OVERVIEW OF LAS VEGAS'
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

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A VALLEY WITH POTENTIAL

'Spanish Explorers' traveled through southern Nevada in 1776, and not until 1829 the Spanish Scout Rafael Riviera was the first European in the Las Vegas valley. Mexican trader Antonio Armijo followed the same year, leading a 60-man party along the Spanish Trail to Los Angeles in 1829. His caravan camped Christmas Day 100 miles northeast of present day's Las Vegas.

DISCOVERY OF WATER IN VEGAS 

Now, it is a fact that native Americans inhabited the Vegas valley already for hundreds of years, long before the first westerners ever arrived in our valley. More......

But the day arrived when a scouting party rode west in search of water. Rafael Rivera was an experienced young scout, so he left the main party and ventured out to explore the desert. Two weeks later, he discovered the Vegas Springs. Besides the Indians, Rafael Rivera became the first to set foot in the oasis-like Vegas Valley. This artesian spring shortened the Spanish Trail for many who were on the way to Los Angeles, during the California gold rush.

PLACING LAS VEGAS ON THE MAP 

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JOHN CHARLES FREEMONT
     - Fremont was originally born in Savannah, Georgia in 1813 with sort of a unique
       'Path Finder' mentality, which kind of pre-destined his future adult career.  
     - Then, as a young man he helped map the country between the Upper Mississippi
       and Missouri rivers. 
     -
In 1843, the United States Congress approved funding for a U.S. Army
       expedition into the West, to map the area between the Rocky Mountains and the
       Pacific Ocean.

After Rivera's discovery of the artesian spring, John C. Fremont along with Christopher "Kit" Carson set out to map out a railroad route across North America in 1844, and he headed south west which lead him to a place known to the Spanish as "Las Vegas'.

He carefully noted the trails he took while resting and camping at the artesian springs in our valley on May 13, 1844. Fremont's explorers faced many dangers during the expedition; surviving starvation, thirst and even dangerous Indian fights.

 

 

     - His name is remembered today in museums and history books.
     - To honor John Charles Freemont accomplishments, today's Fremont Hotel-Casino in
       downtown Las Vegas bears his name as does Fremont Street, the main thoroughfare downtown.

Then, before 1848 the name "Vegas" was finally changed to 'Las Vegas' which in Spanish means "The Meadows" due to the abundant water which was allocated in our valley, which also benefited many early traders.

THE 'OLD SPANISH TRAIL'

Freemont's route through Las Vegas became well known, because many early Americans that traveled through the deserts to California used the same route John C. Freemont described.

Once Fremont returned to Washington, Congress printed thousands of copies of his journal and the map of his trip. The route through Las Vegas became famous as part of the "Old Spanish Trail."

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Freemont fought as a general in the Union Army in the Civil War.    

     - John C. Fremont went on many more adventures and he led many more
       expeditions to California which even involved battles against the Mexican
       government.
     - He even ran for president of the United States. 
     - 1878 he was appointed governor of Arizona.
 

 MORMON INFLUENCE

To protect the Los Angeles-Salt Lake City mail route, Mormon settlers from Salt Lake City traveled to Las Vegas in 1855 and constructed a 150-square-foot fort, made of of sun-dried bricks, known today as clay soil and grass 'adobe'.

     - The Mormons had a 'green thumb' and planted an abundance of fruit trees
     - Also cultivated vegetables
     - And mined lead for bullets at Potosi Mountain.

The first settlement in the area which lasted only two years, was a mission started by Mormon colonists sent by Brigham Young. Mormon pioneers abandoned the settlement in 1858 due to Indian raids. An adobe remnant of the original Mormon-built complex is the oldest building in Nevada, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A portion of the "Mormon Fort" is located near the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard North and Washington Avenue.

HELEN STEWART

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1865 Octavius D. Gass built a ranch (Las Vegas Ranch) on the site of the mission ruins.

Mrs. Helen Stewart was the new Gass' ranch owner, and in 1902 she decided to sell most of her 1,840 acres to Montana Senator William Clark's 'San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City Railroad' for $5,000.00 

 FIRST TRAIN IN LAS VEGAS 

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1905 the first train arrives in Las Vegas.

LAND AUCTION - GROWING COMMUNITY

LVLandAuction.jpg  - The railroad company laid out a town, Clark's Las Vegas Town Site
  and auctions adjacent lands for further settlement.|
- Within two days, 110-acres bounded by Stewart Avenue and
  Garces Avenue and Main Street and 5th Street (now Las Vegas
  Boulevard) were sold.
Las Vegas was part of Lincoln County until 1909, when it became
  part of the newly established Clark County; and Clark's Las Vegas
  Townsite
became an incorporated city on March 16, 1911.......

