Nevada, Pioneer Settlements in

See this page in the original 1992 publication.

Author: Warner, Ted J.

Latter-day Saints constructed Nevada's first log cabins and founded what became the state's first permanent white settlement when, in 1849, would-be gold miners established a trading post at present-day Genoa (Carson Valley, near Reno) to supply those en route to the goldfields in northern California.

The present state of Nevada lay within the original boundaries of Utah Territory as established by Congress in 1850, and in 1855 territorial governor Brigham Young appointed Orson Hyde, an apostle, as probate judge and sent him to Carson Valley to organize a county government. Hyde called for more LDS settlers to establish political control of the area and to proselytize and "civilize" the Indians of that region. The following year about 250 Latter-day Saints arrived. Problems promptly developed between them and non-Mormons who resented LDS political control. Reports that they were to be recalled to Utah kept the LDS settlers off balance, and some of the leading members soon departed. As the U.S. Army approached Utah from the east in 1857 (see Utah Expedition), the remaining colonists were recalled to Salt Lake City.

The Las Vegas Mission was founded in 1855 to proselytize local Indians and teach them agriculture and peaceful ways. Latter-day Saints there labored among the Paiutes, converting many of them and establishing a farm for them. In 1856 the colony, reinforced by men sent from Salt Lake City, established a lead-mining mission. Lead mining was largely unsuccessful, partly due to silver in the ore and the difficulty of separating them. In 1857, after the lead miners returned to Utah, the remainder of the missionaries received permission to return as well. Most departed later that year, after word reached them of the army's approach to Utah.

In 1865 Brigham Young sent colonists to settle on the Muddy River, in present-day Moapa Valley, to grow cotton and other semitropical crops and to assist with possible LDS overland immigration from a projected port on the Colorado River. In 1867 the boundaries of Nevada Territory, which was created from the western part of Utah Territory in 1861, were extended southward, annexing part of Arizona Territory, including the Muddy settlements. Most Latter-day Saints abandoned these towns in 1871 when they were ordered to pay back taxes to Nevada; farming marginal lands, the settlers lacked the cash to meet additional assessments. The LDS resettlement of Moapa Valley was resumed in 1877 with the founding of Bunkerville, a United Order community.

LDS families founded several small communities north of the Muddy River beginning in 1864. Some of these settlers remained despite the problems with taxation, particularly in Panaca, which has remained largely LDS.

In 1898 the LDS settlements of Lund, Preston, and Georgetown were established in White Pine County on land ceded to the Church in lieu of property confiscated under the provisions of the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 (see Antipolygamy Legislation).


Arrington, Leonard J. The Mormons in Nevada. Las Vegas, 1979.

Hunter, Milton R. Brigham Young the Colonizer. Santa Barbara, Calif., 1973.


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