate and Abram
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Curry, A. D. Treadway and W. H. Brumfield went to the lower house. Carson City had been made the location of the Capitol in 1861, and there being no suitable building in which to meet, the County Commissioners had tendered the State the use of a building where the State's Prison now stands.
Storey and Lyon County were at the same time in competition for the prize, but the offer of Ormsby to furnish the building free of charge had its effect. In 1864 an attempt was made to remove the Capital to Storey. A company organized with considerable capital laid out a town on the flat below Gold Hill and named the place American City. They next offered the territory a bonus of $50,000 for the State Capital. This created quite a stir and the main reason advanced for the change of location was that Ormsby County had broken faith with the people of the territory in offering a building for the meeting of the Legislature free of charge and then asking a rental of $4,500 per session for its use. Such a storm was raised over the matter that E. B. Rail, Wellington Stewart and other citizens of Ormsby called upon their County Commissioners to resign. The request was specially addressed to Adolphus Waitz, the Chairman of the Board. The correspondence between Waitz, and the citizens who sought his resignation, was very bitter, and some lively personalities were indulged in. The matter was before the Legislature and charges were made of the use of money to keep the Capital at Carson. During the debate the editor of the Carson Post stated editorially that he had personally collected some of the money used to buy votes and threatened to expose any one else who did likewise.
This was the first attempt to remove the Capital from Carson City, but it was by no means the last. Storey County continued to hanker after the prize and some years after the State Capital was built there was an odd impromptu attempt to take it to Virginia City, which nearly succeeded.
One night Joseph T. Goodman, Rollin Daggett, publishers of the Territorial Enterprise, were out painting the town with Jonas Seeley, a prominent attorney. They finally hired a hack and when the driver asked them where they wished to go they were at first at a loss to reply, as they had imbibed considerable liquor and were careless as to their destination. Finally Daggett suggested a ride to Carson City.
ORMSBY COUNTY 977
It was then midnight and the driver of the hack demanded fifty dollars for the trip, which was at once paid. On the way down Seeley ventured to ask Daggett what they were going to Carson for and the latter sleepily replied : "We are going down there to remove the Capital to Virginia City." This struck all hands as a good and sufficient reason for the trip, and so it was agreed.
Arriving early in the morning they took a short rest and rising about nine o'clock, they invaded the halls of legislation and announced their mission. They had money to burn and soon champagne was flowing freely in every saloon in Carson. They invaded the Governor's office with baskets of wine and the same afternoon a bill was introduced in the Assembly providing for the removal of the Capital from Carson City to Virginia City. It passed the Assembly with a whoop and went in due course to the Senate. Goodman, who had great influence with Abraham Curry, secured the promise of his vote in the Senate for the removal bill. With Curry's vote they could pass the bill and the citizens of Carson gave up the fight when they counted noses in the Senate.
But a strange thing happened which saved the day for Ormsby. The night before the vote was to be taken Goodman and Curry were walking in from the Hot Springs, and as they neared the edge of town Goodman noticed that Curry was in tears. When asked for the reason of his emotion Curry replied that the Capital building was his architectural child. The idea of its removal had preyed upon his feelings and he desired to be released from his promise to vote for Goodman's bill. Curry broke down completely when he asked for a release from his promise and Goodman, who was a man of fine sentiment, replied : "Abe, I respect your sentiments and release you. I had rather lose this fight than trample on your feelings."
Next day the Virginia City delegates were still celebrating what they regarded as a sure victory, but when the vote was taken in the Senate it was one short and Carson won. Goodman explained to his associates why he had released Curry from his promise and Curry was never afterward blamed for it. Years afterward Reno made several attempts to secure the Capital and used the threat of removal as a lever to secure favorable legislation for Washoe County.
More recently, Winnemucca made a fight for it and Senator Bell
978 THE HISTORY OF NEVADA
led the battle. He passed a bill in the Senate to submit it to a vote of the people, but it failed in the House, and in the last session of the Legislature the matter of the Capital's location was settled for all time by the passage of a bill introduced by H. R. Mighels, an Assemblyman for Ormsby, providing for a $60,000 addition to the Capital building. This bill passed readily, as the repeated efforts to move the seat of State government was becoming generally obnoxious to the taxpayers of the State, who were in no humor to foot the bills which would result from such a course.
THE EARLY PIONEERS.
