The New International Encyclopædia/Nevada

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NEVADA, nḗ-vä′dȧ, popularly the ‘Sagebrush State.’ A Western State of the United States. The 42d parallel of north latitude separates it from Oregon and Idaho on the north, the 114th meridian west of Greenwich from Utah and Arizona on the east, the Arizona boundary being continued on the southeast by the Colorado River as far as the 35th parallel, while a straight line running from the latter point northwest to Lake Tahoe in latitude 39° N., and thence along the 120th meridian, separates Nevada from California on the southwest and west. Nevada ranks fourth in size among the States of the Union. It has an extreme length from north to south of 483 miles, and an extreme breadth of 320 miles. Its area is 110,700 square miles, of which 960 square miles consist of water.

Topography. The greater part of Nevada lies in the Great American Basin included between the Sierra Nevada on the west and the Wahsatch Mountains on the east, and bounded by cross ranges on the southwest and, less definitely, on the north. Neither of the main boundary ranges comes within this State, the crest of the Sierra lying wholly in California, and the Wahsatch running through the centre of Utah. This great basin forms a plateau whose floor lies 4000 to 6000 feet above the sea, though in the extreme southwest it is somewhat lower. From this floor rise a uniform series of parallel ranges from 10 to 25 miles apart, and running north and south through the length of the State, but broken here and there by passes and branch valleys. In the southwestern portion they are almost worn away, leaving isolated knobs scattered over the plain. Some of these ranges rise above 9000 feet, while most of them are over 7000 feet high. The highest point in the State is Wheeler Peak, near the centre of the eastern boundary, with an altitude of 13,058 feet.

NIE 1905 California and Nevada.jpg


County Map
 County Seat.   Area in 

1890. 1900.

Churchill D 2  Stillwater 4,816  703  830
Douglas D 2  Genoa 878   1,551   1,534
Elko F 1  Elko 16,939  4,794  5,688
Esmeralda  D 2  Hawthorne 8,776  2,148  1,972
Eureka F 7  Eureka 4,111  3,275  1,954
Humboldt D 1  Winnemucca  16,126  3,434  4,463
Lander E 2  Austin 5,307  2,266  1,534
Lincoln F 3  Pioche 19,437  2,466  3,284
Lyon D 2  Dayton 1,267  1,987  2,268
Nye F 2  Belmont 17,376  1,290  1,140
Ormsby D 2  Carson City 120  4,883  2,893
Storey D 2  Virginia City 263  8,806  3,673
Washoe D 1  Reno 5,612  6,437  9,141
White Pine F 2  Ely 8,712  1,721  1,961

Hydrography. Since the surface of Nevada is a basin surrounded by mountains, a very small part of it drains into the ocean. In the extreme north rises the Uwyhee, a tributary of the Columbia River system, and the extreme southeastern portion drains into the Colorado, which flows on the southeastern boundary. A large part of the State, especially the south-central and southwestern portion, is without any rivers at all, the small streams running down the mountain slopes during the wet season being lost in the plains where the water evaporates. The principal river is the Humboldt, which rises in the northeastern corner and flows across the State to Humboldt Lake or Sink. Several rivers rise in the Sierra Nevada and flow into lakes and sinks in the west-central part of the State. Among these are Walker River, flowing into Walker Lake, Carson River, disappearing in Carson Sink, and the Truckee River, flowing from Lake Tahoe into Pyramid Lake. The last is the largest lake in the State and measures 35 miles in length by 10 miles in width. Lake Tahoe lies on the western boundary at an altitude of over 6000 feet. It is 21 miles long and 11 miles wide and of great depth. In the rainy season some of the level plains are covered for hundreds of square miles with water from a few inches to two feet deep, leaving in the dry season hardened mud flats sometimes covered with a coating of alkaline salts.

Climate. The climate is very dry and in general pleasant and healthful. The winters are not severe, and snow is confined chiefly to the mountains, where in some places it remains throughout the year. The mean temperature for January is 28°, and for July 71°. The maximum may rise above 110° and the minimum is about 30° below zero, though in the valleys it seldom falls more than 10° below. The winters are generally calm: violent winds are rare at any season. The average annual rainfall is about ten inches. This is very unevenly distributed both in regard to season and locality. Five-sixths of the total precipitation falls from December to May, and the greater part of it falls in high altitudes, the mountainous parts of Washoe County receiving 23 inches, while some valley districts are absolutely rainless.

For Flora and Fauna, see paragraphs on these topics under Rocky Mountains and United States.

Geology. The mountains of Nevada are originally due to extensive foldings and faultings of the strata during the Jurassic Age, which brought to the surface rocks ranging from the Jurassic down to the Archæan system. Some are composed of granite, syenite, porphyry, and slate, while in others limestone and calcareous spar predominate. Although some recent uplifts in the northwest are still almost unmodified, the topography of the majority of the ranges is probably due more to erosion than to the original fractures and folds. The valleys are filled with deep layers of Quaternary detritus. Volcanic rocks occur as intrusions in various places, and in the northwestern part of the State there are extensive lava fields, while other evidences of volcanic action, such as hot springs and sulphur deposits, also exist.

