On March 5, 1869, the Nevada State Legislature
created Elko County. With its 17,181 square miles, it
is the 6th largest county in the United States.
Fur trappers led by Peter Skeene Ogden were the first recorded white men in northeastern Nevada. Emigrant wagons passed through the area beginning in 1841. The '49ers' and others, including the ill-fated Donner Party, followed during the next two decades. Metal-rimmed wheels cut tracks so deep over the routes that they can still be seen today.
THE TOWN OF ELKO
During the last week of December 1868 the Central
Pacific Railroad established the town of Elko on its
eastward push to connect with the Union Pacific Railroad
on its westward push. On New Year's Day, 1869, tents
situated among the sagebrush marked the townsite. Two
weeks later lots were selling for $300 to $500 each.
From that beginning, the town grew as a freight
terminal to supply mines and ranches to the north and
In May 1869 the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory,
Utah, linking the Central Pacific and Union Pacific
Railraods. The Chinese rail workers were laid off and
some settled in the Elko area. In the town of Elko, they
planted large gardens and sold their produce to area
mines and local merchants. The Chinese built the first
water system here. They dug a ditch to carry the water
from Osino, east of town, (about eight to ten miles) to
a reservoir in Elko.
Soon a courthouse, school and Presbyterian Church were
built. In 1874, the University of Nevada was founded in
Elko. Eleven years later it was moved to Reno. In 1896,
Elko's High School became the first public high school
under state law.
While the mining booms have come and gone, the cattle
industry has always been principal. For more than 100
years cattle and sheep drives from northern Nevada ranches
were brought into town to the stockyards to be shipped to
market. Silver, lead, copper, and gold mining in the area
began in the 1870's. Today, microscopic gold mining is
the mainstay with the northeastern Nevada region producing
about 7 percent of the world's gold.
How Elko's name originated has been lost in time;
however, several stories have been handed down through
the years. The most likely story is that Charles
Crocker of the Central Pacific Railroad preferred to
name new towns founded on the railroad after animals.
He presumably added an 'O' to 'Elk', and thus named the
new town "Elko."
Elko, as the county seat, continues to grow and continues
to be an unique mixture of old and new West. With its
majestic Ruby Mountain backdrop, this is the perfect
location to enjoy the West as it really is. We offer
one bit of advice, please take your time when you visit.
information provided by the Northeastern Nevada Museum, 1515 Idaho St., Elko, NV)
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