Of all the early pioneers of Ormsby County the name of Abram Curry stands most prominent. He came over the Sierras in 1858 from California and planned to settle in Genoa. The place was then known as Mormontown, and Curry planned to buy some lots and speculate. The people with whom he attempted to do business were not easy as to terms and Curry regarded their price as too high. They wanted $1,000 cash in hand for a corner lot and would consent to no reduction. After they had coldly refused to reduce a single dollar in their price Curry mounted his horse, remarking:
"I will go farther down the valley and start a town of my own." Next day he was in Eagle Valley to redeem his promise. Joined by B. F. Green, Frank M. Proctor and J. J. Musser, companions who had crossed the mountains with him, he bought a ranch of Mr. Mankin. Its eastern limits were the Warm Springs and States Prison grounds and its western boundaries extended to where Minnesota street now is. Curry and his companions paid Mankin $500 down and some horses and mustangs for the ranch. Mankin had numerous creditors who were on his trail as soon as they heard of the sale, but he got away in the night on a grey stallion with his children and an Indian boy. He had an old standing trouble with the Piute Indians of the section and claimed to have killed fifty of them. He had a very hard reputation at the time and was a rough, illiterate man who was always quarreling with his neighbors. He was an athlete and foot-racer, a crack rifle-shot, and generally regarded as a dangerous man to have in a community. All in all, the citizens of Eagle Valley were glad to know that he had left the country for good.
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In Sept., 1858, Curry laid out the town site of Carson. The population of the valley was so scant at the time that all of them gathered at a dance would not occupy more than three sets.
Carson City soon became a sort of central station for travelers, speculators and prospectors. The Eagle Ranch, as it is called, became a general trading post. Many emigrant trains from the east went by this route in the early days. Stock were driven over that trail until 1857 the grass had been entirely eaten up by the roots and the tide of travel passed over other routes.
Among the early settlers of Carson were J. T. Griffith and Dr. B. L. King, after whom Kings Canyon was named. He came in '52 and ran a public resort where the Carson Brewery now stands. Richard Rose soon followed and Rose Canyon bears his name. Major Ormsby came in '57 and gave the county its name. S. A. Nevers is credited with having erected the first dwelling house in Carson City. Henry Fulstone arrived in '58 with his family. Also John Bath, Aaron Treadway, Warren Wasson, Samuel Nevers, W. D. Torreyson, H. H. Bence and Sam Wright were among the first comers. Wright was an undertaker, soon became a political boss and was finally appointed to be Superintendent of the U. S. Mint.
Saw Mills.—Teaming, mining and logging were the first industries of Ormsby County, with some tendency to agriculture. Timber cut in the Sierras was floated down the Carson River and piled up at Empire. "Dutch Nick" was about the earliest settler in Empire and when Mark Twain wanted to hoax the San Francisco papers he wrote a harrowing account of a man who killed a number of people in Virginia City and then mounted a horse, ran for miles through a forest between Comstock and Empire and dropped off his horse in front of "Dutch Nick's" with his throat cut from ear to ear. The whole affair was a pure invention on Twain's part, and as there was not a tree higher than a man between Empire and Virginia City, the forest section of the yarn was considered the worst part of the story. Empire City became known as "the seaport town" because of the water that laved its shores and sometimes washed its streets in the spring floods.
980 THE HISTORY OF NEVADA
The first saw-mill was built by Mr. Gregory on Mill Creek west of Carson in '59. It was the first steam-power ever used in the State. The heavy machinery was transported at great expense over the mountains. The mill was run to a capacity of 15,000 feet a day on advance orders. Customers waited weeks for a chance to get their timber turned into lumber. Alexander Ashe erected the next mill on the same creek run by water-power. Thompson and Treadwell erected another mill about a mile from Gregory's and of equal capacity. It also manufactured shingles and with a planing machine prepared dressed lumber for building purposes. The price per 1,000 feet of lumber ran as high as $200 and was readily paid. These figures lured other men into the business and soon lumber and planing mills began to multiply along the Creek.
In 1862 there were three on Clear Creek southwest of Carson, costing over $10,000 apiece. They turned out from 15,000 to 30,000 feet daily. Next the Lake Bigler Lumber Co. went into business at Lake Tahoe. The company was managed by A. L. Pray, C. R. Barrett and N. D. Winters. The Monitor Mill was erected in Kings Canyon in '63. Steve Gage, who was afterward largely identified with the S. P. R. R. Co. as a lobbyist and tax-man, had a mill on Clear Creek. In 1862 Hobbs, Russel and Co. built a saw-mill near Empire at a cost of $20,000. The Legislature granted this company an exclusive franchise for using the Carson River for rafting logs, firewood and lumber. The timber sawed at this mill came from Alpine County, California, eighty miles away. It required about forty days to make the drive down the river. Upward of 5,000,000 feet of lumber were handled this way annually.
Yerington and Bliss in later years almost monopolized the lumber industry of the country. They had their large mills at Glenbrook and rafted most of the timber across the lake. The profits of the lumber business was so enormous in those days that much wanton destruction of timber was the rule and large tracts of forest lands were, devastated to swell the fortunes of the lumbermen.
