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150 years strong: Elko marks anniversary of townsite, county founding

ELKO – On a cold day in 1868, about four days after Christmas, Central Pacific Railroad workers approached a patch of snow-covered sagebrush flats about 20 miles east of their previous project in Carlin.

They drove tent spikes into the frozen ground to set up white canvas tents, establishing a rough settlement for the railroad. Soon, more workers, including Chinese laborers, arrived, and the land was prepared to lay eastbound railroad track that would eventually connect the United States at Promontory, Utah Territory. This would be the westernmost half of the Transcontinental Railroad that ran through northern Nevada.

After 13 months of construction through Nevada’s high desert hills and mountain ranges that pioneers once followed to California, several new towns were born as a result. One of them was composed of about 60 tents several yards from the Humboldt River.

In those first hectic days of 1869, word spread among railroad workers that the tent city had a name: Elko. Various stories have credited everyone from the Native American Shoshone tribes living nearby, to Charles Crocker, the CPRR vice president, to the large herds of elk roaming the area for the odd name.

From its inauspicious beginnings, Elko County quickly ascended in prominence as the home of the state’s second governor and the first University of Nevada, just a few years after its founding.

Elko rapidly developed into a railroad hub for the burgeoning ranching and mining industries that drew thousands of settlers to the fledgling town. As the county seat, Elko also served as the central location for law enforcement, the Fourth Judicial District, the Elko County School District, and Great Basin College, as well as the connecting point for the rest of the towns within the county.

Weathering economic slowdowns, shifts in industry trends and population ups and downs, the county persevered, becoming the home to generations of ranch families and Basque sheepherders. Others who moved to the area saw opportunities for mining and other fledgling businesses.

A proclamation from the Elko County Commissioners declares Dec. 29, 2018 as Elko’s official 150th birthday, calling both the city and the county “a hub of economic and cultural activity in Northeastern Nevada, advancing ranching, mining and other successful ventures.”

This anniversary marks the founding of what is the fourth-largest county in the nation at 17,203 square miles.

The sesquicentennial of Elko County’s founding comes about a year and half after the City of Elko marked its 100th anniversary of incorporation in 1917.

Looking back over 15 decades of Elko’s achievements, Jan Petersen, executive director of the Cowboy Arts and Gear Museum, said she sees the county’s founding as an opportunity to celebrate.

“You need that tenacity to keep that forward progress. And we’re just proud of who we are and where we are and the sustainability that has endured and the community pride,” Petersen said.

Peterson’s roots in Elko County are deep. Her grandmother and great aunt enrolled in the first class at the University of Nevada at Elko in 1874, and subsequent family members became community and civic leaders.

“[The town] saw that need for higher learning,” Petersen said. “They weren’t complacent with the status quo.”

Perhaps Elko’s rural location drove community improvement, Petersen mused. To supply the elements that were lacking, individuals “stepped up” and met the need.

“It’s self-reliance. Those initial people that saw the need, gathered together and did it,” Petersen said. “Whether it’s the E on the hill, the ballparks, the Elko tower, the community college or the railroad relocation, they saw the need and banded together and got it done.”

From kerosene lamplight and candlelight 150 years ago, to neon lights attracting tourists to casinos in the 1940s, to LED lights illuminating homes, businesses and streets, today, Elko’s transformation is nothing short of a miracle when considering how some early Nevada settlements fell by the wayside, Petersen said.

“We’ve had boom and we’ve had bust, but we still have that level of sustainability,” she said. “The railroad added one more element of financial stability between the mining and ranching.”

Petersen pointed to the wording in the City’s proclamation that seems to sum up the story of Elko over the years.

“Whereas, be it resolved that Elko, Nevada is celebrating 150 years of continued prosperity, economic success and a general sense of well-being.”

ANTHONY MORI, Elko Daily Free Press 

President Trump waves as the crowd at Elko Regional Airport waves back on Oct. 20.

Nevada to receive $13.3M under settlement with Wells Fargo

CARSON CITY (AP) — Nevada stands to receive more than $13.3 million from Wells Fargo & Co. under a $575 million multistate settlement to resolve claims that the bank violated state consumer protection laws.

The state Attorney General’s Office and Wells Fargo separately announced the settlement Friday, with Wells Fargo CEO and President Tim Sloan saying his company is making a “serious commitment to making things right in regard to past issues” while working “to build a better bank.”

Overall, Wells Fargo will pay $575 million in a settlement with attorneys general from all 50 states and the District of Columbia that are investigating fake accounts opened without the knowledge of customers and a string of other dodgy practices.

Under the agreement announced Friday, the bank will also create teams to review and respond to customer complaints about its banking and sales practices.

The bank has been under a cloud since 2015 when it acknowledged that employees had opened millions of fake bank accounts for customers in order to meet sales goals.

It has also said that it sold auto insurance and other financial products to customers who didn’t need them.

Wells Fargo has already been ordered to pay more than $1.2 billion in penalties and faced stricter regulations.