Nevada in 1918
Vegas was given its name by Spanish traders in the Antonio Armijo
party in 1829. On route to
Angeles along the Spanish Trail from
the 60-man group veered from the normal route, camping about 100 miles
northeast of present day
Vegas. At the time, the Spaniards referred to the route as "jornada
de muerte" or journey of death until a young scout named Rafael Rivera
discovered the valley with its abundant wild grasses and plentiful
water supply. At that time, some low areas of the
Vegas Valley contained artesian springs that created extensive
green areas in contrast to the surrounding desert, hence the name "Las
Vegas", Spanish for "The Meadows".
It was not until
famed explorer Captain John Fremont traveled into the
Vegas Valley in 1844, that anyone other than Spanish explorers,
missionaries and the Native Americans knew of the valley. In
1855, Brigham Young assigned 30 Mormon missionaries to the area to
convert the Paiute
Indian population. They soon built a fort that constituted
the first non-Indian
settlement in the region. The Paiutes rejected their teachings,
occasionally raiding the fort until it was abandoned in 1857. Several years later, in 1864, the U.S. Army built Fort Baker there.
In 1885, the State
Land Act offered land at $1.25 per acre and farming became the primary
industry for the next 20 years, using the local springs to irrigate
their crops. Further growth occurred when precious metals were
discovered in the area, starting the mining industry in the late 19th
At the turn of the century, the springs
were piped into the town providing a reliable source of fresh water. The valley soon became a resting stop, first for wagon trains and
later for railroads. The railroad was completed in January,
Angeles and Salt Lake City. The railroad would become the
principal industry in
Vegas for the next 25 years.
The railroad yards were located along what
was then dusty Fremont Street. Today, Jackie Gaughan's Plaza Hotel,
located at Main and Fremont streets in Downtown
Vegas, stands on the site of the original Union Pacific Railroad
depot. Freight and passenger trains still use the depot site at the
hotel as a terminal -- the only railroad station in the world located
inside a hotel-casino.
was officially founded on May 15, 1905 when 100 acres, in what would later
become downtown, were auctioned off to ready buyers. In the
Las Vegas was a part of Lincoln County until 1909 when it became the
county seat for the newly established Clark County.
was the last western state to outlaw gambling in the first decade of the
20th Century on October 1, 1910. In the beginning, the law was so
strict that it even forbade the western custom of flipping a coin for the
price of a drink. Legal or not, area residents wasted no time in
setting up underground games.
With a population of a little more than
Vegas legalized gambling again on March 19, 1931, a decision that
would forever change the face of
and the city of
One month later, the city issued six gambling licenses.