March 11, 2006

Nevada's Online State News Journal     


Nevada History:

[From Thompson & West's History of Nevada 1881, With Illustrations And Biographical Sketches Of Its Prominent Men And Pioneers, pp. 563-565]






Creation and Boundaries—Appointments and Elections—Attempted Organization--Topographical Features—The Principal Valleys.

            ONE of the errors fallen into when the Territory of Nevada was organized, in consequence of the uncertainty of the eastern boundary line of the State of California, was the assumption that the fertile and well populated region of Honey Lake Valley lay within the limits of the Territory. It had always taken a prominent part in the affairs of western Utah, was the home of Hon. Isaac Roop, Governor under the preliminary Territorial organization of 1859 and 1860, and when Governor Nye called an election for members of the first Legislature it was made the Ninth Council District, and apportioned one Councilman and one Representative. The election was held August 31, 1861, and resulted in the choice of Isaac Roop for the Council and John C. Wright for the House of Representatives.

            The Legislature divided the Territory into nine counties, November 25, 1861, among which was the county of Lake, embracing this region, with boundaries as follows:—

            Beginning at the northwest corner of Washoe County, and running easterly along the northern boundary of said county to the mouth of Truckee River; thence due east to the summit of the first range of mountains east of said river; thence in a northerly direction along said range, and the main granite range of mountains, to the Oregon line; thence west along said line to the summit of the Sierra; thence south along said summit to the place of beginning.

            By the Act of November 29,1861, the county seat was declared to be at such a point as should be decided by the vote of a majority of the voters of said county, at the first election to be held therein. By the same Act Storey, Washoe and Lake Counties were erected into the First Judicial District, to which Hon. Gordon N. Mott, of the Supreme Court, was assigned as Judge.          


            At a joint session of the Legislature, held November 27, 1861, for the purpose of selecting. Commissioners to organize the various counties, and super-vise the election to be held January 14, 1862, William Wetherlow, William H. Naileigh and Daniel Murray were chosen for Lake County. These gentlemen did not provide for the election as intended, and the county was not organized until a year later. A county election was held September 3, 1862, at which the following county officers were chosen:— Representative, C. Adams; Sheriff, W. H. Naileigh; Clerk, H. J. Borette; Recorder, Z. N. Spaulding; Treasurer, Frank Drake; Assessor, E. A. Townsend; Collector, Henry E. Arnold; Surveyor, E. R. Nichols; School Superintendent, A. A. Holmes; Commissioners, Franklin Strong, S. J. Hill, J. C. Wimple.

            Adams did not take his seat. Hon. Isaac Roop sat in the Council in the session of 1862, holding over from the Ninth District. He was the last member from this region to sit in the Legislature.

            Beyond the election of officers the county still remained unorganized until after the Legislature assembled. Honey Lake Valley, in which the wealth and population of the county existed, was claimed by Plumas County, California, as being within its limits, and this had retarded the organization of Lake County. When the Legislature met it was determined to fully organize the county, and maintain the jurisdiction of Nevada over the disputed section. Accordingly, the Legislature changed the name from Lake to Roop, by Act of December 2, 1862. The Governor, on the fourteenth and fifteenth of the same month, appointed and issued commissions to all the county officers that had been elected in September, also a commission to John S. Ward to act as Probate Judge. By Act of December 19, 1862, the Legislature ordered a special term of the First District Court to be held in Roop County the third Monday in January, 1863.


            The county was promptly organized by the newly-appointed officers, and trouble at once commenced with the authorities of Plumas County. This difficulty, and the manner of its settlement, are fully related in another portion of this volume, and it is only necessary to say that the disputed territory was decided to be in California, thus leaving Roop County shorn of all that contributed to make it a county, the portion remaining being a vast tract of barren and uninhabited land.

            At the election held September 2, 1863, the following gentlemen were chosen to represent Roop County: William V. Kingsbury, in the Council; John C. Partridge, in the House of Representatives; H. L. Partridge, in the Constitutional Convention.

