1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nevada
NEVADA (a Spanish word meaning “snow-clad” or “snowy land,” originally applied to a snow-capped mountain range on the Pacific slope), one of the far western states of the American Union, lying between 35° and 42° N. and 114° 1' 34" and 120° 1' 34" W. (37° and 43° W. of Washington). It is bounded N. by Oregon and Idaho, E. by Utah and Arizona, the Colorado River separating it in part from the latter state, and S. and W. by California. Nevada ranks sixth in size among the states of the Union. Of its total area of 110,690 sq. m., 869 sq. m. are water surface. Its extreme length, N. and S., is 484 m., and its extreme width, E. and W., is 321 m. (For map, see California.)
Physiography.—With the exception of its N.E. and S.E. corners, the state lies wholly within the Great Basin, the door of which is really a vast table-land between 4000 and 5000 ft. above the sea. This plateau, however, is not a plain, but contains many buttes and mesas and isolated mountain ranges rising from 1000 to 8000 ft. above its surface. In the N.E. an unnamed range of highlands, with an E. and W. trend, forms the water-parting between the streams tributary to the Humboldt river in Nevada and those that flow into the Snake river through Idaho and Oregon and thence to the Pacific Ocean. This range is very broken and ill-defined, with peaks often reaching altitudes of from 9000 to 12,000 ft., and with numerous spurs diverging N. and S. from the main divide. Between this ridge and the valley of the Colorado river lies all that portion of the Great Basin included within the state. The surface of this table-land is very rugged, and frequently broken by mountain ranges running N. and S. and from 5 to 20 m. wide at their bases. Intersecting the mountains are numerous ravines and passes. Between the ranges lie valleys of about the same width as the bases of the mountains. These valleys are generally level floored, but at their borders gradually slope upward, and are filled, often to a depth of several thousand feet, with the detritus of gravel, sand and silt from the neighbouring hills. This is a region of innumerable faulted crust blocks, the elevated ones creating the N. and S. mountain ranges, and the depressed ones the valleys that lie between. It is for this reason that the mountain slopes are generally more abrupt on one side than on the other. Several valleys often unite into a large elevated plain, broken only by scattered buttes and spurs. The combined areas of the valleys and the area occupied by the mountains are about equal.
The mean elevation of the state is 5500 ft. There are 5400 sq. m. between 2000 and 3000 ft. above the sea; 11,100 sq. m. between 3000 and 4000 ft.; 23,700 sq. m. between 4000 and 5000 ft.; 29,800 sq. m. between 5000 and 6000 ft.; 30,100 sq. m. between 6000 and 7000 ft.; 7800 sq. m. between 7000 and 8000 it.; and 2800 sq. m. between 8000 and 9000 ft. The highest point within the state is Wheeler Peak, near the centre of the eastern boundary, with an elevation of 13,058 ft.; the lowest points are along the Colorado river, where the altitudes range from 700 to 800 ft. With the exception of this dip in the S.E. corner, the entire state lies above the 2000 ft. line.
The Sierra Nevada range, which forms the western rim of the Basin, sends into the state a single lofty spur, the Washoe Mountains. At the foot of this range there is, relatively speaking, a depression, with an altitude of about 3850 ft. above the sea, which receives the drainage of the eastern slopes of the Sierra and what little drainage there is in the northern half of Nevada. From this depression eastward the general level of the plateau gradually rises to an elevation of 6000 ft. near the eastern borders of the state. The mountains also increase in height and importance as far as the East Humboldt range, a lofty mass about 60 m. W. of the Utah boundary. This range is the water-parting for nearly all the westward-flowing streams of the state, and is by far the steepest and most rugged within Nevada, a number of its peaks attaining a height of 11,000 or 12,000 ft. On its eastern slope the waters soon disappear within the bed of narrow canyons, but break out again at the foot in ice-cold springs that form the source of the Ruby and Franklin lakes; on its western side the descent is more gentle, and the waters form the South Fork of the Humboldt river. Somewhat S. of the centre of the state lie the Toyabe Mountains, with several peaks from 10,000 to 12,000 ft. in height. The waters on the eastern slopes flow into the Smoky Valley; those on the other side assist the neighbouring Shoshone Mountains in feeding the Reese river, which flows N. toward the Humboldt, but seldom has sufficient volume to enable it to reach that stream. About 100 m. E. of the California boundary lies a third important range, the Humboldt Mountains, whose highest point (Star Peak) is 9925 ft. above the sea. Owing to their great height these three ranges receive heavier rainfall than the surrounding country and are feeders to the northern valleys, which constitute the chief agricultural region of the state. Many of the block mountains of the Great Basin are of complicated internal structure, showing rocks of all ages—slate, limestone, quartzites, granite, multi-coloured volcanic rocks, and large areas of lava overflow.
From the valley of the Humboldt river southward the plateau gradually rises until the divide between this stream and the Colorado
river, in the vicinity of the White Pine Mountains, is reached. From this point there is a fall, which is gradual as far S. as the 38th parallel, and then more abrupt. Thus at Pioche the altitude is 6100 ft., at Hiko 3881 ft., at St Thomas 1600 ft., and at the Eldorado Canyon 828 ft. The region of the Colorado river is largely desert, with occasional buttes and spurs.