Mining and Milling.—With the development of mining on the Comstock came the need of mills to handle the rich ore. The first ore extracted from the Ophir and Mexican mines at Virginia City was carried on the backs of mules across the mountains to Grass Valley
ORMSBY COUNTY 981
and San Francisco. It is recorded that one mule packed $2,000 worth of ore on his back from Virginia City to San Francisco. But there was plenty of ore in the mines that could not stand these costly transportations and the water-power on the Carson River seemed to offer the best solution of the problem.
A small mill was constructed on the Carson River near Empire. This was in the spring of '60 and the mill was subsequently enlarged to the Mexican Mill, or the Silver State Reduction Works. In '61 a small mill for reducing ore was built on Clear Creek and in the same year Mr. Ashe built a mill in Gregory Canyon which was afterward called Ashe Canyon. The mill was wiped out by a flood in the winter of 61-62. A ten-stamp mill was then erected by Childs and Hunt on Mill Creek. The main mill for reducing Comstock ores was the Mexican mill after it was enlarged. Its motive power was water brought four and a half miles in a ditch having a capacity of 4,000 cubic feet per minute. The breast wheel was 28 feet in diameter, the largest on the coast, and furnished 200 h. p. The fall of the water was 22 feet and it ran 44 stamps, crushing 75 tons of ore daily, double the amount of any mill then operating in the territory. Later on the same mill was run by a turbine wheel and handled 120 tons daily.
Many years later a suit was brought by Fox et al, charging that the mill was so operated that about 50 per cent. of the values ran off into the slum pond, to be diverted from the stockholders and later to be grabbed by the management. This suit was tried before Judge Hebberd in San Francisco and the revelations caused a great scandal at the time. Meads' Mill was located near Empire and ran sixteen stamps. In '62 the Merrimac Mill was built by Bryant and Elsworth two miles below Empire at a cost of $50,000.
One mile further down the Copper Canyon Mill was erected in '62 by Van Fleet, Tucker, Moor, Kendrick and Clarke to mill Yellow Jacket ore. Next was the Vivian Mill, owned by Spery & Co., running 16 stamps. Below this was the Morgan Mill, owned originally by William M. Stewart, John Henning, Jas. Morgan and C. F. Wood. It crushed 30 tons daily. Baldwin and Co.'s Mill at Empire City ran sixteen stamps. These mills were enlarged to meet the needed requirements and in 1874 the mills in Ormsby County were handling a combined output of 500 tons daily.
982 THE HISTORY OF NEVADA
Mining never reached very large proportions in Ormsby. In the outlying hills which formed the base of the mountains, however, small veins of gold have occasionally been found, and now and then a prospector brings in coarse gold taken from some creek nearby, but never in paying quantities. The first mine to be opened on an extensive scale in Ormsby was the North Carson. It was discovered about three miles due north of Carson in the hills east of the Hot Springs. In 1874 the stock was in demand in Carson and was finally put on the stock-board in San Francisco, where it reached $7.50 a share. In 1876 assays of the ore made at the Branch Mint in Carson showed values running from $5.00 to $2,132.17 per ton. In spite of the richness of the ore taken out, most of which netted $600 at the Douglas Mill in Dayton, it gave no return to the stockholders and assessments were levied one after the other until the stockholders refused to be further bled and then came troubles between factions in the company. Suddenly the superintendent, who had been living very high for some months, at the company's expense, disappeared with a lady friend between two nights and the property on which nearly $30,000 had been spent, closed down.
Some years later Mrs. Langtry, the English actress, bought a piece of property near the mine and sank an artesian well, which encountered a ledge of ore seven feet in thickness at a depth of 160 feet. It was identical in appearance with Comstock ore and assayed $620 per ton.
This find caused considerable excitement at the time and there was a rush to locate claims in the vicinity. Over one hundred locations were made during the next thirty days and work was resumed on the North Carson mine in the upper tunnel. The mine changed hands several times during the next few years, but no systematic work was done until Whitman Symmes, of Virginia City, secured control of the property and he is now spending considerable money on its development. The lower tunnel is being extended to the main shaft and good ore is being encountered. A power-line has been run from Carson City to the mine, a distance of three miles, and electric drills are running night and day.
The Voltair, Eagle, Clear Creek, Niagara and Athens mines, in the vicinity of Carson, were worked at different times but abandoned
ORMSBY COUNTY 933
for lack of money to thoroughly develop them. Of late Brunswick Canyon has made some excellent showing in copper and James Yerington secured considerable Canadian capital to erect a custom smelter on the Carson River, near Brunswick station.