Besides silver and gold (see paragraph Mining) the minerals found within the State include antimony, lead, copper, mercury, and nickel, as well as sulphur, gypsum, and extensive deposits of salt and borax, the last found on the alkali flats and in beds of dry lakes.

Mining. Nevada owed her early development to mining. Immensely rich lodes of silver and gold were discovered, one of which—the Comstock lode (q.v.)—produced as high as $38,000,000 worth of bullion in one year. With the apparent exhaustion of the Comstock lode, the industry decreased considerably. The output of silver continued to decrease until 1899, when the product was valued at $1,090,457. Gold, however, revived during the last decade, the output for 1899 being valued at $2,219,000—more than double that of 1893. Copper, lead, and iron ore are also mined. No coal has been mined since 1894. The rich mineral resources of the State afford a valuable field for future development.

Agriculture. Agriculture is less developed in Nevada than in any other State. It is the most arid of the States and at the same time contains the most meagre sources for an artificial water supply. The lack of transportation facilities and of local markets retards the development of such possibilities as exist. In 1899, 504,168 acres, or 88 per cent. of the total improved area, were irrigated. The most extensive irrigated areas are along the Humboldt River and in the west-central part of the State. There are altogether 2,505,647 acres, or 3.7 per cent. of the State's area, included in farms. The industry centres about stock-grazing, the tilling of the soil being a mere adjunct to it. The animal products, together with the hay and forage and other products fed to live stock, comprise 80.6 per cent. of the total value of farm products. During the last decade of the century there was a large increase in all varieties of domestic animals. Cattle and sheep are of the greatest importance. Stock-raising being so prominent, hay and forage are naturally the most important of the crops grown. In 1899 there were 292,134 acres devoted to them, or 71.6 per cent. of the total crop area. Alfalfa constituted about one-third of this acreage. In the same year there were 18,537 acres devoted to wheat, 7043 to barley, 4786 to oats, and 2235 to potatoes. The wheat area increased five fold during the decade.

The soil is of great fertility and produces abundantly when sufficiently watered. The following table shows the relative importance and increase of the different varieties of domestic animals for the decade 1890-1900:

1900 1890

Dairy cows 13,606  9,273 
Neat cattle 371,586  201,627 
Horses 80,295  56,788 
Mules and asses  3,048  1,723 
Sheep  568,251   273,469 
Swine 15,174  7,373 

Manufacturing. The manufacturing establishments are chiefly of a domestic nature, producing and repairing articles for local consumption. Car repair shops and flour and grist milling employ the greatest capital. The total capital of all manufacturing industries is less than $1,500,000.

Transportation. There has been little inducement to railroad construction in Nevada. For several years the mileage has been about 920 miles. In proportion to the area of the State the mileage is less than that of any other State. The principal line is the Southern Pacific, running from east to west through the State. There are no navigable streams.

Banks. A national bank was organized in 1866, but soon closed. The First National Bank of Winnemucca, organized in 1886, is the only national bank in the State at present. In 1902 its capital was $82,000; surplus, $10,000; deposits aggregated $511,000 and loans $378,000. In 1902 there were two State banks. The State banking law of 1891 is very lax. The two State banks had a capital of $300,000; surplus $100,000; cash, $127,000; deposits, $1,579,000; and loans, $1,007,000. Most of the banking is done by agencies of California banks.

Finances. On admission to Statehood, in 1864, Nevada had a public debt of $400,000, which in the following decade grew to $738,528. This debt was in 9 and even 10 per cent. bonds, and was caused by the extravagant salaries paid to officials. The income of the State was derived partly from a tax on property, partly from a special tax on the proceeds of the silver mines. The income from this special tax grew rapidly with the output of the mines; in 1874 it amounted to 28 per cent. of the total receipts of the State treasury, and in 1878 to 50 per cent., or about $250,000. The output of the mines rapidly declined in the eighties, and with it the income of the treasury. The total debt in 1900 was $676,709, out of which $380,000 are irredeemable, and only the payment of interest obligatory. The State held in trust for the educational funds $1,529,652, which cannot be applied to payment of debts. The receipts in 1900 were $510,608, half of which came from a general property tax. and 30 per cent. from payments on land and interest on land payment. The expenditures were $533,402, 25 per cent. of which was for school purposes, and 25 per cent. for purchase of bonds for the school fund.

Population. The falling off in the mining industry of the State, and failure to develop in other directions, have resulted in a diminution of the population. It now has the fewest inhabitants of any State, and is the only one in which a decrease is taking place. The following are the figures by decades: 1860, 6857; 1870, 42,491; 1880, 62,266; 1890, 45,761; 1900, 42,335. The largest towns are: Reno, population, in 1890, 3563; in 1900, 4500; Virginia City, population, in 1890, 8511; in 1900, 2695; Carson City, the capital, population, in 1890, 3950; in 1900, 2100. The State has one representative in the National House of Repressentatives.