Rivers and Lakes.—There are three drainage systems within the state. North of the Humboldt Valley an area of about 5000 sq. m. is drained by the Owyhee, the Little Owyhee, the Salmon and Bruneau rivers, whose waters eventually reach the Pacific Ocean. Below this region flow the streams of the Great Basin, none of which reach the sea, but either terminate in lakes having no outlet or else vanish in sloughs or “sinks.” Small streams often sink from sight in their beds of gravel, and after flowing some distance underground, reappear farther on. Of the basin streams the Humboldt is the most important. Rising in the N.E., it flows in a tortuous channel in a general S.W. direction for 300 m. and drains 7000 or 8000 sq. m. This stream empties into the Humboldt lake, the overflow from which goes into the so-called Carson Sink. At no part of its course is it a large river, and near its mouth its waters are sub-alkaline. The Truckee river flows with more vigour, having its source in Lake Tahoe, in California, at an altitude of 6225 ft., and entering the Carson river through an irrigation canal completed in 1905; before this date it flowed into Pyramid Lake and Lake Winnemucca in the depression at the foot of the Sierra Nevada. A short distance to the S. two other streams, the Carson and the Walker rivers, receive their waters from the eastern slope of this range and empty into lakes bearing their names. Of this group of lakes in the western depression, Pyramid Lake is the largest, being 33 m. long and 14 m. wide. Fed by the same stream is its western neighbour, Lake Winnemucca, a much smaller body. The waters of these two lakes are only moderately saline and may be used for live-stock but not for human beings. Next in importance is Walker lake, 33 m. long and 6 or 7 m. wide, whose waters are strongly saline. On the western boundary, and partly included within the limits of Nevada, is Lake Tahoe, 20 m. long and 10 m. wide, which is 1645 ft. deep at its centre and whose waters have never been known to freeze, notwithstanding the lake's elevation. The topography and the climate of Nevada have led to the formation of two kinds of lakes, the ephemeral and the perennial. The perennial lakes, such as those just described, hold their waters for years and perhaps centuries; but the ephemeral lakes usually evaporate in the course of the summer. The latter class is formed by waters that fall on the barren mountain-sides and rush down in torrents, forming in the valleys shallow bodies of water yellow with the mud held in suspension. The largest of these occurs in the Black Rock Desert, in the N.W., and at times is from 450 to 500 m. in length and only a few inches deep. Such bodies often become nothing but vast sheets of liquid mud, and are called “mud lakes,” a term most frequently applied to the sloughs fed by Quinn's river. When the waters evaporate in the summer they leave a clay bed of remarkable hardness, which is sometimes encrusted with saline matter of a snowy whiteness and dazzles the eyes of the traveller. When such is the case the beds are called “alkali flats.” During the glacial period many of the Nevada lakes attained a great size, several of them uniting to form the ancient “Lake Lahontan,” in north-western Nevada. As these lakes shrank after the return of an arid climate, they left elevated beaches and deposits of various minerals, which mark their former extent. Both hot and cold springs are numerous, with temperatures ranging from 50° to 204° F.
In the S.E. corner of the state is the third drainage system. Here the Virgin river enters the state after crossing the N.W. corner of Arizona and flows S.W. for 60 m. until it joins the Colorado river. The latter stream flows for 150 m. along the S.E. boundary towards the Gulf of California.
Fauna and Flora.—Of native animals the varieties are few and the numbers of individuals small. In the arid valleys Coyotes (prairie wolves), rabbits and badgers are found. Large animals, such as the black and the grizzly bear, and deer are found on the slopes of the Sierra Mountains, and antelope, deer and elk visit the northernmost valleys in the winter. At rare intervals antelope appear in the southern deserts. Here also are found the sage thrasher, Le Conte's thrasher, the Texas nighthawk, Baird's woodpecker, and the mourning dove. Certain species of grouse are common high in the timbered mountains. Several varieties of water-fowl, especially curlews, pelicans, gulls, ducks, terns, geese and snipe, are found in the vicinity of the lakes. The Truckee river and the western lakes abound in trout and black bass. Of the reptiles the leopard lizard and gridiron-tailed lizard, the “chuck-walla” (Sauromalus ater), the rattle-snake, and the horned toad are the most numerous. The “black mouse” or Carson field mouse (Microtus mantanus) is found throughout Nevada, as well as in Utah, north-eastern California, and eastern Oregon; it multiplies rapidly under favourable conditions, and at times causes serious injury to crops.
The flora of Nevada, although scanty, varies greatly according to its location. With the exception of the alkali flats, no portion of the desert is devoid of vegetation, even in the driest seasons. In the Washoe Mountains, as in the rest of the Sierra Nevada range, there is a heavy growth of conifers, extending down to the very valleys; but in many places these mountains have been almost
deforested to provide timbers for the mines. In very limited spaces on other mountains there are scattered trees—the piñon (nut pine) and the juniper at an altitude between 5000 and 7000 ft. on all but the lowest ranges, the trees rarely reaching a height of over 15 ft.; and the stunted mountain mahogany on the principal ranges at an altitude of 6800 ft. Several varieties of poplar are found in the upper canyons, and trees of the willow-leaved species in the Humboldt Mountains often attain a height of 60 ft. But except for these infrequent wooded strips, the mountains are even more bare than the valleys, because their shrubs are dwarfed from exposure. The trees, except in the Washoe Mountains, are of very slow growth and therefore knotty and ill-adapted for timber. As a rule, the elevation of the timber line on the mountains increases as the latitude decreases. On the foothills are found phlox and lupine, and in the N. much bunch grass, which is valuable for grazing purposes. The valleys are covered with typical desert shrubs; grease wood (sarcobatus vermiculatus), creosote bushes (larrea tridentata), and sage-brush (artemisia tridentata); the first-named plant is abundant, chiefly in the N. This vegetation, covering plains, mesas, and even extending up the sides of the mountains, gives the entire landscape the greyish or dull olive colour characteristic of the Great Basin. To the southward, as the valleys become increasingly sandy and saline, even the sage-brush disappears, and little vegetation besides the cactus and the yucca is to be seen. The valleys are treeless, except in the vicinity of the Truckee river, where considerable quantities of the cotton wood and a small amount of willow, birch, and wild cherry are found. The mesquite grows some distance from water, and is especially common near the Colorado river. In January 1910 there were seven national forests in the state, created since July 1908 and chiefly in 1909, containing 7983.76 sq. m.