The United Mining Co., in the same vicinity, has developed its copper properties through Mr. Harry Cowden to a depth of over 400 feet, with an excellent showing of permanent values.
In '59 and '60 there was considerable excitement over discoveries in the Sullivan District, in the Pine Nut mountains south of Carson. Later on gold ore was found in the Zern mine running several thousand dollars to the ton. Considerable work was done there and Charles Lane, the California capitalist, made an attempt to bring water in and work the placer deposits, but he finally abandoned the project because of the prohibitory prices put upon everything in the vicinity. The main ledge in Pine Nut has never been found. William Zern, the discoverer of the rich gold ore, lost his life there from a cave-in in a tunnel where he was working.
During several years past, ore which carries more than half its weight in gold has been brought to Carson by Bud Barkley from some point in the mountains west of Carson. From the fact that the find lies on land owned by the Hobert estate, acquired by private ownership prior to the mineral reservation act of Congress passed in r873, reserving all mineral land for locators, the ledge discovered by Barkley can only be worked by permission of the Hobert Estate. Some of the gold exhibited in Carson was so phenomenally rich as to resemble the product of a furnace. Numerous attempts have been made to induce Barkley to disclose the location of the ledge, but without success. Several attempts have also been made to enter into some arrangement with the Hobert estate by which the mine could be developed and worked on shares. Numerous agreements have been drawn by the Hobert estate attorneys for Barkley to sign. Whenever these contracts have been submitted to Barkley's legal advisors they have deterred him from signing on the ground that the contracts invariably contained jokers to ultimately deprive him of all interest in the property. Meanwhile the Hoberts have put scores of prospectors in the field to find the gold ledge, which is supposed to be worth millions of dollars. For awhile many people supposed the ledge was
984 THE HISTORY OF NEVADA
a "pipe dream" of Barkley's. This idea, however, was dissipated when he confided his secret to Alexander Ardery, Superintendent of the V. & T. R. R. Co. He took him to the spot where he made the original discovery and showed it to him that some one might know the locality in case of his death. Mr. Ardery confirms Mr. Barkley's statement that one of the richest gold ledges ever discovered lies in the Sierra mountains but a few miles from Carson City.
Ormsby has always been more of an agricultural county than anything else. In the early rush the high price of all staple commodities naturally drove the people to cultivate the soil. In 1858 flour sold as high as $28 for a hundred-pound sack. All kinds of vegetables were in proportion. Meat was at times so scarce that it could not be had at any price and jack-rabbits became a steady diet for many people. Among the first to till the soil were the Mormons, and many of them left valuable lands when Brigham Young issued a call to bring them back to Utah.
In Carson, Treadway's Ranch became the best known ranch in the county and for years nearly all the Storey County picnics for the Miners' Union, and other large bodies, were held there. It is now owned by Henry Bath. The Nevers and Bath ranches west of the city were also models. On the Gilson ranch the largest apples were grown that were ever placed on exhibition on this Coast. Originally Carson City was founded on ranch land and town lots were given away to induce people to settle. The Methodist Church block went for $25 cash and a pair of boots. A fourth interest in the Warm Springs went for 25 lbs. of butter. The land is now under cultivation from Carson to the States Prison and all the ranches in the vicinity of Carson are in a perfect state of cultivation. The Holstein ranch north of Carson was so named from the fact that its owner, Sam Davis, imported the first thoroughbred Holstein cattle ever brought to the State. The more recent ranches now maintained in Ormsby County are known as the Thorn, Robinson, Quill, Anderson, Hidenrich, Blockwell, Walsh and Raycraft ranches.
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EARLY SOCIAL LIFE AND RECREATIONS.
From the very earliest times the people of Carson were given to social pleasures and general recreation. As early as 1858 they were whiling away their evenings with dances. In Henry Fulston's private diary the following is found, in recording the doings of himself and neighbors in 1858: "Jan. 12th. Turned tailor to-day and cut out Joe a pair of buckskin pants. Mines not doing much and times awfully dull, but there are plenty of dances here and the charge per couple is five dollars." The social pace set by the early settlers has always been maintained and Carson has always been noted for its gay social life, its prolific hospitality and general tendency for public enjoyment. Dancing was always a favorite pastime and for a while the big pavilion where the Capital now stands was used for public dances at least three nights in the week. In the early days a race track was built and some of the fastest horses on the Coast have performed here. The old Moore Theater, which was the first playhouse in the city, was often utilized for prize fights, contests between dogs and bears, cock fights, wrestling matches and such recreation. It was finally supplanted by the Opera House.
