You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.
That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.
That’s older than America for those playing at home.
So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Nevada? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?
Because even if your Nevada city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.
And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.
These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Silver State according to their ‘date of foundation’:
- Reno (Photos)
- Pahrump (Photos)
- Winchester (Photos)
- Boulder City (Photos)
- Spanish Springs
- Mesquite (Photos)
- Fernley (Photos)
- Elko (Photos)
- Laughlin (Photos)
For being 150 years old, Reno doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Nevada? That would be Las Vegas — a brand spanking 13 years old.
How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Nevada… Or Is It Settled?
Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.
So what did we do instead?
Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!
For the majority of cities in Nevada, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):
And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.
If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.
All in all, we were able to collect data on 17 out of 32 in Nevada with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 53.1% completion rate.
We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Reno turning out to be the matriarch of Nevada at the ripe old age of 150.
Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.
Archaeological finds place the eastern border for the prehistoric Martis people in the Reno area.
As early as the mid 1850s a few pioneers settled in the Truckee Meadows, a relatively fertile valley through which the Truckee River made its way from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake. In addition to subsistence farming, these early residents could pick up business from travelers along the California Trail, which followed the Truckee westward, before branching off towards Donner Lake, where the formidable obstacle of the Sierra Nevada began.
Pahrump was originally inhabited by the Southern Paiute. It was slowly inhabited by settlers in the late 19th century. They reportedly chose the name for Pahrump after the original indigenous name Pah-Rimpi, or ‘Water Rock,’ so named because of the abundant artesian wells in the valley. Because of the artesian wells, the new inhabitants of Pahrump Valley began a number of large ranch-style holdings, mostly over 1000 acres (4 km²) in size. On the ranches, alfalfa and cotton were grown, and livestock were raised.
Founded as Paradise A in April 1951, the town was renamed Winchester in 1953.
Dayton is at the western end of the Twenty-Six Mile Desert at a bend in the Carson River. Immigrants stopping there for water would consider whether to follow the river south or continue west, giving the location its first name, Ponderers Rest. In 1849, Abner Blackburn, while heading for California, discovered a gold nugget in nearby Gold Creek, one of the tributaries of the Carson River.
5. Boulder City
The land upon which Boulder City was founded was a harsh, desert environment. Its sole reason for existence was the need to house workers contracted to build the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River (known commonly as Boulder Dam from 1933 to 1947, when it was officially renamed Hoover Dam by a joint resolution of Congress). Men hoping for work on the dam project had begun settling along the river in tents soon after the precise site for the dam had been chosen by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1930. Their ramshackle edifices were collectively known as ‘Ragtown’.
6. Spanish Springs
Sky Ranch Airport, a 2,000-foot (610 m)-long dirt airstrip, was located northeast of the intersection of State Route 445 and Spanish Springs Road. This 1940s auxiliary field was the site of the first Reno Air Races, in 1964 and 1965, then was the location of the headquarters of the 126,000-acre (510 km2) Rocketdyne Nevada Field Laboratory (NFL), which was used in the late 1960s and early 1970s for testing rocket engines used in the Space Program.
Mesquite was settled by Mormon pioneers in 1880, who called it Mesquite Flat. The community was finally established on the third attempt after having been flooded out from the waters of the Virgin River. The name was later shortened to Mesquite, and the city was incorporated by Thelma Davis in May 1984. Mesquite, like nearby Bunkerville, had its origins in farming. The Peppermill Mesquite casino, which opened in the 1970s, drove Mesquite’s diversified economy. The city incorporated in 1984 and established a master development plan during the early 1990s. In the mid-1990s, more casinos opened. By 2006, Mesquite was one of the fastest-growing small towns in the United States, though the late-2000s recession led to the closure of both the Mesquite Star and Oasis (formerly The Peppermill) casinos.
Fernley, established in 1904, developed as primarily an agricultural and ranching community in proximity to Reno. Early in its history, Fernley established its first schoolhouse. The one-room schoolhouse is still in use today as the home of the Fernley Chamber of Commerce.
Though Elko lies along the route of the historic California Trail, it was first inhabited only in 1868, when it was at the east end of the railroad tracks built by the Central Pacific Railroad (the portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad built from California to Utah). When the railroad crews moved on, Elko remained, serving as a center for ranching, mining, rail freight and general supplies.
The southernmost tip of Nevada, along the Colorado River, where Nevada, California, and Arizona meet, has become a major national tourist destination and gambling resort within the last few decades. The townsite of Laughlin was established in the 1940s as South Pointe because of the proximity to the southern tip of the state of Nevada. The early town consisted of a motel and bar that catered to gold and silver miners, construction workers building Davis Dam, and fishing enthusiasts. In the 1950s, construction workers left, and the town all but disappeared.
Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Nevada
So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Nevada. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Nevada.
And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Silver State.
And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Nevada:
- Las Vegas (Founded in 2005)
- Incline Village (Founded in 2005)
- Henderson (Founded in 2005)
Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Nevada
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