Climate.—As the lofty range of mountains on the W. deprives the winds from the Pacific of nearly all their moisture before they reach the Great Basin, the climate of Nevada is characterized by an excessive dryness. The skies are clear nearly every day in the year. The mean annual precipitation varies from 3 in. in the S.W. (Esmeralda county) to 12 in. in the E. (White Pine county). In the central, north-eastern and north-western sections, embracing the counties of Nye, Elko and Humboldt, the average annual rainfall varies from 7 to 8 in.; in the west-central section, at the foot of the Sierra, the average is about 10 in. A so-called “rainy season” lasts from October to April, but the precipitation is chiefly in the form of snow on the mountains. Except at great altitudes snow lies on the ground only a few days each year. The melting of the mountain snow-caps in the spring causes severe freshets, which in turn are followed by long seasons of drought at a time when water is most needed for agricultural purposes. Fogs and hail are rare, but, as in all treeless countries, the rain comes in unequal quantities, and cloudbursts are not unknown. The mean annual temperature for the state is 49° F., but varies from 54° in the S.W. to 46° in the N. The daily and annual variation is very great, and is intensified toward the E., where the altitudes are greater. At Elko, Elko county, in the N.E., the mean temperature for the year is 46° F.; for the winter (December, January and February) it is 26°, with extremes reported of 73° and -42°; the mean temperature for the summer (June, July and August) is 69°, with extremes of 108° and 20°. At Hawthorne, Esmeralda county, in the S.W., the mean temperature for the year is 54°; for the winter it is 36°, with extremes of 69° and -6°; the mean temperature for the summer is 72°, with extremes of 102° and 32°. At the head of the Humboldt river frosts are of almost nightly occurrence, and in the Carson Valley damaging frosts often occur in June. In the extreme S. the isothermal lines run almost due E. and W.; but farther northward they take a N.W. and S.E. direction. The annual range of temperature is about 124°; the highest temperature ever recorded being 119°, and the lowest -42°. In spite of the high temperatures of summer, however, the low humidity prevents the heat from being oppressive, and cases of sunstroke are unknown. While the western mountains keep out the moisture, they do not ward off the winds which pour down the steep slopes in the winter and spring and raise clouds of dust. Early-sown grain is often injured by flying sand and gravel. In the summer and autumn the winds are light.
Agriculture.—Because of this extreme aridity, agriculture in Nevada is dependent on irrigation. The three principal areas in which irrigation is practicable are along the Humboldt river, in the plains watered by the Carson, Truckee and Walker rivers, and at the foot of the mountains along the western edge of the state. There are various places also near the mouths of desert canyons, where small amounts of water are obtainable for irrigation purposes from intermittent streams. The total number of acres irrigated in 1899 was 504,168, an increase of 124.7% in the decade. In 1902 the total irrigated acreage was 570,001, an increase of 13.1% in three years. In 1902 Congress provided for the beginning of extensive irrigation works in the arid West, and Nevada (where preliminary reconnaissances had been made in 1889-1890) was the first state to profit from this undertaking. The survey for the Truckee-Carson system was begun in 1902, with the object of utilizing the waters flowing to waste in western Nevada for the irrigation and reclamation of the adjacent arid regions in Churchill, Lyon and Storey counties. A canal 31 m. long, diverting the waters of the Truckee river into the Carson river, was completed in 1905 at a cost of $1,250,000. A system of reservoirs (the main reservoir is Lake Tahoe with an area of 193 sq. m.), distributing canals, and drain ditches was also projected, making it possible to reclaim 231,300 acres of the desert. It was estimated that the works would require nine years for their completion, at a total cost of $9,000,000, although the first 200,000 acres could be reclaimed at a cost of $2,700,000. The works were to be operated by the government for ten years, and the cost assessed against the holders of the land. At the conclusion of this period the system was to pass into the control of the landholders, with no further charge by the government.
The soil when reclaimed is well adapted for forage crops, cereals, vegetables and deciduous fruits. Nevada is a great ranching state, and stock-raising has shown a rapid extension. In 1900, 88.9% of its farm acreage was devoted to hay and forage crops, being more than doubled in the decade. Fifty-one per cent. of the improved lands in 1899 were devoted to the cultivation of these crops. With the growing of grasses as the chief agricultural product, farming in Nevada is necessarily extensive rather than intensive. In 1899 the average size of the farms was 1174 acres. The value of the different kinds of agricultural products for 1899 was as follows: live stock, $4,373,973; hay and grain, $1,535,914; dairy produce, $385,220; vegetables, $216,600; fruits, $20,900. It thus appears that the live stock industry is one of the most important in the state; the value of its product in 1899 exceeded its output of gold and silver, which had then reached its lowest point, by over one million dollars. About 64% of the value of the live stock was represented by neat cattle; 19% by sheep; 10% by horses, and the remainder by mules, swine, asses, burros and goats.
In spite of the predominating interest in stock-raising, intensive cultivation of the soil is practicable where the water supply is sufficient. Nevada, for example, ranked third in 1909 in the amount of wheat produced to the acre (28.7 bushels), but in the total amount produced (1,033,000 bushels) ranked only thirty-eighth, and furnished only 0.145% of the crop of the United States. In 1909 in the amount of barley per acre (38 bushels) Nevada ranked third, and in the average farm price per bushel ($0.75) ranked first among the barley-producing states of the country, but in the total amount produced (304,000 bushels) held only the twenty-second place; and in the same year the average yield of potatoes per acre in Nevada was 180 bushels, exceeded in two states—the average for the entire country was 106.8 bushels per acre—but the total crop in Nevada (540,000 bushels) was smaller than in any state or Territory of the Union, except New Mexico.
