The Helen J. Stewart Chapter is a working woman’s chapter in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their organizational meeting was held on February 2, 2008. The chapter was confirmed at a special meeting of the National Board of Management on February 2, 2008 at 8:55 a.m. EST. There were 15 organizing members. Mrs. Cheryl Giordano was the organizing regent. The Chapter name “Helen J. Stewart”, was selected because she was considered the "first lady of Las Vegas".
Stewart Ranch ca. 1905
Photo from UNLV Special Collections
Helen Jane Wiser was born on April 16, 1854, in Springfield, Illinois. She married Archibald Stewart in 1872 and moved with him to Lincoln County, Nevada, where he had run a successful shipping business since 1868. The move proved difficult for Helen because she was so lonely out in the desert.
But just as life was starting to flow smoothly, Archibald Stewart was killed in a gunfight. Helen Stewart was left on her own with four children and another on the way. For the next 20 years, Helen ran the ranch.
In 1902, Montana Senator William Clark came to Las Vegas with an idea that would help change the small town into a city. He wanted to build a railroad that would connect Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. Las Vegas was a good half-way point for the train route. All he needed was a reliable source of water to begin construction.
Clark found that Helen Stewart owned the Las Vegas Ranch and the Las Vegas Creek that ran through the ranch. Stewart agreed to sell most of her land and the water rights. The price was $55,000 but did not include the family cemetery or a small part of the water from Las Vegas Creek.
Stewart bought some land near the ranch and built a new house, where she remained for the rest of her life. In 1905, the railroad sold pieces of her land to the public. That created the downtown core of Las Vegas, which includes Stewart Street.
To view the news clip video of the Helen J. Stewart statue dedication on December 3, 2011, click here.