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Nevada: Old Spanish Trail

Mormon Fort

Historic Mormon Fort Las Vegas Springs, Las Vegas, Nevada Old Spanish Trail

More than 150 years ago, a spring-fed creek flowed through this valley, creating an oasis in the desert. With the only free-flowing water and grass for miles around, the site attracted native Paiute people as well as traders, emigrants and gold seekers traveling the Old Spanish Trail to California. The Spaniards called the place las vegas, Spanish for the meadows.

In June of 1855, William Bringhurst and 29 fellow Mormon missionaries from Utah arrived at this site and built a 150-foot square adobe fort, the first permanent structure erected in the valley. The Mormon outpost, complete with a post office, served as a way station for travelers. The creek provided irrigation for fields and orchards. Lead was later discovered in the mountains to the southwest, and the mission was expanded to include mining and smelting, but the effort proved unsuccessful.

After less than two years, the Mormon effort was abandoned after dissension arose between two of the local leaders, adding to the discouragement of many in the group. In 1865, Octavius D. Gass bought the site and developed a large-scale ranch that included a small store and blacksmith shop to serve travelers and nearby mining communities.

In 1881, Gass defaulted on a loan using the ranch as collateral. The ranch was passed on to Archibald and Helen Stewart. Although Archibald was killed in a gunfight in 1884, Helen, with the help of her father and others, continued to operate the ranch.

In 1902, Helen sold the ranch and water rights to the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad. A new town, Las Vegas, sprang into existence in 1905 when the rails reached the valley. From this place, Las Vegas has since expanded to become one of the nationís major metropolitan areas.


Source: OLD LAS VEGAS MORMON FORT STATE PARK
ecology: wildlife - plants - geography: places - MAPS - map/sat - roads & trails: route 66 - old west - communities - weather - book store
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