Religion. The churches do not show a strong numerical representation in Nevada. The Catholics, with a membership of about 4000, outnumber all the other churches combined. The Protestant Episcopal, Mormon, Methodist Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches are represented.

Education. The State expends a large per capita sum for educational purposes, and maintains a school term of more than seven months in length. The total expenditure for 1900 was $224,622. The number of children of school age (five to eighteen years) was 9260; number enrolled, 6676; average daily attendance, 4698. Education is compulsory, but the law is not strictly enforced. There are about 400 pupils in the high schools of the State and over 300 in the State University—a coeducational institution located at Reno, in connection with which the Federal Government has established an agricultural experiment station. There are no normal schools. The national Government maintains a boarding school for Indian children.

Charitable and Penal. The State supports an orphan's home, at Carson; a hospital for mental diseases, at Reno; and a State prison at Carson.

Government. Nevada has had but one constitution, which was adopted by popular vote in 1864. A proposed amendment may originate in either House and must receive the approval of a majority of the members elected to each House at two consecutively elected legislatures, after which it must receive a majority vote of the people. A constitutional convention may be called if approved by two-thirds of the members elected to each House and a majority of the popular vote. Suffrage is restricted to sane male citizens, twenty-one years of age, who have resided in the State six months and the district or county thirty days; the Legislature, however, has the power to make the payment of a poll tax a conditional right for voting. Carson City is the capital.

Legislative. The aggregate number of members of both branches of the Legislature cannot exceed 75, and the Senators must not number less than one-third or more than one-half the Assem- blymen. Assemblymen serve two years and Senators four years. Both are elected on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even years, and the sessions of the Legislature convene on the third Monday of January of odd years and cannot exceed 60 days in length.

Executive. The Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Secretary, Treasurer, Controller, Surveyor-General, and Attorney-General are elected at the same time as are the members of the Legislature, and serve for four years.

Judicial. There are a supreme court, district courts, and justices of the peace and such city and town courts as the Legislature may establish.

Local Government. A uniform system of county and township government is established by the legislature, which system must provide for a board of county commissioners in each county.

Militia. The militia numbers 138 men.

History. The territory from which Nevada was formed was acquired from Mexico by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848, and later formed part of Utah Territory. The first European known certainly to have entered the region was Francisco Garcés, a Franciscan friar, on his way to California from Sonora in 1775. Other friars followed him, but no settlements were made. In 1825 Peter S. Ogden, in the employ of the Hudson's Bay Company, worked inland with a small party and came upon the Humboldt River, sometimes called the Ogden River after himself, or the Mary River, after his Indian wife. Other trappers came within the next five years, though they suffered from the attacks of the Blackfeet and Shoshone Indians. In 1826 Jedediah S. Smith crossed the entire breadth of the present State from west to east. Frémont passed through in 1843-45, and possibly occasional emigrants bound for Oregon or California settled here and there. In 1849 the Mormons founded a trading post in the valley of the Carson River, near the present town of Genoa, to supply gold-seekers on their way to California. When Utah Territory was formed, September 9, 1850, the western bomdary was fixed as the summit of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and so included much of the present State, but the Territorial organization did not extend at once to the extreme west, and the inhabitants organized a government of their own. In 1853, and again in 1856, the inhabitants of the Carson Valley petitioned to be annexed to California, claiming that the Government of Utah did not protect them, and had even withdrawn the county government, so tardily given. A petition for Territorial government was sent to Congress in August, 1857, and in 1858 a provisional government was formed at Carson City with Isaac Roop as Governor. In 1860 another petition was sent to Congress and the Territorial Delegate applied for admission. Meanwhile the Comstock Lode had been discovered in June, 1859, and miners flocked thither from every direction. The new Territory was separated from Utah, March 2, 1861, being bounded on the east, however, by the 116th meridian. Another degree was cut from Utah, July 14, 1862, and on May 5, 1866, the eastern boundary was extended to the 114th meridian and that part of the State lying below 37° was taken from Arizona. In September, 1863, an election was held for delegates to form a State constitution, but the instrument submitted was defeated in January, 1864. However, the political situation made two additional Republican votes in the United States Senate exceedingly desirable, and Congress in March, 1864, again passed an enabling act; in July the Constitution was accepted, and the State was admitted October 31st. Politically the State is swayed largely by local interests. It was Republican in national elections until 1892, when it was carried by the People's Party. In 1890 and 1900 it voted for the free-silver candidate, William Jennings Bryan.

The Governors of Nevada have been as follows:

James W. Nye 1861-64
Henry G. Blasdell Republican 1864-70
Louis R. Bradley Democrat 1870-79
John H. Kinkend Republican 1879-83
Jewett W. Adams Democrat 1883-87
Christopher C. Stevenson  Republican 1887-90
Frank Bell 1890-91
Roswell K. Colcord 1891-95
John E. Jones Silver 1895-96
Reinhold Sadler 1896-1903
John Sparks Silver-Democrat 1903 —

Consult: Angel, History of Nevada (Oakland, 1881); Bancroft, Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming (San Francisco, 1890); Nevada and Her Resources (Carson City, 1894).