The frequency of small prize-fights led to the passage of a bill which went into effect during Gov. Sadler's administration, providing a license of $1,000 paid for each finish-fight held in the State. The "Battle of the Century," as it was called, took place at the Carson race track under the management of Dan Stewart. It took place on St. Patrick's Day between Robert Fitzsimmons and James Corbett. For weeks prior to the event the City of Carson was filled with sporting men and newspaper correspondents from all parts of the world. Main street was alive with people day and night. The huge signs displaying from the headquarters of the different newspapers gave Carson the appearance of a section of San Francisco. For weeks the vilest weather imaginable prevailed, but the morning of the contest broke clear and calm and the most perfect day of the year was the result. It has always been claimed that Carson always had good weather on St. Patrick's Day and this was no exception to the rule.
An English syndicate made a deal with the principals that it would, give $200,000 for the moving pictures if the fight lasted twenty
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rounds. As it lasted but fourteen the English firm refused to take the pictures and they were thrown on Dan Stewart's hands. He made over a million dollars out of them with his proverbial good luck. It cost him upwards of $50,000 to get his men in the ring and the attendance in the amphitheatre was not over $8,000. It is claimed that an agreement was made between the principals to extend the fight to twenty rounds, and that Corbett took advantage of his opponent in the sixth, and catching him off his guard, attempted to end the fight. If there was any sort of a frame-up to extend the fight for the picture firm it was certainly disregarded after that and both men fought savagely to win. In the fourteenth round Fitzsimmons landed his famous solar plexus blow and won the fight and championship of the world.
THE VIRGINIA AND TRUCKEE RAILROAD.
By an act of Legislature approved Jan. 27th, 1869, the County Commissioners of Ormsby were authorized to issue $200,000 in bonds to aid the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. These bonds were delivered to William Sharon in December, 1869. Other counties joined Washoe and Storey and the combined assistance of these counties enabled Sharon to build and own the best-paying railroad of its length in the world. It was 52 miles long and at times cleared a thousand dollars a day. There was considerable opposition on the part of some of the taxpayers against making a present of the road to Sharon or his associates. It was a clean gift of the people to men who made a monopoly of the line and taught a valuable lesson in the ownership of public utilities. Had the bonds been retained by the counties and the road owned by the people who raised the money to build it, the dividends would have paid all the expenses of maintaining the government of the three counties through which the line runs.
Public Buildings.—In 1862 the County Commissioners, rented the lowest story of a building owned by C. Adams and used it for a Court House. On the following October "The Great Basin Hotel," on the corner of Carson and Musser streets, was purchased of Abram Curry for $42,500 and used for a Court House. A jail was added at a cost of about $6,000. It was partly destroyed by fire in 1870. It stands now practically as it did after being repaired. The Legislature
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of 1861 created a State Board of Prison Commissioners and a couple of years later leased the Curry property at Warm Springs to be utilized for a prison. Curry was the first warden. He took $80,000 worth of bonds for the place.
The Carson Mint was built in 1867. The machinery arrived the following year. Its first superintendent was Abram Curry. It earned a reputation of great efficiency and economy until the discovery in 1892 of a $90,000 shortage. The U. S. Government sent detectives and experts to Carson and soon several arrests were made. Johnnie Jones, one of the trusted employees of the institution, and James Heeney, were tried. An attempt was made to fasten the guilt on the new management which had come in, but a defect in the stamping dies indicated when the crooked work was accomplished. The gold bars had been remelted and after a greater part of the gold had been removed, silver was substituted and the bars, while correct in weight, were falsely stamped as to value. The die which stamped the figure four was broken down with use and the time of the breaking of the horizontal line of the 4 being definitely fixed, it was clear to the jury that all bars stamped with a perfect figure 4 were treated prior to a certain date and all stamped with a defective figure 4 were subsequently treated. This irrefutable evidence fixed the guilt on Jones and Heeney and they were sentenced to seven years each.
It was also charged that silver bullion worth but 60 cents an ounce was taken from the Mexican Mill at Empire and brought to the Mint at night, where it was coined into dollars worth $1.35 per ounce. It was further charged that this went through the Bullion and Exchange Bank and from there into the State Treasury, to be exchanged for gold coin. When William Westerfield was elected State Treasurer he found $80,000 in new silver dollars of the date of the previous year in the treasury. As there had been no money coined during the previous year in the Carson Mint an investigation was made. The papers charged crookedness and the defendants of the previous administration held that the silver had come to the offices in taxes. The books showed but a little over $15,000 in taxes. During the trial of the Mint cases William Pickier was found dead in his bed and his alleged suicide followed the finding of some bullion buried in his yard. It was claimed that the bullion was planted to throw suspicion on
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him and a woman hired to poison him. A man named Price, who had been connected with the Mint, was found dead in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. It was supposed to be a suicide, but since the Mint trials circumstances have come to light which leads to the theory that Price was put out of the way because he knew too much of the thefts and that he might have implicated some who were never even indicted. The charges relative to the presence of Carson Mint dollars in the State safe, which had never been officially coined, was never investigated by the Government.