            When the Legislature met on the twelfth of January, 1864, the boundary question had been settled, and as Honey Lake Valley, the residence of these gentlemen and the section they represented, had ceased to be considered a portion of the Territory of Nevada, they were not permitted to take seats in that body.

            February 18, 1864, the Legislature passed an Act


attaching Roop County to Washoe, for judicial and revenue purposes, and in the State Constitution, framed the following summer, and adopted in September, the same provision was inserted, thus ending the separate existence of Roop County, and making it, what it has since continued to be, simply a portion of Washoe County.


            Roop County, as it exists to-day, is but a long strip of barren and unoccupied land, there being not over 100 white people within its limits. Its topographical features consist of low ranges of hills, between which, running north and south, lie two chains of valleys. The western boundary line runs along the summit of a range that shuts out from this county the fertile and well-populated regions of Honey Lake and Surprise Valleys, the most prosperous and only well-settled districts in this portion of the Nevada basin.

            Of the valleys in the county there are about a dozen of considerable size, and with soil capable of producing a rich growth of vegetation if supplied with water, the scarcity of which is the great obstacle in the way of their advancement. Mineral and hot springs abound, and extensive salt marshes are found, some of which are being rendered productive. Placer mines have been worked to some extent, and quartz ledges have been found, the mineral deposits, however, being greater in that portion now belonging to California. One large and arid desert and several mud lakes, once large bodies of water, but now simply sheets of mud in the wet season, and dry ground at other times, are also to be found.

            The celebrated Pyramid Lake, discovered by Lieut. John C. Fremont on the tenth of January, 1844, lies in the southern extremity of the county. His account of the discovery is interesting:

            Beyond, a defile between the mountains descended rapidly about 2,000 feet, and filling up all the lower space was a sheet of green water some twenty miles broad. It broke upon our eyes like the ocean. The neighboring peaks rose high above us, and we ascended one of them to obtain a better view. The waves were curling in the breeze, and their dark green color showed it to be a body of deep water. For a long time we sat enjoying the view, for we had become fatigued with mountains, and the free expanse of moving waves was very grateful. It was set like a gem in the mountains, which, from our position, seemed to inclose it almost entirely. Its position at first inclined us to believe it Mary's Lake, (Humboldt), but the rugged mountains were so entirely discordant with descriptions of its low rushy shores and open country, that we concluded it some unknown body of water, which it afterwards proved to be.

            Fremont's party camped on the lake shore the next day and passed down its western shore to the mouth of the Truckee River, which point they reached on the fifteenth, and found a large Indian village. In regard to the name he says:—

            We encamped on the shore opposite a very remarkable rock in the lake, which had attracted our attention for many miles. It rose, according to our estimate, 600 feet above the water, and, from the point we viewed it, presented a pretty exact outline of the great pyramid of Cheops. This striking feature suggested a name for the lake, and I called it Pyramid Lake; and though it may be deemed by some a fanciful resemblance, I can undertake to say that the future travelers will find much more striking resemblance between this rock and the pyramids of Egypt, than there is between them and the object from which they take their name.


            The most considerable valley in the county is the one commencing some distance above the southern line and extending north forty miles, with an average width of five miles. It is known as Long Valley, and lies near the California line. A number of springs, little streams and small, shallow lakes are found here, and maintain the vegetation of sagebrush and bunch-grass. The valley is simply a cattle range, and is by far the largest in the county. One band of 11,000 is owned by W. B. Todhunter, and several others have smaller bands. With irrigation this large valley could be made extremely productive, as no doubt it some day will be.

            Directly north of Long Valley, and over a low range of hills, lies Coleman's Valley. One family lives here and there have been three or four claims taken up. A little gardening is done where water is readily obtained, but the valley is chiefly used for a range for the 2,000 cattle kept there. The soil here is also fertile and with irrigation would soon produce grain and hay in abundance.

            West of these two valleys and over the California line lies Surprise Valley, and below this the well settled and fertile Honey Lake Valley.

            Twelve miles east of Coleman's Valley is Antelope Valley. This is small and contains large numbers of the animals from which its name is derived. There are no claims taken up here, and it is used as a stock range in winter.

