History

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Historically First

The importance of women to Nevada’s history is well documented and irrefutable. From Sarah Winnemucca to Helen Stewart, Hanna Clapp to Felice Cohn, the sisters of the Silver State left their own indelible stamp on the face of Nevada. While many women have made their mark, a select few were the first to do so in their respective fields. These women—and to be sure, there are many others—helped pave the way for more women to enter the workforce and seek positions that had been previously dominated by men. These leading ladies took the chance to go where no woman had gone before, and for that, they are our favorite firsts.
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Helen Stewart: First Lady of Las Vegas

On a quiet day in March 1926, businesses in Las Vegas shuttered their doors. Local schools closed for the day and the federal post office was deserted, for most of the city’s residents were attending the funeral of Helen Jane Wiser Stewart. The homage paid to Stewart by the city she helped create would have surprised the unassuming and frail woman. But the legacy of her strength, character, intelligence, and spirit was evident to all who knew her, and it continues to inspire today.
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The Ballad of Diamondfield Jack

Despite the Hollywood version of cattle raising in the Old West, few ranchers employed a gun-for-hire to eliminate rustlers or sheepherders. This is not to say it wasn’t done; around 1895, a few of the larger spreads in Wyoming brought in a “regulator” named Tom Horn to “clean up” the range, and at $500 a head, he was well on his way to doing so when he was convicted of murder and sent to the gallows. For years, Jack Davis faced the likelihood of the same fate.
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Nevada Outlaws Part 3

Another Round of Bad Boys The Wild West saw more than its fair share of criminal capers. BY RON SOODALTER Once again, we step out into the dusty street to face down a handful of early Nevada’s baddest bad guys. For those who have read the first two installments of the Outlaws of Nevada trilogy, […]
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Emma Nevada

Emma Wixom was born on Feb. 7, 1859, in the Alpha mining camp near Nevada City, California. Her father Dr. William Wixom moved his family to Austin to start a physician’s practice shortly before Nevada achieved statehood. It was in Austin that the girl’s bright future began to shine, and her talent brightened an otherwise dusty mining camp. From there, it was only a matter of time before her mellifluence would grace the rest of the world. 
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A Century of Suffrage

In 1910, the penalty for stealing (or kidnapping) a girl in Nevada was five years in prison or a fine of $2,000, while anyone convicted of stealing a horse could be imprisoned for 14 years. At the same time, if a U.S. woman married a foreigner, she lost her citizenship. Another law during the early 1900s, this one concerning community property between a husband and wife, allowed a man to sell or will community property without the consent of his wife. And finally, any wages a woman earned while living with her husband were not deemed her property unless her husband allowed her to use the wages, which were then considered a gift from him.  The rancor felt about the above-noted laws being created without any say from female constituents was growing, and the cry of “taxation without representation” was reborn. While that sentiment was enough to ignite the American Revolution, it sparked little fire with the male citizens of the young nation. It took until 1920 before half of the citizens of the U.S. were granted the right to vote. But the fight began long before. 
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Goldfield’s Historic Battle

The thermometer was toying with the century mark on Sept. 3, 1906 in Goldfield, when two men touched gloves in the center of the ring. The fight was now underway. It was the favorite—Oscar “the Battling Dane” Nelson vs “the Rank Faker” Joe Gans, as the local press described him.
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The Ong

The Ong, as it became known, was said to have wings as long as the tallest pine tree, colossal webbed feet, and was covered in both feathers and scales. Legend maintains that the creature also had a human-like face. Though cowardly as the beast may have been at times, the Ong didn’t just drag people away for fun. It consumed them.
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St. Thomas

Ghost town tells a tale of resurrection and fortitude. BY MICHELLE SINAGRA St. Thomas seems an unlikely name for a Nevada ghost town. It conjures up Caribbean fantasies of powdered sugar beaches, crystalline waters teaming with marine life, and warm balmy breezes. But this St. Thomas lies in the harshness of the Mojave Desert and […]
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100 Years of Candy Dance

For 100 years, streetlights have illuminated Genoa—Nevada’s oldest settlement—thanks to a group of dedicated townsfolk. In 1919, Lillian Virgin Finnegan and her aunt Jane Raycraft Campbell encouraged the 200 or so townspeople to hold a dance in what is now the Genoa Town Hall to raise funds for streetlights. Young ladies passed trays of free homemade candy, and after the dance, a midnight supper was served at the Raycraft Hotel. Today, on the last full weekend of September, Genoans make and sell candy for the two-day Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire, which draws between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors to the town, population around 900.
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Historic Fourth Ward School Museum

“It’s not just a building full of old school desks.” Lara Mather is ready to make her point. As executive director of the Historic Fourth Ward School Museum in Virginia City, her excitement about sharing what is really inside the 143-year-old building that sits at the south end of town is palpable.
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Nevada’s Outlaws

Part 2: More tales of the dastardly desperados that roamed the Silver State. BY RON SOODALTER As described in part one of Nevada’s Outlaws—published in the July/August 2017 issue—Nevada was every bit as wild as such legendary Western Gomorrahs as Deadwood, Tombstone, and Dodge City. The lure of gold and silver and the prospect of […]
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Nevada’s Only National Memorial

On Nov. 18, 1955, Las Vegans awoke to a fire near the very top of Mt. Charleston where there was not a scrap of wood to burn. “Flame, just like there was a fire,” Henderson resident Lavern Hanks recalls. Her husband who worked for KLAS-TV tried to investigate. But men with rifles blocked the road to Kyle Canyon. So, he turned around and went home.
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Fantastical Fallacies of the Notorious ‘Mangler’

Tall tales in journalism were relatively common on The Comstock and surrounding regions during the late 1800s. Because a lull in readership was becoming a worry at the “Daily Appeal,” Sam Davis did as any self-respecting editor would: he conjured up a fictitious newspaper and lied to his readers, and they ate it up. Everyone loves a juicy story, and Davis painted the “Mangler” and its editor as the juiciest.
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Langston Hughes Sought Solitude in Reno

When Langston Hughes caught the 5:55 a.m. train from Truckee, California, to Reno in September 1934, he was 10 years into a career that would be marked by greatness and controversy. Already a successful poet, novelist, and journalist at the age of 32, Hughes was widely regarded as the unofficial poet laureate of the Harlem Renaissance, which in the 1920s ushered in a prolific and important time for African-American authors, artists, and musicians.
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The Man Howard Hughes Left Behind

Melvin Dummar recounts his brush with fortune and loss.   BY SHAUN ASTOR “I grew up in Fallon. There was an airport, where the Churchill County rodeo grounds are at,” Melvin Dummar, now 74 years old, recalls on a warm evening as the sun falls behind the Resting Spring Mountain Range to the west of […]