Genoa, Carson Valley NV

History Of Genoa and the Carson Valley
Carson Valley, Nevada, is Nevada’s birthplace. Nearly one hundred forty years ago, emigrants on the way West, pony express riders, gun-slinging bandits, miners, brave pioneer women and ranchers traveled the last segment of the California Trail between Salt Lake City and Sacramento. Momentarily, this isolated valley entered the mainstream of national history and commerce. Many vestiges of that robust era are still here today and are symbols of that pioneer spirit.

Today, Carson Valley is home to 21,000 people. The valley is dotted with picturesque ranch houses, surrounded by stately cottonwoods and lush meadows. The Carson River winds along the valley floor. Protected by the 10,000 foot Sierra Nevada to the West and the 8,000 Pine Nut Range to the East, the valley enjoys a mild climate. Summer days in the 90’s are buffered with low humidity; winter sunshine keeps the temperature in the high 40’s. Average yearly precipitation is 19 inches. The climate provides just enough contrast for perfect year-around living.

At the heart of the valley are the twin towns of Gardnerville and Minden. Located 44 miles south of Reno and 14 miles south of the state capitol of Carson City, they provide a lovely, lively oasis close to urban centers but far enough away to allow residents a rural lifestyle. Gardnerville, established over one hundred years ago, began as a 7.5 acre tract on the East Fork of the Carson. It prospered and grew as a commercial center for the shipping of agricultural products by freight wagons to the mine fields. Gradually, Gardnerville became a major center of social, political and economic life, eclipsing the smaller villages on the western rim of the valley. Minden was a new planned community in 1905, located just north of the already established Gardnerville. Laid out in neat blocks around a central town square, even today, Minden resembles a tidy European village. Minden was built as a terminus for the Virginia Truckee Railway to serve the livestock shippers of the valley, the largest of which was the H.F. Danberg Land and Livestock Company, the major landowner in the valley then, and now.

On the western perimeter and in the Sierra foothills is the town of Genoa, the first permanent white settlement in Nevada. Earliest reports of this area date back to 1826, but 1849 is the year that Mormons arrived from Salt Lake City to establish a western outpost for Mormonism. They erected a one-acre stockade to protect themselves from Indians and renegade white, planted crops and did a thriving business. In 1857, the Mormons were recalled to Salt Lake City, but by this time, the community was established. By 1860, there were 1,000 permanent residents, and, for the never-ending stream of emigrants, five hotels, ten saloons, six blacksmith shops, three restaurants, a bootmaker and two livery stables. Genoa was almost totally burned in 1910, and the few structures that remain form today’s downtown nucleus. Today, over 20,000 tourists annually visit Genoa’s reconstructed Mormon stockade, the courthouse museum and the oldest saloon in the state of Nevada.

The immigrants of the 1860’s moved slowly along the California Trail by twenty-mule teams and stagecoaches. A whole day could be spent just waiting to cross the Carson River at the Cradlebaugh Bridge, a scene of mass confusion with line-ups as far as the eye could see. Today, Highway 395 makes the crossing without incident. Highway 395 is the four lane main road from Reno and Carson City, bisecting the valley on its way to Gardnerville and Minden.

Still in its developmental stages is the Douglas County Airport, a prime candidate for light industrial and high-tech installations. Two runways measure 7,400 feet and 5,300 feet, placing the facility ahead of the Carson City airport in number of runways and runway length.

In the past, the emigrants trip up the Kingsbury Grade over the Sierras was fraught with difficulty, the climb from the 4,600 foot valley floor to the over 8,000 foot summit taking its toll on travelers. Today, the trip takes about twenty-five minutes, placing Lake Tahoe, with its casino nightlife and entertainment, beaches, boating and skiing at the Carson Valley’s backdoor.

Dr. Eliza Cook and The Old Park Estate was one of the prime participants in the Carson Valley’s history. It promises to play a significant role in the future, as well.