The first mayor of the City of Elko, elected in 1917, was John A. McBride. His five decades of service to Elko as a civic leader and businessman led him to be recognized at his death as “a natural leader … putting the good of his community first.”
J.A. McBride was born in Auburn, California on July 24, 1859. After completing school he moved to Nevada in 1877, first settling in Winnemucca and then Carlin as a telegraph operator for Southern Pacific Railroad.
He married Emily Bonnifield on Jan. 3, 1883, and had two sons, Allen and Bonnifield. He and his family arrived in Elko around 1886 where McBride worked for W.T. Smith Company as an accountant. The family adopted Laurena Walther Brehe in 1914 after her mother died.
McBride served in the Nevada State Assembly and was elected treasurer of Elko Country in 1897. He became associated with Elko Lumber Company and the McBrides joined two other Elko families to raise money to build the Episcopal church in 1892 at the corner of Fifth and Idaho Streets.
By 1916, Elko grew to a population of 2,500, according to local historian Edna B. Patterson. A delegation of Elkoans traveled to the Nevada Legislature in Carson City and successfully put forth a bill to incorporate Elko as a city on Feb. 28, 1917.
It was signed by Gov. Emmet Boyle on March 14 and an election for mayor and city council was set for May 1. On that day, McBride defeated Robert Hesson to become Elko’s first mayor. After serving two terms, he left office in 1921.
As a family, the McBrides contributed to the development of several Elko institutions. J.A. is credited with the idea of forming Elko County High School in 1895 with A.W. Hesson. Wife Emily sat on the Board of Governors for what is now the Nevada Youth Training Center.
His sons built the Elko-Lamoille Power Company in 1912. Daughter Laurena married Dr. Leslie Moren and served on boards that constructed the Elko Convention Center.
Twelve years after Emily’s death, J.A. McBride died after a long illness on April 4, 1939. The day of his funeral, businesses and city offices closed and hundreds attended the service.
The Elko Daily Free Press eulogized his life in an editorial concluding with these words: “Elko Country lost an outstanding citizen, to be sure, but it was enriched by his presence during the past half century.”