A Western state of the United States, bounded on the North by Oregon and Idaho, on the East by Utah and Arizona and on the South and West by California. It lies between the latitudes of 35ƒ (in its extreme southern point) and 42ƒ north, and between the meridians of 114ƒ and 120ƒ longitude. The extreme length of the state from north to south is 483 miles, while its extreme breadth from east to west is 320 miles. The total area of the state of Nevada is 110,590 square miles.


The climate of Nevada is dry, pleasant, and healthful. Summers are as a rule, very warm, except in the high mountainous districts, while the winters are generally long and sometimes severe. In late spring and early autumn there prevails a warm westerly wind which has often disastrous effects, as it is generally accompanied by sand storm. The mean temperature in January is 28ƒ, while that of summer is 71ƒ. The average rainfall throughout the year is ten inches, and the greater part of this precipitation comes between the months from December to May.


The history of the population of Nevada since 1850 presents some of the most interesting figures in the United States Census records. From the time of the early settlements in 1850-60 to the years of the great mining developments in 1860-1880, the population rapidly increased from a few hundred pioneers to 60,000 people, while after 1885 (demonetization of silver) it declined until the end of the century, and from that time began to increase very rapidly. The figures showing the population of the state since 1860, according to U. S. Census Reports, are significant of these fluctuations: 1860, 6,857; 1870, 42,491; 1880, 62,226; 1890, 45,761; 1900, 42,335; 1910, 81,875.


The mineral production of Nevada consists chiefly of gold and silver. For the year 1908 the entire mineral production, consisting chiefly of gold, silver, and a little lead, was valued at $19,043,820, while in 1909 the gold production alone was valued at; $15,908,400 and that of silver at $4,657,000, or a total production of $20,565,400 in gold and silver alone.


The agricultural products of Nevada for 1909 were valued thus: wheat, $1,074,000; oats, $1,165,000; barley, $228,000; potatoes, $459,000; hay, $5,187,000. From these figures it can be seen that the production of hay is an important one, being greater in 1909 than the entire production of silver. In stock raising the most important industry is that, of sheep. In 1909 the entire number of sheep in the state was 1,585,000 and the wool clip amounted to 8,754,720 lbs. Cattle raising is also an important industry.


The first European to visit what is now the State of Nevada, was, in all probability, the Franciscan Friar Francisco G·rces. Father G·rces started from Sonora, in northern Mexico, with Colonel Anza for California in 1775. In this famous journey, G·rces stopped at the junction of the Gila and Colorado Rivers, in order to explore the surrounding country and establish a mission. No settlements were made or mission founded, but from the account of Father G·rces' journey as given by Father Pedro Font, who accompanied G·rces and wrote a fairly complete history of their travels, it seems practically certain that they visited Nevada, which was then, and in fact until 1850-60, a nameless desert. The next to visit Nevada were also Franciscan missionaries. These were Fr. Atanasio Dominiquez and Fr. Silvestre Velez de Escalante, who on their journey to Monterey, California, turned to the East, crossed the Colorado River at the 37ƒ parallel, crossed the extreme southern part of what is now Nevada, and proceeded to explore Utah. These friars also merely explored these regions and no settlements were made nor missions established. After these visits of the Franciscans it is very probable that the military expeditions from New Mexico from time to time reached the Colorado River near Nevada, but we have no record of any expedition having actually crossed over into the territory in question. In 1825, however, Peter Skeen Ogden, an American trapper from the Columbia River in the North-West, accompanied by a few men, started to explore the country to the south-east and reached the river now known as the Humboldt River, in the present State of Nevada, which was in 1825 a nameless country, lying between California (which was then an indefinite stretch of country north of southern California) and New Mexico, which included in 1825, Arizona and parts of Utah and Colorado. All the above territories, with unsettled boundaries on the north and east, belonged to Mexico until the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, at the close of the Mexican War, when they were ceded to the United States. Long before these events, however, Utah and Nevada were settled by Americans and even provisional government established. After the explorations of Ogden and his companions, American adventurers, mostly trappers, went to Utah and Nevada, among whom was Kit Carson (then living in Taos, New Mexico), who in company with many others visited the country in 1831, 1833, 1844, 1845. In 1843-44, Fremont with Carson and Godey, conducted various explorations, largely hunting expeditions, into Nevada, and in 1844-45, Elisha Stevens, with a small party, among whom were two women, passed through Nevada on his journey from the Missouri River country to California. This was the first caravan to traverse all this stretch of territory. After the Mexican cession of 1848 and the discovery of gold in California, Nevada was frequently traversed by the gold seekers and other western pioneers on their way to California. Shortly after the signing of the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, the Mormons who had migrated westward and built the city of Salt Lake, established the State of Deseret, a commonwealth which was to include what is now Utah, Nevada, Arizona parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, and California. These Mormons found it profitable business to meet the travellers on their way to California and furnish them provisions. In these trading expeditions they advanced south and west from Salt Lake City, and in 1849, they founded the first settlement in what is now Nevada, near the Carson River. In 1850, Congress organized the territories of Utah (what is now Utah and Nevada), New Mexico (what is now New Mexico and Arizona), and the State of California. The territory now comprised in the State of Nevada was organized as Carson County, Utah, under the political control, therefore, of the Mormons. Congress had fixed the western boundary of the Territory of Utah as the Sierra Nevada. The fact that the Sierra Nevada was continually kept in mind as the barrier between Utah and California, may have given an occasion to call the adjacent territory east of California, Nevada, though the name does not come into prominence until 1860. By 1856, the mines were being strongly developed and American immigration was rapidly settling Carson County. A political conflict between the Mormons and the Gentiles for the control of the governmental affairs of Carson County (which included practically all of what is now Nevada) lasted for several years. In 1865 the citizens of this county, mostly gentiles, petitioned the Government of the United States to be annexed to California or be organized as a separate territory. The Government gave little heed to these demands, and for five years the political struggle raged fiercely between the two factions. Congress at last put an end to these troubles, and in 1861 Carson County, Utah, was organized as the Territory of Nevada. James W. Nye was appointed as the first territorial governor. Three years later a constitutional convention was held, a State constitution adopted, and in 1864 Nevada was admitted as a State, and H. G. Blaisdel was elected the first governor. During the years 1865-85, the material developments in Nevada made rapid strides, though continually hampered by a heavy debt contracted since the early days of territorial legislatures.


