Town springs up from '49er trading post
What started out as a lean-to and a few supplies in 1850, grew into the Town of Genoa by 1851.
The "Dump Wagon" above (circa 1870s), helped clear the road to Stateline, Nevada.
Genoa's place in Nevada history
Genoa holds an important place in the history of Nevada and of the West. Explorers and trappers often made their way through this area, but it wasn't until June of 1851, when John Reese and his party built a trading post, that the area began to attract settlers and became a permanent settlement. Reese and his men took up land claims extending from the Walley's Hot Springs marsh area south of Genoa into Jack's Valley to the north. Since most of the men in Reese's party were Mormon, the location became known as Mormon Station. After building a trading post, Reese built a house and sent for his family in New York. He later added a blacksmith shop and large corral for livestock.
The Overland Emigrant Trail passed down what is now Genoa's Main Street. Reese's operation did very well, and when the Mormons were called back to Salt Lake City in 1857, Reese decided to stay to protect his business and extensive land claims. He would later return to Salt Lake City in 1859 after business reversals. A great deal of buying, trading, and selling of land went on during these early years.
Orson Hyde, an elder in the Mormon Church, was sent to "Mormon Station", then part of the Utah Territory, to set up a government, survey the town into lots, and define the state line between California and Utah Territory. He renamed Mormon Station "Genoa" in 1855. As the story goes, Hyde admired Christopher Columbus, and so named the town site "Genoa" after Columbus's birth place, Genoa, Italy, though unlike the Italian city, the town's name is pronounced "juh-NO-ah". Orson Hyde was also the first probate Judge. Court matters were settled by Judge Hyde in the loft of Reese's trading post. Entrance to the loft was gained by climbing a ladder on the outside of the building then climbing through a large window into the loft. This loft was also used as a type of hotel for those pioneers traveling by foot and wishing to stay the night.
Genoa became a commercial center during Territorial days, serving briefly as the provisional capital of the Nevada Territory before it was relocated to Carson City, and settled down to a quiet existence as the county seat and a trading center for Douglas County.
As the population of Douglas County and Genoa grew, people of many nationalities settled in the area. Industrious Danish and German people, recognizing the Valley as a wonderful crop growing area, drained the swamp/marsh areas to make way for ranches/farms to begin to produce hay, grains, and pastures for livestock. Barns were built with small blacksmith shops nearby to make the needed farm equipment, plows, seeders, mowers, and other tools. Orchards and vegetable gardens were planted. This all took time but year after year improvements were made. Other settlers to the area included the Italian, English, Welsh, and Irish. All these early pioneers contributed to the beautiful Valley as it is seen today.
The most significant event in the history of Genoa was probably the June 28th, 1910 fire. Two blocks of the business district and several homes burned that day. The fire was started by an inmate in the County Alms house (poor house) located in what was originally built as a hotel at the corner of Main St. and Nixon St. The poor man, trying to rid his bed of bed bugs, decided to burn a pan of sulfur under it. There was still some flame in the pan that set his straw mattress on fire and so most of the town. The courthouse was a brick shell after the fire. The County Commissioners authorized repairs, but a few years later, in 1916, the County Seat was moved eight miles south-east to Minden, Nevada. Unfortunately for Genoa, many of the businesses that burned in the 1910 fire also set up shop in the growing communities of Gardnerville and Minden.
Today, Genoa is a thriving community in an historic setting
- A beautiful, non-denominational country church is owned and maintained by the Town of Genoa and overseen by the Genoa Town Advisory Board. Upon entering the church, there is a definite spiritual feeling. The church is rented out for weddings, funerals and Sunday services. The town also owns the “town hall” and the old fire bay where the town now has it’s office, meeting room, and kitchen.
- Genoa has two wonderful, educational museums. The Mormon Station State Historic Park Museum owned and operated by the Nevada State Parks Dept., and the Genoa Courthouse Museum owned and operated by the Douglas County Historical Society.
- We have two beautifully landscaped parks. The Mormon Station State Historic Park and the Genoa Town Park. Both parks are busy in the summer with family reunions, wedding receptions, picnics and the 4th of July “Pops in the Park” (Mormon Station Park), and, of course, the annual Genoa Candy Dance Arts & Crafts Faire in September.
- Our wildlife consists of a multitude of mule deer, tree squirrels and ground squirrels, foxes, raccoons, skunks, snakes (venomous and non-venomous), black bears, and several species of birds including quail, mountain blue birds, jays, magpies, crows, Canada geese, ducks, herons, eagles, hawks, woodpeckers, gulls, sparrows, and barn swallows.
- Our mid-winter weather can range from wet and freezing to freezing and dry (drought) or even snow several feet deep with temperatures near or below freezing. Our mid-summer weather can reach highs over 100 degrees, but the average temperatures are usually in the high 80s. Spring and Fall are usually mild, with temperatures in the 50 to 70 degree range, and overnight lows in the 30s and 40s. Humidity is on the dry side, with an average of only 9 inches of precipitation annually.
Genoa has many links to the past
Although the town burned almost to the ground on at least two occasions, many of the orginal buildings still exist. Check with the Genoa Courthouse Museum for more information on local historic buildings.
Utah Territory & Carson County: September 1850, the Territory of Utah was given recognition. Brigham Young was named Governor, 1850 – 1857. On January 17, 1852, the Utah Territorial legislature passed an act designating the western section of the Territory, the County of Carson, which of course, included Carson Valley and Genoa.
Nevada Territory was created March 2, 1861 by an act, passed by Congress, creating the Territory of Nevada. Genoa was determined the seat of business for Douglas County.
Nevada Statehood: October 31, 1864. Nevada is the 36th state.
Genoa is pronounced: "juh-NO-ah" not “JEN-o-wah" — named by Orson Hyde in 1855.
Altitude: 4806 ft.
Population of Genoa Town Proper: Approximately 225 people. Residences outside the town proper are considered to be part of the county of Douglas.
Genoa was the first permanent settlement in what would become the state of Nevada
The first County courthouse was built in Genoa and opened for Douglas County business in 1865. It was built by contractors Lawrence Gilman and Rufus Adams for less than $20,000. The brick was kilned at the Adams Brothers Brick yard about 1-1/2 miles north of Genoa, on Jack's Valley Rd.
The first legislature met in Genoa in December of 1859.
Billie J. Rightmire
Fourth generation Genoan and Town Historian, Billie J. Rightmire keeps us on track from our past to our future.
She has written several books and articles about Genoa and the Carson Valley, many of which are available for purchase at the Genoa Courthouse Museum and the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center, as well as local shops and stores.
Much of the historical information on Genoa's Website is by Billie J. Rightmire, including the Candy Dance Story, the History of Genoa and the story of John "Snowshoe" Thompson, mailman and hero of the Sierra.