The defense in the cases claimed that the values had run off through Cole Atherton's potato patch and it is alleged spent $5,000 salting the potato patch with gold to assist in proving their theory. It required three trials to convict the defendants and they served their terms. During the trial Langerman, a witness for the Government, testified that Trenmore Coffin, an attorney for the defense, had bribed him to leave the country. Coffin was indicted by the Federal Grand Jury, but escaped because of a flaw in the indictment. Robert Clarke was retained by the Government to assist in the prosecution, and to him was due the credit of the conviction of the defendants.
U. S. District Attorney Jones, who was accused of lukewarmness in the discharge of his duties, was not long afterward shot and killed by Guy Guinon in front of the latter's house in Carson. He charged Jones with paying improper attentions to his sister, but the Coroner's jury exonerated him.
Ground was broken for the State Capitol Building on April 21st, 1870. The cornerstone was laid April 23rd with imposing public ceremonies. The structure was built according to contract and there was no graft in its construction. It stands to-day practically in as good condition as the day it was finished. The State Printing Office is located in the rear of the Capitol Building.
NEVADA STATE LIBRARY.
On November 29th, 1861, there was an act passed creating a Territorial Library, and appointing the Territorial Auditor as ex officio Librarian ; and creating a fund for the Library from all fees, from the Supreme Court and fees from all attorneys admitted to practice law.
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The Library grew slowly, until February 14th, 1865, after Nevada was admitted to the Union. An act was then passed whereby all the monies from the State Treasurer, Controller, Governor, Secretary of State, and Clerk of the Supreme Court offices, were turned in to the Library fund, making a total for the purchase of books for the first year of the Library of nearly five thousand dollars.
The books purchased during the first year amounted to over eight hundred volumes, the books in those days being very expensive, as one item shows one hundred and fifteen books costing seventeen hundred dollars, and the express bill for same was over two hundred dollars.
The different States at that time did not pay the express as they do now, and the Library Commission thought seriously of stopping the different publications from other States and ordering them direct from some law book house and sending them across the Isthmus of Panama, which was slower but cheaper.
In 1879 the Library was moved to a room in the west front of the Capitol and was placed under the supervision of the Supreme Court. It was during this period that some of the most valuable books in the law library were purchased. The books began to accumulate so rapidly and the condition of the Library became so crowded and the books were so very hard to locate that the Legislature ordered the first catalogue, which was compiled by Miss Jennie Fisher, and published in 1890. The Library then contained some 18,000 books and had extended to the whole west front of the Capitol.
The year 1905 the Library was in such a crowded condition that the Legislature passed an act creating a building fund to erect a Library building, and a beautiful building octagonal in design, was built of steel and granite, ninety feet in diameter, three stories high and fitted throughout with steel cases and furniture. This is the present home of the Library.
The Library was moved to the new building in 1907 and a new card catalogue was made under the Dewey system, whereby all books are separated into ten main classes and each of these classes into nine divisions, so that each book on a separate subject, has a different class number and is easy to find by the card index.
The Library is in a very flourishing condition; at present it con-
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tains over 61,000 catalogued volumes and it is going forward at a very rapid rate. The law department contains over 33,000 volumes, and lawyers from different States, and experts from some of the large book houses, rank it among the best law libraries in the U. S. The Library in its present state can accommodate about forty thousand additional volumes, and with the extension of the steel cases there will be room for thousands of volumes for a number of years.
THE STATE ORPHANS' HOME.
On the 3rd day of March, 1869, the Legislature passed an act for the erection of a suitable building for the care and maintenance of orphans of the State of Nevada, and all full orphans and half orphans were eligible for admission. The sum of $15,000 was appropriated by the Legislature, which delegated the State Treasurer, State Controller and Surveyor General as a Board of Directors, to carry out this act.
The citizens of Carson donated 16 acres of land in the city limits for the purpose of erecting the building, which was completed and accepted on the 27th day of September, 1870. On the first day of October the Nevada Orphan Asylum, then situated at Virginia City, was notified that all orphans in their charge would be received at this home and all expenses in moving them would be paid by the State. On the 28th day of October, 1870, the first children were admitted.
July 4th, 1902, fire was discovered in the attic of the main building and in a very short time it was burned to the ground. Seventy-nine children were inmates at the time and all were cared for. At a session of the Legislature in 1903 the sum of $38,000 was appropriated for the erection of a new building, which was soon found inadequate. Additional funds were therefore necessary for its completion and its cost to the State, including the furnishing of the same, was $85,000.
Eight hundred and twenty-five children have been admitted and cared for since its establishment and up to this date but five deaths are recorded.