Nevada was a part of the Territory of Utah from 1850 to 1861, a separate territory from 1861 to 1864, and organized as a State in 1864. The State constitution when first adopted granted numerous privileges to mining interests. While at first this seemed to be an incentive to the development of the rising mining industries, it soon proved to be unfair to the commonwealth at large. A long series of litigations, costly to both sides, ensued between the State and the mine owners, in view of the amendments to the constitution, which struck out all parts which gave special privileges to the mining industry. The State constitution after many amendments is now a safeguard to the State and to the rights of its citizens. At present, Nevada is represented in the United States Congress by two senators and one representative.


At the time of the admission of Nevada as a territory in 1861, there was no public-school system and there were no schools. The population of the territory was about 7000-8000 people, but there were only four or five small private schools. An attempt was made to organize a school system in 1861, but beyond the appointment of a superintendent of public instruction and the establishment of a few schools with little or no funds, practically nothing was done until 1864, when Nevada was organized as a State. The number of schools was then eighteen, and by 1865 there were thirty-seven, and the number of pupils was about 1000. At present, Nevada has a complete system of education, gradually developed, which begins with the primary school and ends with the State University. The educational affairs of the State are controlled and managed by a State Board of Education consisting of the State governor, the President of the University, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The State is divided into five educational districts, each district being under the supervision and control of a deputy superintendent and there are no county superintendents. According to the law of the State all children between tho ages of eight to fourteen years are compelled to attend school, but the law has never been rigidly enforced. At present (1908), there are in Nevada 17,583 children under twenty-one years of age, of whom thirty-eight are negroes and fifty Mongolians. Of all these, 6,733 attend the public schools and 595 attend private and denominational schools. The total number of schools in the State is 308 with 414 teachers. There are two Catholic schools with about 200 pupils and an orphan asylum under the care of religious.

The State University was opened in 1886. It is now located at Reno and has various departments of arts, literature, science. The teaching force consists of fifty-four professors, assistant professors, and instructors, and in 1909-10 the attendance was 220 students. The annual expenditures are at present about $200,000, some of this money being appropriated for building purposes. The State has also a mining school, located at Virginia City, with about thirty students.


