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Although Spain claimed the
Nevada region during the 1500s, no exploration occurred until the early
1800s. Native Americans
living there at that time included the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe
the 1820s, trappers from the Hudson Bay Company explored the Humboldt
River. Jedediah Smith
traveled across the Las Vegas valley and William Wolfskill blazed the
Old Spanish Trail into California.
Complete exploration of Nevada occurred during the 1840s; John C.
Frémont explored and charted the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada.
the end of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the southwest came
under U.S. control. In
1850, the Utah Territory, that included Nevada, was established.
Some of the first settlers came to Nevada during this time.
Genoa was established by Mormon pioneers and became a trading
post for those traveling to California.
non-Mormons came to Carson Valley.
They did not want to be part of the Utah Territory that was ruled
by a Mormon leader. Without
Congressional approval they established their own territorial
government. In 1859, ore was discovered near what is now Virginia City
and thousands came in search of gold and silver.
With sufficient population in 1861, Congress could now create the
did not have a large enough population to become a state during the
Civil War (1861-1865). However,
President Lincoln saw that most Nevadans were anti-slavery and that the
North was in desperate need of silver and gold to help pay for the war. On Oct. 31, 1864, Nevada became the 36th state of
the Union with Carson City as its capital.
the late 1860s, several miners settled the northwestern counties of
Nevada. The following
decade, mines closed as the value of silver dropped.
Thousands of miners left Nevada looking for work, others turned
to ranching. The 1880s
brought even harder years on the economy.
Unusually cold winters killed much of the livestock and mines
near Virginia City stopped producing gold and silver.
the early 1900s, new mines near Tonopah discovered silver.
Gold was found in Goldfield and copper near Ruth and Mountain
City. These discoveries
provided new jobs and strengthened Nevada’s economy. Railroad
expansion opened new markets and the Newlands Irrigation Project made
farming possible through irrigation.
World War I (1914-1918), the value of copper and lead dropped
dramatically, causing many mines to close.
The Great Depression also left many without work.
In 1931, gambling was legalized in Nevada. Casinos provided jobs and brought tourists to the state.
The Hoover Dam Project also provided many jobs that year.
1950, the Atomic Energy Commission opened a nuclear testing center north
of Las Vegas. During the
late 1900s, tourism remained the largest industry in Nevada.
Las Vegas alone attracted more than 15 million tourists a year.
Reno also built large casinos and ski resorts were built at Lake
population grew immensely during the late 1900s and water became a major
concern. In 1963, the
Supreme Court ruled on a water dispute of the Colorado River between
Nevada and neighboring states. Later in 1983, the Water Project was
created to provide increased water for expected growth within Las Vegas.