Author: Dennis Cassinelli

State History: Stagecoach Travel in Nevada

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), traveled by stagecoach across the Territory of Nevada in 1860 with his brother, Orion. At that time, the most convenient method of traveling any long distance was either by stagecoach, or by horseback. Twain wrote about his journey from Missouri to Carson City in his classic book, “Roughing It.” Several stage lines were in business during the Comstock mining boom to provide passenger service to the growing population of the region. Pioneer Stage lines, Wells Fargo and Butterfield were some of the stage lines that worked the area. Wells Fargo Stage Lines posted the following set of rules to be observed by passengers on their routes that give an idea of what some of the conditions were: 1) Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink, share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly. 2) If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of some is repugnant to the gentler sex. 3) Chewing tobacco is permitted, but spit with the wind, not against it. 4) Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children. 5) Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort in cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver. 6) Don’t...

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Nevada History: Operation Haylift

When the record-shattering blizzards of 1948-49 threatened the lives of thousands of livestock, Operation Haylift flew into action. The winter storms of 1948-49 were the heaviest in the West since 1889, and thousands of residents and more than 1 million cows and sheep were stranded in remote regions of Nevada and other states. The mission was to drop bales of hay from planes to the thousands of hungry livestock on ranches around Ely and Elko, Nevada. U.S. government officials and Nevada ranchers and organized Operation Haylift to prevent mass starvation among the animals struggling in the frigid high desert. Hundreds of tons of hay and other feed were loaded into C-82 Flying Boxcars from airports in Fallon and Minden. Once filled, the giant transport planes were flown to operational headquarters based in Ely. Since most of the stranded livestock was in eastern Nevada, particularly Elko, White Pine, Nye, and Lincoln counties, Ely was the best staging area. On January 24, 1949, the first of 28 C-82 Flying Boxcars carrying bales of hay landed at the Ely airport. Since much of the livestock was in rough terrain and isolated canyons, an airlift was the only option. On the first day, 16 of the Flying Boxcar aircraft flew 18 trips and dropped nearly 75 tons of hay to the animals. Once the operation started, it ran like clockwork. Day after day,...

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Great Basin Crescents

On a Father’s Day outing to Fort Churchill several years ago, I happened to discover one of the most interesting Indian artifacts I ever found in my many years of searching the farms, ranches, and Nevada deserts. The finely chipped artifact was made of shiny black obsidian about 2” long. This material was commonly used to make arrowheads, projectile points, scrapers and other tools by the Great Basin Indians. The shape of the item completely baffled me. It was as if someone had fused together two large arrowheads at a ninety-degree angle to each other. It also bore a striking resemblance to a butterfly or the tail of a fish, such as a trout. Fort Churchill is situated along the Carson River about 30 miles east of Virginia City. The area where I found the artifact was on a privately owned ranch across the river from the ruins of the fort. It is illegal to hunt for or pick up artifacts from state or federal lands such as a state park or BLM land. Out of curiosity, I took the artifact to an archaeologist friend of mine at the Nevada Department of Transportation, Joe Moore. He was able to identify the curious piece as a “Great Basin crescent.” Joe told me they were extremely rare and are found only where the water level of ancient Lake Lahontan was between...

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More About Potosi, Virginia City’s Older Sister

Since I wrote a previous article about the similarities and differences between the old silver town of Potosi in Bolivia and our own Virginia City here in Nevada, I have had some questions from a few of my readers about this interesting topic including inquiries about the existence of a few other “Potosis.” The name Potosi appears to be an idiom for “extraordinary richness.” For several hundred years, it has been used to identify a mine, mountain or locality as a place of actual or anticipated extraordinary richness. More often than not, the dreams of riches never materialized but the name Potosi is all that remains. The Potosi in Bolivia was the greatest silver discovery ever made by the Spanish in the 1570s. It was described as “mountain of silver.” Potosi was likely the largest producer of silver the world has ever known. Many of the “Pieces of eight” recovered from the wreck of the Atocha near Key West Florida were minted in Potosi. At its peak of production, Potosi was one of the world’s largest cities with a population of 160,000 persons. Working conditions at the Potosi Mine were incredibly brutal. Native American Indians were used as slaves in the mine and in the mills that processed the ore and stamped the coins. Life expectancy for the workers was shortened due to mercury poisoning, choking dust and dehydration....

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Nevada History: The ‘Slim Princess’ Railroad

By 1880, the owners of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad decided to pursue another venture to tap into the new mining districts developing in the south-central part of Nevada. The idea was to construct a new railroad line to connect Carson City and the Comstock to the Colorado River at the southern border of the state. The Carson and Colorado Railroad was started at the Virginia and Truckee station at Moundhouse just east of Carson City and wound its way through Dayton, Hawthorne, and points south in hopes of cashing in on new mining developments along the way. As new discoveries were made, the route of the line was changed to suit the needs of the developers. When a major discovery was made in the Candelaria region, the C&C followed. The line then veered off to cross the White Mountains into California, finally ending at Keeler, Calif., 300 miles from the starting point at Moundhouse. Unfortunately, the line never did make it all the way to the Colorado River as originally planned. Residents of Pizen Switch in Mason Valley renamed their town Yerington after the builder and General Manager of the Carson and Colorado, Henry M. Yerington, in hopes this would entice the railroad to come through their town. The trick did not work, however, and it would be many years later before Yerington would get a railroad. In...

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