The first Catholic church to be built in Nevada was the one erected by Father Gallagher, at Genoa, in 1861. In 1862 the church was blown down and another built in its place. In 1864 Father Monteverde erected the first Catholic church at Austin, and in 1871 Father Merril built the first church at Reno. The efforts of these first zealous priests were the beginning of the history of Catholicism in Nevada. Nevada has at present no bishop and the State does not form a diocese. The eastern half of the State, east of the ll7th meridian, including also Austin and the country bordering on the Reese River to the West of the same meridian, belong ecclesiastically to the Diocese of Salt Lake, Province of San Francisco, while the territory west of the 117th meridian, with the exception of Austin and the country bordering on the Reese River, belong to the Diocese of Sacramento, of the same province. According to the Bureau of the United States Census (Bulletin No. 103, Religious Bodies, 1906) the Catholic population of Nevada was then 9,970, or 66% of the entire religious population of the State. The following are the principal denominations of the State and the church members in each:

  • Catholics 9,970, or 66% of the total;

  • Episcopalians 1,210, or 8%;

  • Latter Day Saints 1,105, or 7%;

  • Methodists 618, or 4%;

  • Presbyterians 520, or 3%

  • Baptists 316, or 2%.

Catholic Immigration

Catholics have gone to Nevada at different times, along with the general influx of population into the Western States from the Middle States in 1845-75. Since the very beginning of the history of the State, the Catholic Church has been an important factor in the upbuildlng of the commonwealth and the welfare and education of the people. The difficulties encountered were not easy to overcome in the midst of an unsettled, careless, and often lawless community in the years 1850-70. After the establishments of the first Catholic churches in the new country by Fathers Gallagher, Monteverde, and Merril, came the great benefactor Father Monogue, who in 1863 established the pioneer benevolent organization of Nevada or the St. Vincent de Paul Benevolent Society. This was at a time when organizations of this kind were very much in need in the western countries, and the praiseworthy work of this society, the charities of which were extended to all, regardless of creed, cannot be too highly commended. Father Monogue also established in 1864, the Nevada orphan asylum, two Catholic schools, St. Mary's school for girls and St. Vincent's school for boys, and St. Mary's hospital, all under the care of Sisters.

Religious Polity

The State constitution guarantees to all individuals absolute freedom of worship and toleration of religious sentiment. By statutory law, all amusements, business transactions, opening of saloons and gambling, are forbidden on Sundays, but the law has never been rigidly enforced. There is no law demanding a compulsory administration of a fixed form of oath, and a simple affirmation or negation suffices before the law. There are no statutory laws of any kind that forbid blasphemy or profanity. It is customary to open the Legislature, the school year at the State University and many of the public schools with prayer, but there are no laws either for or against such practices. By statutory law, however, religious instruction of any kind is absolutely forbidden in the public schools, and the public school funds cannot be used for sectarian purposes. Sunday, New Year's Day, Washington's Birthday, (Admission Day), Thanksgiving, and Christmas are designated by law as non-judicial days and are observed as legal holidays. There is no law recognizing religious holidays as such. No statutory law exists as regards the seal of confession, but it is presumed that the same is inviolable. Churches may be incorporated. All church property that is used only for church purposes is by law exempt from taxation, and malicious injury to churches or church property is by law punishable by fine or even imprisonment. The lawfully licensed clergy of all denominations is exempt from jury and military service. Marriage is recognized by law as a civil contract. It may be performed by any licensed minister or a civil judge. With the consent of the parents marriage may be contracted by a man and woman of the ages of eighteen and sixteen respectively, and without the parents' consent only at the ages of twenty-one and eighteen or over respectively. The parties contracting marriage must not be nearer kin than second cousins, or cousins in the second blood. The divorce laws of the State are very liberal. By the State law, divorces may be granted for impotency, adultery, desertion, infamy, cruelty, drunkenness, or neglect to provide.

BANCROFT, History of Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming (San Francisco, 1890); Biennial report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction of Nevada (Carson City, 1909); Bureau of the Census of the United States: Bulletin No. 103, Religious Bodies (Washington, 1906); CUTTING, Compiled Laws of the State of Nevada, 1861-1900 (Carson City, 1909); Catholic Directory (Milwaukee and New York, 1910); History of Nevada (Oakland, 1881); International Year Book (New York, 1909); Report of the United States Commissioner of Education (Washington, 1908, 1909); University of Nevada, Register for 1909-10 (Carson City, 1910).

Aurelio M. Espinosa.

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