Nevada History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

For countless centuries, this rugged land has been the traditional home of the American Indians, including the Goshute, Paiute, Shoshone and Washo tribes.

When scouring the area for gold treasure in the 1770s, Spanish explorers took a risk; they were accompanied (in the early 1800s) by several fur traders and trappers passing on their way to California .

When Mexico’s War of Independence with Spain finally ended in 1821, most of the vast southwestern region of present-day America (Spanish Territory) became part of the country of Mexico.

During the Mexican–American War (1846–1848), both America and Mexico fought for control of Texas. When that war ended, (by agreement), the booming USA took over Texas, and what is now California , Utah, most of Arizona, smaller parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming, and of course, Nevada.

Brigham Young brought his Mormon congregation to Utah, and many settled in neighboring Nevada. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, the fever of the gold rush brought many wagon trains through this dry desert land; Las Vegas has become a stop along the route to the west, and in just over a decade, the future (and history) of Nevada will change dramatically.

A rich vein of gold and silver (named Comstock Lode) was discovered in 1859 in Virginia City in western Nevada; miners (even Mormons) and get rich, fast types rushed into and wild, lawless, out-of-control frontier towns sprang up almost quickly.

  • Topschoolsintheusa: Guides to study in Nevada, including geography, climate, economy, and tourism of the state.
  • A2zcamerablog: Offers general information about Nevada, covering history, population, economy and county list.
  • Campingship: State outline of Nevada, including geography location, state capital, brief history and a list of largest counties by area.

The lure of wealth and a new beginning brought thousands of settlers, and in 1861, Nevada was designated a US Territory. By law, the Nevada Territory did not have a large enough population to become a U.S. state , however, the territory’s eastern border was extended in 1862 – and only 3 years later – it became the 36th state with Carson City the capital.

In the 1880s, the value of silver dropped sharply; Virginia City’s mines ceased production, and many of the original miners and settlers left the state. New strikes in gold and silver, as well as state-sponsored irrigation projects and America’s expanding railroad system, ultimately helped stabilize Nevada’s economy.

At the end of World War I, Nevada and the small towns of Las Vegas and Reno permitted (and promoted) gambling, prostitution, and the sale of alcoholic beverages. When the Hoover Dam project began in 1931 it brought thousands of workers into the state and that spike in jobs and money brought more growth to those questionable industries illegal in all other states.

In the 1940s, at the end of World War II, much of the mining within the state closed and the gambling and entertainment industry expanded; bigger and bigger casinos opened in “Las Vegas” and the faces and fortunes of Nevada changed forever.

In 1950, the US Atomic Energy Commission selected sparsely populated Nevada as a test site for nuclear weapons. That decision, and some improving mining, brought in additional revenues.

However, tourism is without a doubt the financial backbone and the largest industry in Nevada. Brilliant city “all night” of Las Vegas alone attracts million and millions of tourists every year. Add Mead Reservoir, the ski resorts of Lake Tahoe, Laughlin, Reno and the state’s stunning topography to the mix, and Nevada is fast becoming one of the most exciting deal and vacation destinations on the planet.

Nevada Timeline

1200s – 1700s

  • (1200s) Mojave Indians inhabited land, planted crops along river banks
  • (1519) Province claimed by Spain
  • (1609) City of Santa Fe founded as a Spanish-Indian trading center
  • (1776) Spanish missionaries arrived in southern Nevada


  • (1821) Mexico took control of the Nevada area
  • (1826) Peter Skene Ogden explored Serpent River; Jedediah Smith led the expedition to muddy the river
  • (1828) Ogden discovered Humboldt River
  • (1830) Santa Fe salesman, Antonio Armigio, led the first packet train from Santa Fe to Los Angeles
  • (1833) Joseph Walker led an expedition along the Humboldt River
  • (1841) Earliest immigrants, Bartleson-Bidwell side, passed through Nevada
  • (1842) Captain John Frémont and the party were the first whites to view Lake Tahoe
  • (1843) Joseph Walker led the first group of wagons across the Sierra
  • (1846) The Donner Lot became trapped in the Sierra. 47 out of 87 died.
  • (1848) United States gained control of Nevada after the Mexican–American War ended
  • (1849) Over 60,000 covered wagon settlers (49ers) passed through Nevada on their way west
  • (1851) Gold was discovered near Dalton
  • (1859) Silver discovery brought thousands to the state; Virginia City developed almost quickly
  • (1860) Nevada Territory was created
  • (1864) Nevada became 36th state
  • (1869) Gambling was legalized; an earthquake rocked Reno; first transcontinental railroad crossed Nevada
  • (1870) US Mint established in Carson City; the first train robbery in Western US happened
  • (1875) Virginia City consumed by great fire
  • (1888-90) Nearly 100 inches of snow fell in northern Nevada – “White Winter”
  • (1890) Elizabeth Potts first woman to be executed in Nevada
  • (1894) Big Meteor fell


  • (1902) Wyatt Earp arrived in Tonopah
  • (1910) Gambling was abolished
  • (1912) The last Indian rebellion happened; Shoshone Mike and family members were killed
  • (1914) Women won the right to vote
  • (1916) Last stage robbery in the country took place in Jarbidge Canyon
  • (1918) State Prohibition Act took effect
  • (1931) State legalized six-week divorce law and gambling
  • (1935) Hoover Dam completed; dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt
  • (1941) Las Vegas strip was estabished
  • (1946) Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel opened the Flamingo Hotel
  • (1951) The US Atomic Energy Commission began testing at the newly established Nevada Open Air Demonstration Site
  • (1954) Ronald Reagan performed at The Last Frontier
  • (1955) The Riviera Hotel first became a high-rise
  • (1956) Nellis AFB became the home of the Thunderbirds – Air Force aerobatic team
  • (1959) Wayne Newton opened at the Fremont Hotel in Las Vegas
  • (1966) Howard Hughes moved to Las Vegas; Casino Circus Circus opened
  • (1969) The Great MGM Opened
  • (1986) Great Basin National Park became the first national park in Nevada
  • (1990) US census population data showed that Nevada was the fastest growing state
  • (1997) First supersonic forward speed paperwork in the Black Mountain Desert; Mandalay Bay and the Venetian opened in Las Vegas
  • (1998) Bellagio opened


  • (2002) Fight between Hells Angels and Mongols at Laughlin’s Casino resulted in three dead and 13 wounded; Super Fortress B-29 terrorist spotted in Reservoir Mead
  • (2003) Las Vegas Valley flood caused millions of dollars in damages; Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy mauled on stage by a tiger during a show
  • (2006) US polygamist sect leader on FBI Ten Most Wanted list arrested in Las Vegas
  • (2007) Grand Canyon Skywalk Bridge opened; aviation adventurer, Steve Fossett, declared missing
  • (2008) Steve Fossett declared dead after missing for five months
  • (2009) ODJ Simpson convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in Las Vegas, sentenced to 33 years in prison
  • (2010) Nevada had the highest population of illegal immigrants in the US; both Nevada Legislature buildings were affected by 12-year terms of office; The tea party was for Harry Reid
  • (2011) Renault air race disaster kills three, over 50 injured, some critically
  • (2011) Dan Weldon, Indianapolis 500 Winners Killed in Las Vegas Freeway Accident

Nevada History