Native Americans inhabited Las Vegas for hundreds of years before the first westerners ever arrived in our area. By the 1830s, today's known Old Spanish Trail led through the area known as Las Vegas, or "the meadows."

The name Las Vegas evolved from the abundant water which was found in our valley. It was a welcome element for many early traders. In 1844, John Charles Fremont first entered the valley and later many Americans traveling through the deserts and lands to California used the same route Freemont described. [Old Spanish Trail].

The first settlement in the area, which lasted only two years was a mission started by Mormon colonists which were sent by Brigham Young, but various complications led to the abandonment of the Fort in 1857. The following owner, Octavius Decatur Gass established a very successful working ranch which lasted throughout the rest of the nineteenth century. An adobe remnant of the original Mormon-built complex of the oldest building in Nevada is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Mrs. Helen Stewart was eventually the new Gass' ranch owner, and in 1902 she sold most of her 1,840 acres to Montana Senator William Clark's San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City Railroad.


May 15, 1905, one of the first passenger trains came to Las Vegas for the townsite auction.


- The railroad laid out a town [Clark's Las Vegas Town Site] and held a land auction on 

  May 15, 1905 which founded the Las Vegas valley.
- Within two days, the 110-acres bounded by Stewart Avenue and Garces Avenue and
  Main Street and 5th Street (now Las Vegas Boulevard) were sold.
- A community begun the year before by surveyor J.T. McWilliams, as the railroad controlled
  the water supply from Big Springs, the source of Las Vegas Creek.
Las Vegas was part of Lincoln County until 1909 when it became part of the newly
  established Clark County. Clark's Las Vegas Townsite became an incorporated city on
  March 16, 1911 when it adopted its first charter.
- Today's jurisdictions: The city of Las Vegas/ Unincorporated Clark County/ The city of North
  Las Vegas/ The city of Henderson and the city of Boulder City.


From the large mission-style depot on Fremont Street, the city's main business corridor, to the three-story concrete ice plant on Main Street, the railroad dominated our physical landscape and also influenced our town's growth and development.


64 cottages were constructed in 1910 to house railroad workers and are known today as "railroad cottages" which represent an industry which used to dominate our city. But then, mid-1920s the main yards were moved to Caliente, Nevada, and hundreds of railroad workers lost their jobs in the midst of the Great Depression when the future of Las Vegas was already quite uncertain. More on that story and others coming soon...