Politics and Government

Washoe County Courthouse

Established in 1861, Washoe County's original seat of government was in Washoe City, the location of its first courthouse. In 1871, the county government transferred to Reno where the commissioners built a simple brick Italianate courthouse. Shortly after the move, a contractor demolished the Washoe City courthouse for the brick.

Lander County Courthouse

Created in 1862, Lander County built courthouses in three different towns due to subsequent shifts in county seat location. The first, located in Jacobsville, was a simple wooden structure built by A. J. McDonald at the price of $8,440.

The single-story courthouse measured 20-by-40-feet. Clad in one-inch clapboard, the walls of the building met the shingled roof with a plain-box cornice. The exterior featured side windows and a porch along the extent of the building's front.

John Wesley North

Nevada territorial Supreme Court Justice John Wesley North played an important role in the pivotal single ledge case. Born in Sand Lake, New York in 1815, North began teaching school at age fifteen. In 1833, he became a licensed lay preacher. While continuing to teach, he attended the Cazenovia Theological Seminary in New York. In 1838, North entered Wesleyan University and began lecturing against slavery.

John Piper

John Piper was a young German immigrant operating a fruit stand in San Francisco when he, his wife, and brothers joined the 1860 rush to the Comstock Lode. Piper bought property on Virginia City's B Street, a busy commercial corridor, where he established the Old Corner Bar. He became a successful saloonkeeper and ran for public office, serving as an alderman in 1865 and mayor the following year.

James Warren Nye

Nevada's only territorial governor, James Warren Nye, was born in New York on June 10, 1814 or 1815, the seventh of ten children. Nye was educated at home and attended Hamilton Seminary for one term. He worked as a stagecoach driver for four years before studying law. Nye passed the New York Bar exam in 1839. He married Elsie Benson that same year, and the couple had two children.

James Graham Fair

James Fair is credited with discovering the Big Bonanza, one of the richest pockets of gold and silver on the Comstock Lode. He used his wealth to secure a seat in the U.S. Senate. Born in Northern Ireland in 1831 to Scots-Irish parents, Fair immigrated with his family to the United States when he was a boy. Following the 1849 Gold Rush, he traveled to California.


The "Progressive Era" of American political reform (1890s through 1920s) brought three populist provisions to the Nevada Constitution: initiative, referendum, and recall. The initiative process enables voters to propose and enact laws by a vote of the people. In 1909 and again in 1911, as required by the constitution, the Nevada legislature passed legislation to provide for initiative petitions to enact new laws. The initiative amendment was approved by the voters at the general election of 1912 by a vote of 9,956 to 1,027.

Humboldt County Courthouse

Established in 1861, Humboldt County took its name from the Humboldt River, which runs through the territory. The river itself was named after Baron Friedrich Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt. Although the first county seat was located in Unionville, officials did not build a permanent courthouse until the seat of government shifted to Winnemucca in 1873.

Horatio Jones

Horatio McLean Jones was an associate justice for Nevada Territory. Born in Howellsville, Pennsylvania, in 1826, Jones graduated from Oberlin College in 1849 and Harvard Law School in 1853. He practiced law in St. Louis in 1854, and the Missouri Supreme Court appointed him Court Reporter in 1856.

Henry O. Beatty

In 1864, Henry Oscar Beatty became one of three men elected to be a justice on the first Nevada Supreme Court bench. He moved to Nevada at the beginning of the gold rush and left when he retired from the bench.


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