The prevailing soils are sand and gravel loams, but other varieties are numerous, ranging from rich alluvial beds of extinct lakes, as in parts of Lyon and Esmeralda counties, to the strongly alkaline plains of the southern deserts. The most productive part of the state is the Humboldt Valley and the region near Pyramid Lake, including the counties of Humboldt, Elko and Washoe. A singular menace to agriculture in Nevada was the plague in 1907-1908 of Carson field mice. These first appeared in large numbers in the lower part of the Humboldt Valley in the summer of 1906, and in October and November 1907 it was estimated that they numbered on certain ranches from 8000 to 12,000 on every acre. The alfalfa crop suffered particularly, the total loss being about $300,000. After unsuccessful attempts to rid themselves of the mice, the farmers appealed to the United States Biological Survey, and alfalfa hay poisoned with strychnia sulphate was used successfully in the Humboldt Valley in January 1908 and in the Carson Valley, where a similar plague threatened, in April 1908.
Minerals.—To its mineral wealth Nevada owes its existence as a state; but for the richness of its veins of gold and silver ore it would be still little more than an arid waste. Extending from central California S.E. along the dividing line between that state and
Nevada, and thence past the Colorado river into Arizona, is one of the richest mineral belts in the world. Gold was found in Gold Canyon near Dayton, Nevada, as early as July 1849. In 1859 the discovery of the famous Comstock Lode in Western Nevada led to the building of Virginia City, a prosperous community on the side of a mountain where human beings under ordinary conditions would not have lived, and eventually brought a new state into existence. The mines of this one district had produced, up to 1902, $371,248,288, of which $148,145,385 was in gold, $204,653,040 in silver, and the remainder in unclassified tailings. For the years 1862-1868 inclusive, the average annual production was over $11,000,000; in the second period of great productivity (1873-1878), after the opening (by John W. Mackay and his partners, Flood, Fair and O'Brien) in the Comstock Lode of the Great Bonanza mine, the average annual yield was over $26,000,000. In 1877 the maximum annual output for the mines was attained, being $36,301,537 For the three years 1875-1877 the production of old and silver in Nevada was more than the combined product of all the other American states and Territories. After this last year the output of the Comstock mines declined on account of the exhaustion of the ore supply, the increased expense of mining at great depths, and the decrease in the price of silver. The yield reached its lowest point in 1899, but subsequently increased through the application of improved machinery, while the tailings of the old diggings were treated by the cyanide process with profitable results. In 1859 the mines were worked only for their gold; the ignorant miners threw away the “black stuff” which was really valuable silver ore with an assay value four times as great as that of their ores of gold; and when this was discovered there came a period of unprecedented silver reduction. But the fall in the price of silver led to a reaction, and from 1893 the old output predominated. The gold production of 1907 was value of at $12,099,455; the silver production at $4,675,178.
In connexion with the operation of the Comstock mines was built (in 1869-1879) the Sutro Tunnel, named in honour of its engineer, Adolph Sutro (1830-1898), piercing the mountain horizontally far below the mouth of the mines, and at a distance of nearly 4 m. striking the shafts of the Comstock Lode, securing ventilation and cool air for the miners, draining the mines above its level, and obviating much pumping and hoisting. Two lateral tunnels were also constructed, making the total length 6½ m.
Another mining region that attained importance in the early period was the Eureka District, in Eureka county, about 90 m. S. of the Southern Pacific railway. Ore was first discovered here in 1864, but it was five years before the mines became productive. By 1882 they had produced $60,000,000 of precious metals.
With the working out of the deposits in the Comstock region, the mining industry declined, and between 1877 and 1900 there was a period of great depression, in which Nevada fell from first to sixth place among the silver-producing states and Territories. In May 1900, however, very rich deposits of old and silver were discovered in Nye county, near the summit of the San Antonio Mountains, and a new era began in Nevada's mining industry. The village of Tonopah sprang into existence as soon as the rush of newcomers to this region began, and in 1903 it contained 4000 inhabitants. In two years $7,000,000 worth of gold and silver had been taken from the Tonopah mines and it was asserted that they would prove as rich as the mines of the Comstock Lode. The Tonopah ores were richer in silver than in gold, the respective values in 1904 and 1905 being approximately in the proportion of three to one. This discovery gave a new impetus to prospecting in south-western Nevada, and it was soon discovered that the district was not an isolated mining region but was in the heart of a great mineral belt. Tonopah is at the outcropping of a number of ledges which continue for several hundred feet below the surface for an unknown distance. In 1902, in Esmeralda county, 24 m. S. of Tonopah, rich ores were found in the Goldfield District, and within three years there were 8000 people in this region. During 1905 the town of Goldfield had a period of mushroom growth, then quieted, and finally revived to a healthy development. The value of the production of the Goldfield District in 1904 amounted to $2,3141,979. This discovery was followed in 1904 by that of the Bullfrog District, in Nye county, 60 m. S.E. of Goldfield, and within ninety days after its birth the village of Bullfrog, although 100 m. from a railway, had an electric lighting plant, an ice plant and a hotel. In 1905 gold was discovered in Nye county, 29 m. N.E. of Tonopah, in what became known as the Manhattan District, and by March 1906 the village of Manhattan was a mile in length and contained 3000 inhabitants.