This home is being maintained strictly from the public funds of the State and is in every respect carried on as a non-sectarian institution. Philanthropists of the State of Nevada or of any other State have never thought anything of Nevada orphans. All classes of children are now admissible to this home ; that is, full orphans, half
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orphans and neglected children, and they are maintained and cared for to the age of 16 for boys and to the age of 18 for girls.
The Sagebrush Club, opposite the U. S. Mint, is a public club supported by the citizens of Carson and is in a very flourishing condition. It is purely a social organization and twice a month "Ladies' Night" brings the people of the town together for social recreation. Strangers entertained at this club carry away the pleasantest recollections of the lavish hospitality of Carson people.
The Leisure Hour Club is another of the regular institutions of the city and in May last ground was broken for a new building to be occupied by the members of the club, which is a social and literary organization combined.
LAW AND ORDER.
In the early days lawless characters were very plentiful in Ormsby County and a Vigilance Committee was organized to rid the county of undesirable characters. A hint from the committee generally caused the recipient to seek other localities at very short notice.
In 1875 a number of incendiary fires following in rapid succession caused great excitement in Carson City and the streets were patrolled by armed men at night. Several hard characters suspected of complicity in these incendiary fires were ordered to leave the city and all but one obeyed the summons. The one who paid no attention to the warning of the "601" was a baseball player who was in the habit of sleeping in the engine house of the Curry Co. He was taken from his bed by a party of masked men on the night of the 16th of December, 1875, and hanged from the cross-beam of the cemetery gate. On his breast was pinned a placard bearing the simple inscription "601". It is claimed that some of the leading citizens of Carson were in this necktie party and it is the general belief that an innocent man was hanged.
In times past Carson has boasted of many newspapers. The Tribune, the Post, the Record and the Index sprang into existence and passed away; and at present the Appeal, an evening paper, and the News, a morning paper, supply the needs of the community in furnishing the current events of this day.
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THE STATES PRISON.
The first Board of States Prison Commissioners was created by the Territorial Legislature of 1861. Abram Curry, who had furnished a place for the meeting of the Legislature, next provided the territory with a place for its prisoners. He leased the Government his Warm Springs and a stone quarry a couple of miles southeast of Carson. He was elected Warden of the institution. He took $80,000 worth of bonds for the place. In 1864 an Act was approved providing for a Territorial Prison. Some building was purchased of Curry which was destroyed by fire in May, 1867. Robert Howland was the next Warden.
After Nevada became a State an Act was passed providing for a State Prison with the Lieutenant-Governor as Warden. The law also prohibited barbarous and inhuman punishments for convicts.
A stone prison was built from the stone taken from the quarry and there was little of note transpiring until the outbreak of December 1, 1870. In this outbreak McCleur, a prisoner who attempted to escape, was shot and killed, together with another convict named Shea, who was shot by a guard.
On September 17, 1871, there was another outbreak and Gov. Denver and four of the guards were badly wounded. F. M. Isaacs, a guard, and Matthew Pixley, a prominent citizen of Carson, who volunteered to assist the guards in the suppression of the revolt, were killed. Twenty-nine desperate characters escaped and were hunted for months through California and Nevada. Some were killed and some captured and after being brought back were tried and executed. So great was the excitement in Carson that all able-bodied men rallied to the assistance of the prison officials and the militia was called out.
What was known as "the States Prison War" followed in '73. Owing to the ambiguity of the law, Frank Denver, the Warden, refused to give up the keys to his successor. P. C. Hayden. He also refused to admit Governor Bradley, the Attorney-General, or the Secretary of State, which comprised the Prison Board. Bradley, who was known as "Old Broadhorns," at once ordered Major-General Van Bokkelen to assemble an armed force of sixty men and some artillery and put Hymen in charge of the institution, even at a cost of human life.
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Van Bokkelen went to the prison with his men and planted his artillery for action when Denver capitulated, saying that to resist would sacrifice human life and allow the prisoners to escape.
Mr. Hymen established a boot and shoe factory in the prison and at the close of the term a very satisfactory showing was the result. The earnings were $47,417.71 and the actual cost of maintenance $44,887.11.
Gen. Batterman succeeded Hymen. On October 29, 1877, there was another outbreak and convict Ole Johnson was killed and Daniel Matheny wounded. In this outbreak Capt. Mathewson was seized by the prisoners and held up as a shield between the prisoners and the guards. While in this position Mathewson gave the order to the guards to disregard him and fire. They did so, but not until they were called upon by him three times to do so. Mathewson was shot through the arm. The convict Johnson received twenty-seven slugs and died in a few hours. The shots quelled the revolt.
