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History of Las Vegas
 
 
 

Early History

The prehistoric landscape of what is now the Las Vegas Valley and most of southern Nevada was a virtual marsh of abundant water and vegetation. Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, rivers that were present sank into the ground, and the marsh receded. The valley evolved into a parched, arid landscape that only supported the hardiest of animals, and plants.

At some point in the valley's geologic history, the water that had been submerged below the terrain sporadically resurfaced and flowed into what is now the Colorado River. This helped proliferate luxurious plant life, creating a wetland oasis in the Mojave Desert landscape.

Evidence of prehistoric life in Las Vegas Valley manifested in 1993 when construction workers discovered the remains of a Columbian mammoth. Paleontologists estimate that the mammoth roamed the area some 8,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Late 19th Century

The Las Vegas valley was discovered in 1829 by a trade caravan of 60 men which was lead by the Mexican merchant Antonio Armijo, whilst creating a trade route to Los Angeles by following a tributary from the Colorado River which eventually lead to the Las Vegas Valley. The travellers named the area "Las Vegas" which was Spanish for "The meadows".

John C. Fr駑ont travelled into the Las Vegas Valley on May 3, 1844, while it was still part of Mexico. He was a leader of a group of scientists, scouts and observers for the United States Army Corps of Engineers and made camp at Las Vegas Springs. On May 10, 1855, following annexation by the United States, Brigham Young assigned 30 Mormon missionaries led by William Bringhurst to the area to convert the Paiute Indian population. A fort was built near the current downtown area. The Mormons abandoned the site in 1857, due to internal disagreements between Bringhurst and newcomers who had more liberal views. The skeleton staff that was left behind mistreated the Paiute Indians. The Paiute retaliated and seized the upcoming harvest, forcing the last of the settlers back to Salt Lake City.

The US Army, in an attempt to deceive Confederate spies in 1864, falsely publicised that it reclaimed the fort and had renamed it Fort Baker.

In 1865, Octavius Gass re-occupied the fort, and started the irrigation works renaming the area to Los Vegas Rancho. Due to his ability to make wine on his ranch, Las Vegas was known as the best stop on the Mormon Trail. By 1872, Gass was able to expand his ranch to 640 acres (2.6 kmイ), and as a legislator, was able to have the territory his ranch resided on included as part of Nevada instead of Arizona. In 1881 as a result of mismanagement, Gass lost title to his ranch to Archibald Stewart, who acquired it to pay off a legal right he had on the property. In 1884, Archibald's wife, Helen J. Stewart became the Las Vegas Postmaster.

The property, which was expanded to 1,800 acres (7 kmイ), stayed with the Stewart Family despite Archibald's murder in July 1884 until it was acquired in 1902 to by the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad, then being constructed across southern Nevada. The railroad was a project of Montana Senator William Andrews Clark, the namesake of Clark County, Nevada. Clark enlisted Utah's US Senator and mining magnate Thomas Kearns to ensure the lines completion through Utah to Las Vegas.

The State Land Act of 1885 offered land at $1.25 per acre ($309/kmイ) drawing many, including farmers, to the area. As a result, farming became the primary industry for the next 20 years as farmers used the wells to irrigate their crops. The Mormons returned in 1895.


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