After 1902 the production of gold and silver steadily increased, being $4,980,786 in that year, $9,184,996 in 1905, and $16,774,633 in 1907. By far the greater portion of these metals came from the southern part of the state. In production of gold in 1907 Esmeralda county ranked first with $8,533,617 (nearly 70% of the total); Nye county's output was $1,547,408, Lincoln county's $929,775, and Storey county's a little more than $250,000. In the production of silver Nye county ranked first in 1907 ($3,667,973, of which $3,544,788 was from Tonopah), Churchill county second ($432,617, from Fairview, Wonder and Stillwater), and Eureka county (with lead silver ores) and Storey county were third and fourth respectively. Copper, lead and zinc are produced in small quantities, being found in fissure veins with gold and silver. In 1907 the production of copper was 1,782,571 ℔, valued at $356,514. The output of lead in 1907 was 6,271,341 ℔ (valued at $322,381). The output of zinc was 2,168,783 ℔ (valued at $127,958).
Other minerals exist in great variety. Salt deposits are extensive and commercially important in Washoe and Churchill counties. After 1900 the production of salt rapidly increased up to 1906, when it was 11,249 bbls.; in 1907 it was only 6457 bbls., all graded as “common coarse” and all obtained by solar evaporation from brine. Borax marshes are numerous in the west and south-west, but they are no longer commercially productive. Large beds of mica are found in the east. Gypsum occurs in a number of places, the best known being in the north-west. Veins of antimony are worked in the Battle Mountain District and in Bullion Canyon, 15 m. south of Mill City. There are veins of bismuth near Sodaville. A little graphite is produced in Humboldt county. A sub-bituminous lignite is mined in Esmeralda county (800 tons in 1906; 330 tons in 1907). Considerable quantities of the following minerals have been found: barytes (heavy spar), magnetite (magnetic iron ore), and pyrolusite (manganese dioxide) in Humboldt county; roofing slate in Esmeralda county; cinnabar (ore containing quicksilver) in Washoe county; haematite in Elko and Churchill counties; cerussite and galena (lead ores) in Eureka county; and wolframite (a source of tungsten) at Round Mountain, White Pine county. In 1903 and 1907 Nevada ranked second among the American states in the production of sulphur, but its output is very small in comparison with that of Louisiana.
Manufactures.—The manufacturing interests of Nevada are unimportant. Of the manufacturing establishments in the state in 1900, 109, or 47.8%, were situated in Reno, Carson City and Virginia City, named in the order of their importance. These places employed 35.9% of the labour engaged in manufacturing, and the value of their products was 38.8% of the total for the state. Manufactures based on the products of mines and quarries (chemicals, glass, clay, stone and metal works) constituted about one-fifth of the whole product. Car construction and general shop work of steam railways was the leading manufacturing industry in 1905; next in importance were the flour and grist milling industry and the printing and publishing of newspapers and periodicals. Such statistics of the special census of manufactures (under the factory system) of 1905 as are comparable with those of 1900 show 99 factories in 1900 and 115 in 1905, an increase of 16.2%. Their capital in 1900 was $1,251,208 and in 1905 $2,891,997, an increase of 131.1%. The value of their products in 1900 was $1,261,005, and in 1905, $3,096,274, an increase of 145.5%.
Transportation.—In its industrial development Nevada has always been hampered by lack of transportation facilities. There are no navigable waterways, and the railway mileage is small. Until the completion of the trans-continental railway in 1869, wagon trains were the only means of transporting the products of the mines across the desert. An unsuccessful attempt was made, beginning in 1861, to domesticate the camel for this purpose. The railway mileage in 1880 was 739 m.; in 1890, 923 m.; in the following decade railway building was at a standstill. Since 1900, however, there has been considerable development, and the total mileage on the 1st of January 1909, was 1,866.92 m. The state is crossed from east and west by three main lines of railway, parts of the great transcontinental systems, the Southern Pacific and the Western Pacific in the northern part of the state and the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake in the southern. The oldest of these trunk lines, the Southern Pacific (formerly the Central Pacific), follows the course of the Humboldt and Truckee rivers. It is met at several points by lines which serve the rich mining districts to the south; at Cobre by the Nevada Northern from Ely in White Pine county in the Robinson copper mining district; at Palisade by the Eureka & Palisade, a narrow-gauge railway, connecting with the lead and silver mines of the Eureka District; at Battle Mountain by the Nevada Central, also of narrow gauge, from Austin; at Hazen by the Nevada & California (controlled by the Southern Pacific) which runs to the California line, connecting in that state with other parts of the Southern Pacific system, and at Mina, Nevada, with the Tonopah & Goldfield, which runs to Tonopah and thence to Goldfield, thus giving these mining regions access to the Southern Pacific's transcontinental service; and at Reno, close to the western boundary, by the Virginia & Truckee, connecting with Carson City, Minden, in the Carson Valley, and Virginia City, in the Comstock District, and by the Nevada-California-Oregon, projected to run through north-eastern California into Oregon, in 1910, in operation to Alturas, California. The Western Pacific railway, completed in 1910, extending from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, and running entirely
across the state of Nevada, is parallel with the Southern Pacific for some distance in the eastern part of the state, and crosses the mountains at Beckwith Pass 20 m. north of Reno. The San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake railway, also an important factor in east and west transcontinental traffic, opened in May 1905, has been of special value in the development of the southern part of the state. It crosses a section that is mostly desert, but is connected with the Bullfrog District by the Las Vegas & Tonopah, which runs from Goldfieid through Beatty and Rhyolite, and meets the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake at Las Vegas. The Goldfield and Bullfrog districts have a further outlet to the south through a second railway, the Nevada Short Line (Bullfrog-Goldfield and Tonopah & Tidewater railways) which connects with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé at Ludlow in California.
