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Stories of Old Nevada: Lovelock

Stories of Old Nevada: Lovelock

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Dennis Cassinelli

Dennis Cassinelli

Lovelock is the county seat of Pershing County, Nevada. It was named for George Lovelock, an early storekeeper and homesteader. The town is located on Interstate 80, 93 miles east of Reno. When I was working for NDOT in the 1960s, I was assigned to work on one of the first Interstate 80 projects west of Lovelock. I commuted the 90 miles with three other employees in my 1959 Pontiac. The trip took us exactly one hour. Over the years, I worked on several other projects in the area, both for NDOT and later as a consulting engineer.

During the days of migration to California and Oregon in the late 1800’s, the Lovelock Valley became known as Big Meadows due to the abundance of grass and water for livestock from the Humboldt River. Today, hundreds of tons of hay from Lovelock farms are shipped to California each year at a premium price due to the high protein content of the product.

In 1868, the history of Lovelock Changed with the building of the Central Pacific Railroad. Like other railroad towns, Lovelock had a thriving Chinese population and mining activity soon followed. When the Interstate 80 project came through town, it took out much of what had been the Chinatown area. Archaeologists for NDOT searched the houses that were to be removed in the Chinatown before they were removed. In the basement of one of the houses, they found a hoard of 20 dollar gold pieces and other coins that had been abandoned by the former Chinese owner. These were taken to the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, where they may be seen by appointment.

Lovelock has one of only two round courthouses in the nation, the Pershing County Courthouse. It is a beautiful structure built in 1919. Several times, my wife and I stopped there for a rest stop when traveling through town, since the place was practically empty and we marveled at the circular hallways in the building.

South of Lovelock the dreaded Forty Mile Desert begins and an alkali dry lake marks the place where the entrance to Lovelock Cave can be seen from I-80 if you know where to look east of the white alkali flat. I have visited Lovelock Cave several times and written much about it in my books. Excavations in this cave over a hundred years ago have yielded countless artifacts and provided much of the information about how people lived and died here in Nevada for thousands of years. There is a special chapter in my book, “Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians,” that tells much of the history of Lovelock Cave. It also has several interesting illustrations of the cave. The Nevada State Museum in Carson City has many artifacts found in Lovelock cave. The actual cave can be visited free of charge and directions to the cave can be found at the Marzen House Museum at 25 Marzen Lane in Lovelock. 775-273-7213.

A few miles east of Lovelock at 1605 Upper Valley Road is a delightful place called Crazy Corners Saloon, Dance Hall and Restaurant. When I worked near Lovelock on a highway project by Granite Construction Company, the superintendent, Rich Bunting, invited the entire crew to dinner there once a week. Just off Interstate 80 east of Lovelock is the Lovelock State Prison where O.J. Simpson was a guest for several years.

Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli’s books can be ordered at a discount on his blog at denniscassinelli.com.

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