            Guana Valley lies six miles further east, and is a large and fertile valley. It is about thirty miles long, only five of which lie in this State, the balance being in Oregon. It is used simply for a stock range and is the best one in the county.

            South of this is a small tract called Badger's Flat.  It is well watered by springs, and is used for a range for the 1,000 head of cattle kept there.

            Still farther south is Massacre Valley, a fine tract of land six by twelve miles in extent. Two thousand head of cattle are kept here, and there is a small tract of meadow land.

            South of Massacre Valley is High Rock Cañon, running diagonally across three townships. Some land has been taken up, and a creek runs through it. Along the creek the land has been surveyed.

            Lying to the east of the above, and on the edge of the desert is Deep Hole. Here about eight hundred head of cattle and horses are kept.


            Going back to Long Valley and then continuing south, a fertile spot known as Duck Flat is found. It is on the stage road to Surprise Valley, and there are three claims taken up, on which from two to three hundred tons of hay are annually cut. Some gardening is also done, and 1,000 head of cattle are kept here.

            Passing to the south, across a number of small barren valleys, Buffalo Cañon is reached, a narrow tract eighteen miles long. Buffalo Station in this place is on the stage road. A few cattle are kept here and some hay cut.

            South of this is Murphy's Salt Marsh, where B. F. Murphy has been preparing salt for the market for the past ten years. His salt works are located at Reno.

            Eight miles south of Murphy's is Sheep Head, a station in the desert on the stage road. A spring of water is found here, the only good water in the desert. This stretch of inhospitable land is in some places forty miles wide, and is surrounded by a scant growth of sage-brush and grease wood, while for miles there is no vegetation whatever. Alkali, salt, borax and gypsum are the leading components of the soil, rendering a trip across its arid waste extremely unpleasant. Six miles south of Sheep Head is a spring called Buck, or Bull, Spring, and six miles farther south is Rotten Egg Spring, a name peculiarly appropriate, so extremely disagreeable is the water both to the smell and taste. Round Hole, or Deep Hole, Spring lies six miles more to the south, and the water, although not very pleasant is used for drinking purposes. It is on the above route that the stage road runs, and sixteen miles southeast of Round Hole is Pyramid Lake, on the road now followed by the stage, passing through Pyramid City, and Jonesville, which lie on the line between Washoe and Roop Counties.

            Following in a southerly direction from Round Hole, along the old stage road, Fish Springs is reached, at a distance of eighteen miles. Here

            William Anderson has a large ranch. Two hundred and fifty tons of hay and fifty tons of alfalfa are cut here, and considerable small fruit is raised. A number of fruit trees, not yet bearing, have been set out. He has about 600 cattle and horses.

            Eight miles southeasterly of Fish Springs, on the old stage road, is Dry Lake, where Newcomb has about 600 horses and cattle, cuts some hay and has a nice vegetable garden and a small patch of grain. A little lake that becomes dry in the summer gives the name to the locality.

            Just six miles to the south is Dry Valley, a small tract watered by springs. There are two ranch claims here, on which a little grain, hay and vegetables are raised.

            Six miles southeast of Newcomb's, and directly east of Dry Valley, on the old stage road, is Little Winnemucca Valley. It was formerly a milk and butter ranch, and has now several claims taken up, where considerable grain is raised and a quantity of stock kept.

            South of this lies Winnemucca Valley proper, about ten miles long and extending to the end of the county. Two large ranches in the valley are owned by Dickinson and Hepperly, who raise considerable barley and some oats and wheat. A quantity of hay is cut, and some horses and cattle are kept. The valley is watered by small streams fed by a number of springs.

            Four miles east of Hepperly's is Pah-Ute Cañon, in which is one ranch on which hay and vegetables are raised, and about 500 head of cattle kept.

            It is thus seen that Roop County contains many thousand acres of land that need but the presence of water to render them fertile and productive. What the future of the county will be is difficult to tell, but that irrigation from some source of water supply will render them productive and inviting to settlers can scarcely be doubted, though years will probably pass away before people will have settled here in any considerable numbers.