Population.—Nevada is the most sparsely settled state of the Union. Its population in 1860 was 6857; in 1870, 42,491; in 1880, 62,266; in 1890, 45,761; in 1900, 42,335; and in 1910, 81,875 (0.7 per sq. m.). In 1900 10,093 were foreign-born (mostly English, Irish, Germans, Italians and Chinese in almost equal proportions); and there were 35,405 white persons, 5216 Indians, 1352 Chinese, 228 Japanese and 134 negroes. There were then only three towns of importance: Reno, Virginia City and Carson City, the capital.
The Indian population consists of Paiute, Shoshoni and the remnants of a few other tribes of Shoshonean stock. On the Duck Valley reservation (488 sq. m.), established in 1877, in Elko county, between the forks of the Owyhee river and lying partly in Nevada and partly in Idaho, and under the western Shoshoni (boarding) school (55 pupils in 1908), there were 252 Paiute, 238 Shoshoni and 1 Hopi in 1908; on the Pyramid Lake reservation (503 sq. m.), established in 1874, in Washoe county, on the borders of the lake from which it is named, 486 Paiute; on the Walker river reservation (79.37 sq. m.), established in 1874 (partly opened to settlement in 1906) along Walker river and Walker Lake, 466 Paiute; on the Moapa river reserve (15.6 sq. m.), in the south-eastern part of the state, 117 Paiute.
In 1906, of the 14,944 members of religious denominations 9,970 were Roman Catholics, 1,210 Protestant Episcopalians, 1,105 Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), 618 Methodists and 520 Presbyterians.
Administration.—Nevada is governed under the original constitution of 1864, with the amendments adopted in 1880, 1889, 1904 and 1906. The constitution as adopted limited the suffrage to adult white males, but this provision was annulled by the fifteenth amendment to the Federal constitution; and in 1880 amendments to the state constitution were adopted striking out the word “white” from the suffrage clause and adding a new article granting rights of suffrage and office holding without regard to race, colour or previous condition of servitude. A residence in the state of six months and in the district or county of thirty days preceding the election is required of all voters. Persons guilty of treason or felony in any state or Territory and not restored to civil rights, idiots and insane persons, are excluded from the suffrage. An unusual provision in the constitution, a result of its adoption in the midst of the Civil War, gives soldiers and sailors in the service of the United States the right to vote; their votes to be applied to the township and county in which they were bona fide residents at the time of enlistment. The legislature has the right to make the payment of the poll tax a requirement for voting, but no such provision is in force. A law passed in 1887, requiring all voters to take an oath against polygamy, with the object of disfranchising Mormons, was declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. A governor, lieutenant-governor, secretary of state, attorney general, controller, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction and surveyor-general are chosen by popular vote every four years. Their functions are similar to those of the administrative officials in other states, with the exception that the governor does not possess the usual pardoning power but is ex officio a member of the pardoning board. The governor and lieutenant governor must each be at least twenty-five years old at the time of election to office. The legislative department consists of a Senate, with members chosen every four years, about half of whom retire every two years; and an Assembly, whose members are chosen biennially. The constitution requires that the number of senators shall be not less than one-third nor more than one half the number of members of the Assembly, and that the total membership of both houses shall not exceed seventy-five. Bills of any character may originate in either house. The legislative sessions are biennial and are limited to fifty days; special sessions are limited to twenty days. The judicial department consists of a supreme court with a chief justice and two associate justices, chosen for six years, and district courts, with judges chosen for four years.
The state is divided into fifteen counties, each of which is governed in local matters by a board of county commissioners, and is divided for administrative purposes into townships. The constitution requires that township and county governments shall be uniform throughout the state. For each township there is a justice of the peace, chosen biennially by its voters. The homestead exemption extends to a dwelling-house, with its land and appurtenances, with a value not exceeding $5000; but no exemption is granted against a process to enforce the payment of purchase-money, or for improvements, or for legal taxes, or of a mortgage to which both the husband and wife have consented. The exemption can be claimed by the husband, wife, or other head of the family, by a written declaration duly acknowledged and recorded in the manner prescribed for conveyances; and the homestead can then be mortgaged or alienated by a husband only with the wife's consent, if the wife is at the time a resident of the state. The exemption is not affected by the death of the husband or wife, but inures to the benefit of the surviving members of the family. For divorce a residence in the state of six months is necessary; the grounds for divorce are desertion or neglect to provide for one year, conviction of felony, habitual drunkenness, cruelty or physical incapacity.
There are a number of unusual provisions in the constitution of Nevada. The assertion in the “Declaration of Rights” that “no power exists in the people of this or any other state of the Federal Union to dissolve their connexion therewith or perform any act tending to impair, subvert, or resist the supreme authority of the government of the United States,” is a result of the drafting of the instrument during the Civil War. There is also a provision that only three-fourths of the jurors may be required to agree to a verdict in civil cases, although the legislature has the power to require by statute a unanimous agreement. Amendments to the constitution must be passed by a majority of each house of the legislature at two consecutive sessions and submitted to a vote of the people at the next regular election. Under this provision an amendment cannot be adopted until nearly four years after it is first roposed. At the election of 1904 an amendment was adopted which provides that whenever 10% of the voters of the state, as shown by the votes of the last preceding election, express a wish that any law or resolution of the legislature shall be submitted to the people, the Act or Resolve shall be voted on at the next election of the state or county officers, and if a majority of the voters approve the measure it shall stand; otherwise, it shall become void. Nevada thus became the fourth American state to adopt the referendum.