FIRST HOUSING TRACT

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In 1910, a total of 64 cottages were constructed to house railroad workers and are known today as "railroad cottages" which represent an industry which used to dominate our city.

But then, mid-1920s the main yards were moved to Caliente, NV, and hundreds of railroad workers lost their jobs in the midst of the 'Great Depression' when the future of Las Vegas was already quite uncertain. More on that story..   

 TODAY'S JURISDICTIONS
.
     - The city of 'Las Vegas'
     - Unincorporated 'Clark County'
     - The city of 'North Las Vegas'
     - The city of 'Henderson' and
     - 'Boulder City'

FLASHBACK

- First telephone wires were installed in Las Vegas back in 1907.

- 1911 Las Vegas officially became a city

- The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce was founded 1911 

- The 1st movie was filmed in Las Vegas in 1914

- The first airplane landed in Las Vegas in 1920 (Randall Henderson)

- 1931 construction began on Hoover Dam to be completed in 1935 

- First 'Helldorado Day Parade' in 1934 (Also, check 2009 LVRRS @ Helldorado) 

- In the year of 1940, Las Vegas reaches a population of 8,422

- The Nevada Test Site launches bomb testing 1951.

- 1957 the University of Nevada/Las Vegas is established. (UNLV)

- The LV Convention Center opens 1959

- 1973 Clark County population exceeds 300,000

- 1980 Las Vegas celebrates its 75th birthday

- 1995 Clark County exceeds one million

- 2005 Las Vegas Centennial celebration 100th birthday 

.RAILROAD'S IMPACT ON LAS VEGAS' GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT

RRDepot1924.jpg   From the large mission-style depot on Fremont Street which was the city's main business corridor, to the three-story concrete ice plant on Main Street the railroad dominated our physical landscape and also influenced our town's growth and development.

By the early 20th century, water from wells was piped into the town, providing both a reliable source of fresh water and the means for additional growth. The increased availability of water in the area allowed Las Vegas to become a water stop first for wagon trains and later railroads on the trail between Los Angeles, California, and also east to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

     - The San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad was completed in 1905,
       linking Salt Lake City to southern California.
     -
U.S. Senator William Andrews Clark was the majority owner of the railroad, a Utah based
       corporation.
     - Its original incorporators were Utah's U.S. Senator Thomas Kearns and his business 
       partner David Keith.
     - Kearns, one of the richest and most powerful men in Utah and David Keith were the owners
       of Utah's Silver King Coalition Mine, several mines in Nevada and owners of The Salt Lake
       Tribune
newspaper.
     - Kearns and Keith helped Clark ensure the success of the new railroad across Utah and into
       Nevada to California.

Las Vegas was divided into two parts...........

     - The east-side of Las Vegas (which encompassed the modern Main Street and Las Vegas
       Boulevard) was owned by William Clark
     - And the west-side Las Vegas, north of modern day Bonanza was owned by J.T. McWilliams,
       who was hired by the Stewart family during the sale of the Los Vegas Rancho. 

It was from their properties that Las Vegas took form.

WILLIAM ANDREWS CLARK - MINI BIOGRAPHY 

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Born in Pennsylvania in 1839, Clark was a teacher and law school graduate who fought briefly for the South in the Civil War. 

     - 1862 he entered the mining business in Colorado.
     - He later made a fortune selling food, tobacco, and other goods to
       miners in Montana.
     - He became wealthy with his Montana copper discoveries.
     - Clark, a talented public speaker ran unsuccessfully for Congress in
       1888 and 1893.
     - 
From 1902 to 1904, Clark clashed with the Union Pacific Railroad for
       rights-of-way into Las Vegas, finally agreeing to sell a share in his
       railroad to his competitor in 1904.

 

After Clark established the railroad in 1905, his line cut the travel time from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles to only one day. He ran spurs north to other parts of Nevada. He continued to operate the line with his brother and Union Pacific Railroad chief E. H. Harriman, until Union Pacific bought it outright in 1921, making Clark even richer.

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 Ladies, please check out membership opportunity with the
Las Vegas Railroad Society's
'Victorian Railroad Ladies'

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MORE ON THE HISTORY OF LAS VEGAS: More............. 

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MUSEUM BRICK
.

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And Not Abroad
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