History of Genoa

by Billie J. Rightmire - Genoa Town Historian and Fourth Generation Genoan

In June of 1850, H.S. Beatie and his party camped at a location now known as Genoa. They learned from traders passing by their camp that a heavy emigration was expected through the area. So Beatie and his men got busy and built a two room, double logged, one story house, 20 X 60 feet, without floor or roof.

Genoa Courthouse Museum

The Genoa Museum, above, was the original county court house, then a school and now a link to the past. For historic building details, visit Douglas County Historical Society.


They also built a corral for their animals. Beatie and Abner Blackburn crossed the mountains into California with an extra 3 yoke of cattle to sell or trade for supplies they intended to sell to immigrants passing by their trading post. They brought back flour, dried fruit, bacon, sugar and coffee to the post, although their principal trade was in horses and mules.

Remembering the April 1846 Donner Party tragedy, Beatie and his party did not want to chance the winter in the Valley so they abandoned their trading post in September and returned to Salt Lake City where Beatie clerked in the J. & E. Reese Mercantile.

The first permanent settlement was established in the spring of 1851 by Colonel John Reese, a Mormon, who planned to open a trading post on the overland trail. He was a partner with his brother Enoch in the J. & E. Reese Mercantile firm at Salt Lake City. The party arrived in Carson Valley with 13 wagons loaded with eggs, bacon, flour, seed grain and other kinds of seeds. Stephen A. Kinsey, Reese's nephew, acted as guide. Kinsey stopped for a time at a place on the Carson River called Ragtown. This point did not seem favorable so he moved up the river into one of the most fertile of valleys. On July 4, 1851, Kinsey waited for his party at Beatie's old trading post.

On November 12, 1851, the settlers formed and organized a settler's or squatter's government. It was impossible to settle a legal matter or send records back to Salt Lake City, 500 miles away because Indians, bandits, thieves and desperados took advantage of riders on the trail. The settlers adopted rules for taking up land and elected John Reese recorder and treasurer. Reese recorded the first claim for himself in December of 1852 in the new Utah Territory settlement he named Mormon Station (Genoa).

Resolutions, by-laws, rules for water rights, officers to be elected and many other acts took place in Genoa to build a solid and lasting community. Many passing emigrants stayed in the valley and recorded land.

The first principal business was trading. Those who settled in Genoa traded garden produce to travelers for whatever was usable. During these early years, the Genoa people established their church, businesses, a school, political institutions and developed extensive ranch lands. The Genoa Post Office was established December 10, 1852 with the appointment of E. F. Barnard as postmaster; the first important land and Carson River water rights were taken up at Genoa, the first printed newspaper - The Territorial Enterprise was founded.

In 1854, a school was opened in Israel Mott's home a few miles south of Genoa. Mrs. Eliza Mott, wife of Israel, was the first white woman to settle in Carson Valley and Mottsville was named for this early day family. Other families began to arrive and set down their roots in the new settlements on the west side of the Carson River.

Mormon leader Brigham Young sent Orson Hyde to Mormon Station in 1854 to survey a town site, determine the California boundary and set-up a government. Hyde changed the name of the surveyed town site to Genoa supposedly in honor of Christopher Columbus' birthplace, Genoa, Italy. The Mormons were called back to Salt Lake City in 1857 to help defend the church against threatened action by the United States Government. By this time there were gentile families, as well as Mormons, settling in Carson Valley. Most of the faithful left, but some Mormons stayed.

On March 2, 1861, Congress passed an "Act" creating the Territory of Nevada. On November 25, 1861, nine counties were named: Esmeralda, Douglas, Ormsby, Washoe, Lyon, Storey, Lake, Humboldt and Churchill. Nevada became a State on October 31, 1864.

The first courthouse was built in Genoa and opened for county business in 1865. It was built by contractors Lawrence Gilman and Rufus Adams for less than $20,000. T. J. Furbee, who was superintendent of the Sierra Mining Company, was the architect. This brick building is still standing today, owned by the Douglas County Historical Society, and houses a museum of early Carson Valley history.

Generation after generation very proudly contributed to the progress and growth of Genoa, Carson Valley and Douglas County, an oasis in the desert.

Plan a visit to Genoa and learn more about this thriving historical settlement!

Unique Weddings and Events

Genoa has a unique, old-fashioned Western atmosphere that lends itself to many events such as weddings, parties and gatherings.

  • Genoa Town Hall
  • Genoa Community Church
  • Genoa Town Park

Visit these other Genoa attractions:

Mormon Station State Park and Museum