Institutions.—The state maintains a penitentiary at Carson City and an insane asylum at Reno. The deaf, dumb and blind are cared for at its expense in the California institution for these defectives. The State University, established at Elko in 1874 and removed to Reno in 1887, is supported by the income from a Federal grant of two townships (72 sq. m.) of public land and an additional grant, under the Morrill Act of 1862, of 90,000 acres for the support of a college for agriculture and mechanic arts. An agricultural experiment station and a normal school are conducted in connexion with the university. The control of this institution is vested in a board of regents, chosen by popular vote. At Virginia City is a school of mines, established by the state in 1903. The Federal government maintains three boarding schools for Indians in the state. The public schools are supported by the income from a Federal grant of 2,000,000 acres of public land (given in lieu of the usual sixteenth and thirty-sixth sections) supplemented by state and local taxation. The constitution provides that a special state tax, at a rate of not over two mills on the dollar, may be levied for school purposes. All fines collected under the penal laws, all escheats and 2% of the receipts of toll roads and bridges go into the school fund, which is invested in state and Federal securities and the
interest apportioned among the counties according, to their school population. The administration of the school system is in the hands of a superintendent of public instruction.
Finance.—The bonded debt of the state on the 31st of December 1908 amounted to $550,000, of which the state held an irredeemable bond for $380,000; the actual redeemable bonded debt of $170,000 was due to the investment of the school and university funds in the bonds of the state. The actual borrowing capacity of the state is limited by its constitution to $300,000, except for the extraordinary purpose of repelling invasion or suppressing insurrection. Practically all the revenue is derived from the taxation of real and personal property. Mines and mining claims are exempt from taxation, but a quarterly tax is levied on the net proceeds of mines, and is not to be aid a second time so long as the products remain in the hands of the original producer. The rate of taxation for state purposes is fixed by the legislature, and for county purposes by the board of county commissioners. A poll tax is required of all males between the ages of 21 and 60 years, one half of which goes to the county in which it is collected and the rest to the state. At the close of 1908 the state receipts for the year amounted to $1,004,041, and expenditures to $875,941.
History.—The first recorded person of European descent to enter the limits of Nevada was Francisco Garcés (1738-1781), of the Order of St Francis, who set out from Sonora in 1775 and passed through what is now the extreme southern corner of the state on his way to California. Half a century later a party of trappers of the Hudson's Bay Company entered Nevada and plied their trade along the Humboldt river. American trappers came about the same time. Emigrants to California followed the trappers, and many crossed Nevada in the early 'forties of the 19th century. During 1843-1845 John C. Frémont made a series of explorations in this region. By the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, negotiated in 1848, at the close of the war with Mexico, Nevada became United States territory. It was then a part of California known as the Washoe Country, and remained so until the 9th of September 1850, when most of the present state was included in the newly organized Territory of Utah. In the meantime the discovery of gold in California had swelled the stream of westward migration across the Washoe Country, and had resulted in the settlement of traders, mostly Mormons, along the routes to the gold fields. The first settlement in what is now the state of Nevada was planted in the valley of the Carson river in 1849. The earliest recorded public meeting was held at Mormon Station (now Genoa) on the 12th of November 1851. The object of this gathering was to frame a government for the settlers, as the seat of the Territorial government of Utah was too remote to afford protection for life and property. Congress was petitioned to organize a separate Territory. An independent local government was formed a week later, and this lasted for several months, until the Utah authorities intervened. In 1854 the Utah legislature created the county of Carson, which included all the settlements in western Utah; but the inhabitants sought to rid themselves of all connexion with the people of the Salt Lake region, and petitioned Congress to annex them to California. In 1858 Carson City was laid out, and in the following year the people of Carson county held a mass meeting and chose delegates to a constitutional convention, which met at Genoa on the 18th of July 1859, and in ten days drafted a constitution. The instrument was submitted to a vote of the people and was adopted, and a full set of state officers was chosen. This attempt to create a new state proved abortive, however, and it was not till the mineral wealth of the Washoe Country became generally known that Congress took any action. On the 2nd of March 1861 the Territory of Utah was divided at 39° W. (of Washington) and the western portion was called Nevada. As then constituted, the northern boundary of Nevada was the 42nd parallel, its southern the 37th, and its western boundary was made to conform to the eastern limits of the state of California. James W. Nye (1814-1876) of New York was appointed Territorial governor. In December 1862 the Territorial legislature passed an act “to frame a constitution and state government for the state of Washoe.” This was submitted to the people and adopted at the polls. Delegates to a constitutional convention accordingly drafted a frame of government, which on the 19th of January 1864 was submitted to a popular vote and overwhelmingly defeated. The instrument contained a very unpopular clause taxing all mining property, unproductive as well as productive. Moreover, as state officers were to be chosen at the same time that the constitution was voted on, disappointed candidates for party nominations fought against ratification. As a result, the constitution was rejected while officers to act under it were at the same time duly elected.
Early in 1864, when it became evident that two more Republican votes might be needed in the United States Senate for reconstruction purposes, party leaders at Washington urged the people of Nevada to adopt a constitution and enter the Union as a patriotic duty, and on the 21st of March 1864 Congress passed an act to enable the people of the Territory to form a state government. The third constitutional convention in its history now met at Carson City and drew up a constitution which was duly ratified. On the 31st of October President Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring Nevada a state. By the Enabling Act Congress had extended the eastern boundary to the 38th meridian (W. of Washington), and in 1866 still farther extended it to the 37th and fixed the southern boundary as it exists at present. The additions eastward were made from Utah and those to the south from Arizona.
Being “battle-born,” Nevada was loyal to the Union throughout the Civil War, and in spite of its scanty population furnished a company of troops in 1861, which were joined to a California regiment. In 1863 the Territory raised six companies of infantry and six of cavalry (about 1000 men), which saw no actual service against the Confederates but were useful in subduing hostile Indians.