The most interesting thing in connection with the history of the prison is the establishment of the "Honor System" by Ray Baker, who took charge in 1911 and began the inauguration of many startling reforms. He established a road-camp where prisoners were allowed to live for weeks unguarded, while they worked on the road.
THE PRISON FOOTPRINTS.
Next to the marvelous mineral deposits of the State, the thing that has most attracted the attention of the outside world to Nevada is unquestionably that remarkable display of fossil footprints in the quarry at the State Prison at Carson City.
Almost from the time of their discovery they were transformed into something more than mere fossils—that is, they became a veritable bone of contention among scientists; and, though the strife over them has now raged for more than forty years, the vital point has never been definitely settled. Every once in a while some new disputant—born since the contention was first begun, in most cases—fancying he has been given new lights, will tear open the slowly healing question and set it to bleeding afresh.
There never was any particular controversy about the mastodon, saurian or bird tracks. They were too self-evident to admit of any
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quibble for even scientists to quarrel over; and, besides, the mastodon was considerate enough to leave a lot of his bones, which rendered his identity indisputable. But the creature whose tracks resemble human footprints was the one that made the hot trail. Was it a gigantic man or a huge sloth? That is the question over which the scientists have raged, and will probably continue to rage until doomsday, unless the remains of the mysterious creature itself should chance to be found and thus put an end to the Wrangle.
In the late '70s Arthur McEwen induced Professor Joseph Le Conte, of the University of California, and Dr. Harkness, of the California Academy of Sciences, to come to Carson and take a look at the footprints. Dr. Harkness made casts of the most distinct of the manlike tracks and had the whole series of them reproduced on canvas for the Academy of Sciences. He unhesitatingly expressed his belief that the tracks were those of a human being. Professor Le Conte was not so positive—in fact, he straddled the question, as he did all matters where science was likely to come in conflict with biblical traditions.
But when they returned to California and Dr. Harkness presented the casts and drawings to the Academy of Sciences and announced his conclusions, the Carson Fossil Footprint war broke out in deadly earnest. Professor Davidson, president of the Academy, took issue with him at once and so bitter did the feeling of the two leaders and their partisans become that the learned institution was split wide open and the breach caused by the dissension has never been completely closed to this day.
From San Francisco the war spread, until there was scarcely a scientific man of any prominence in the United States or throughout the world who did not take part in it. Yet, for all that has been written on the subject, nothing can be regarded as authoritative. The arguments advanced in favor of the human origin of the footprints are just as sound and conclusive as those put forward to prove they were made by a sloth, and yet not a bit more so—thus leaving the matter as much beset with doubt as it was at the beginning.
For more than thirty years attempts have been made to establish a State lottery in Nevada. By reason of a clause in the State Constitu-
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tion prohibiting lotteries, these efforts were always doomed to failure. The first attempt was made by Robert Keating and his associates of Virginia City, by the passage of a bill giving him and his partners a franchise to run a lottery. The case was taken to the Supreme Court and the law decided to be unconstitutional. In 1887 another attempt was made to establish a lottery by amending the Constitution. The resolution passed two successive Legislatures and there seemed a strong trend of public opinion in its favor from the fact that outside lotteries were extracting a great deal of money from the people of Nevada, which a State lottery would keep at home.
Presently a decided opposition began to be manifested by the newspapers until a majority of papers in the State were denouncing the scheme as the sum total of all iniquity. Investigations were made by the Home Lottery Co. and a detective sent to San Francisco. He posed as an agent of a Havana lottery and in that way opened negotiations with a number of papers to fight the home lottery. He succeeded in securing letters which showed that the opposition of the newspapers who were denouncing the lottery on moral grounds was founded upon another basis.
The various outside lotteries, notably the Louisiana Lottery of New Orleans, and the Little Louisiana of San Francisco, were fighting the Nevada Lottery with plenty of money and their agents were skillful enough to secure the aid of clergymen who denounced it from the pulpit. After the passage of the necessary resolutions by the Legislature the matter was submitted to a special election in the dead of winter. The taxpayers resented the extra tax of some fifty thousand dollars for what they regarded as a special interest and defeated the scheme by about 600 majority.
Not discouraged by this failure, another attempt was made to establish a lottery in 1901. Dan Stewart, the prize fight promoter and turfman, was the moving power in the fight.
He deposited $150,000 with his agents in Nevada and placed $250,000 in a New York bank, in case of further necessity, and the fight began in the Legislature on the old lines. By this time the people of the State were generally against the establishing of a lottery in Nevada
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and petitions were sent to Carson asking members to vote against it. Before the lines for the fight were fairly formed an anti-lottery resolution was introduced in the House and passed by a decided majority. No further attempt has been made, nor is it likely that any future attempt will ever be indulged in.