The history of the state since its organization has been largely a history of its mines. The period from 1860 to 1864 was one of rapid development accompanied by the wildest speculation. This was followed by a reaction and a general collapse of inflated values until 1873, when the discovery of the Great Bonanza mine brought about a revival of industry and of speculation. A second period of decline followed the working out of this mine and lasted until 1900, when the discovery of a new mineral belt in southern Nevada brought renewed prosperity. Until 1870 the state was regularly Republican, but in this year the Democrats gained most of the offices, including the seat in the national House of Representatives. The Republicans, however, secured the electoral votes of Nevada in 1872 and in 1876, and in 1878 were again in full control, only to suffer defeat in 1880. Not until the silver currency question became a political issue did Nevada take a prominent part in national politics. In 1885 the Nevada Silver Association was formed for the purpose of advocating the free and unlimited coinage of silver. Both parties in the state in 1888 declared in favour of free coinage, and in 1892 instructed their delegates to the national conventions to oppose any candidate who did not favour this policy. As a means of asserting their views effectively, the citizens, irrespective of party, organized local silver clubs, and these eventually led to the formation of the Silver party of Nevada, which drafted a “platform” and nominated a state ticket and presidential electors who were instructed to support the Populist national ticket. The Republicans in the state divided, and the majority of them went over to the Silver party. At the national election in this year the Silver ticket received in Nevada 7264 votes; the Republican 2811; the Democrat 714; and the Prohibitionist 86. In the state election of 1894 the Silver party was again victorious, and not a Democrat was returned to the legislature. In the election of 1896 all the parties in the state declared in favour of the free and unlimited coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to 1. The Democratic and Silver parties united, with the result that the state's electoral vote went to Bryan and Sewall, the Democratic nominees, while the Silver party retained most of the state offices. In the presidential election of 1900 the Nevada Republicans pursued a non-committal policy with regard to the silver question, declaring in favour of “the largest use of silver as a money metal in all matters compatible with the best interests of our government.” The Democratic and the Silver parties again united, and subsequently dominated the politics of the state.
|Territorial Governor.—James W. Nye, 1861-1864.|
Bibliography.—Clarence King, Report of the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel (Professional Papers of the Engineer Department, U.S. Army); George M. Wheeler, Report upon United States Geographical Surveys West of the One Hundredth Meridian (Engineer Department, U.S. Army); Israel C. Russell, Present and Extinct Lakes of Nevada, in National Geographic Monographs, vol. i. No. 4 (June 1895); idem., The Geological History of Lake Lahontan, a Quaternary Lake of North-western Nevada (Washington, 1885), U.S. Geological Survey Monograph, No. 11; Idah M. Strobridge, In Miners' Mirage Land (Los Angeles, 1904); H. Hoffman, Californien, Nevada und Mexico (Basel, 1879); Nevada and her Resources, compiled under the direction of the State Bureau of Immigration (Carson City, 1894); U.S. Department of Agriculture, North America Fauna, No. 7, pt. 2 (1893); William Wright, History of the Big Bonanza (Hartford, Conn., 1876); C. H. Shinn, The Story of the Mine as Illustrated by the Great Comstock Lode of Nevada, in “The Story of the West” series (New York, 1896); The Silver Mines of Nevada (New York, 1864); M. Angel (ed.), History of Nevada (Oakland, Cal., 1881); H. H. Bancroft, History of Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming, in vol. xxv. of his Works (San Francisco, 1890); Elliot Coues, On the Trail of a Spanish Cavalier, Francisco Garcés (New York, 1900).
- The public lands are open to entry free of charge, but the government withholds the title until all the payments for water have been made. The yearly payments amount to $2.60 per acre under the present system; this amount covers the cost of maintenance and operation and also of a thorough drainage system, which is as important to the settler as irrigation. Lands already held in private ownership are supplied with water at the same price as public lands.
- Compare this figure with that for the neighbouring state of California, where the average size of the farms was 397.4 acres.
- That conditions are favourable to the animal industry is shown by the fact that in 1897 the valleys of northern Nevada were so overrun with wild horses, to the detriment of the grazing grounds for cattle, that the legislature authorized the killing of such animals. For a time this was a profitable pursuit, as the horse hides brought good prices.
- This is the yield reported by the United States Department of Agriculture. Between its reports and those of the Census Bureau in census years there are sometimes great discrepancies. According to the Year Book of the Department of Agriculture in 1909 a crop of 165,000 bushels of oats was grown in Nevada on 7000 acres; there was no crop reported of Indian corn or of rye.
- See Stanley E. Piper, The Nevada Mouse Plague of 1907-1908 (Washington, 1909), Farmers' Bulletin 352, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Apart from their commercial uses, the Sutro Tunnel and the shafts of the Comstock Lode have been employed for scientific investigations, with the object of classifying igneous rocks, determining the variations of temperature, and the character of electrical manifestations beneath the earth's surface, and the relation between the structure of rocks and their rate of cooling.
- It is interesting to note that in 1875 the Nevada legislature passed an act forbidding camels or dromedaries to run at large. This law remained on the statute books until 1898, when it was formally repealed.
- An interesting application of this provision was made in 1898, when Nevada soldiers on their way to Manila were allowed to vote at sea. It was discovered, however, that no statute had ever been passed to carry this provision into effect, and the votes were rejected.
- In 1897 a law was passed making the right of suffrage dependent on the payment of poll taxes for the preceding two years; but in the following year the State Supreme Court declared this act unconstitutional because the title was not descriptive of the matter.
- Died the 21st of September, 1890, and Frank Bell became governor by virtue of his office as lieutenant-governor.
- Died the 10th of April 1895, and R. Sadler became governor by virtue of his office as lieutenant-governor.