In 1849, during the great Western migration in the United States, a party from Kansas, seeking a shorter way from Salt Lake to California, crossed through present day Lincoln County. They had the misfortune though, of stumbling into Death Valley without adequate food and water and all perished.
These were not the first travelers to come through this area. Some of the mountain men and trappers of note, names known to history and others not known at all, had also been here, however briefly.
Spanish explorers in the 1500?s are believed to have gone through parts of Nevada and maybe even a little bit of Lincoln County.
Thus, the area was not unknown, but little visited, even before it was created as a County on Feb. 26, 1866.
Just a couple of years before that, in the winter of 1863-64, while the Civil War was raging in the east, William Hamlin was told by an Indian who traded some information for food, about the famous Panaca Ledge.
A few miners came, while in the meantime, Brigham Young learned of this area, and in efforts to expand the Mormon community into other parts, encouraged a group from the St. George area to go and settle. In May 1864, the Francis Lee family and several others, came to the Meadow Valley and established the town of Panaca.
After statehood was granted in the fall of 1864, Nevada?s first Governor was H.G. Blasdel. He visited Lincoln County himself, but his trip from Carson City was so plagued with hardships, historians say the group had to exist for a time on lizards they could catch, and one member died.
Lincoln County?s first seat of government was designated at Crystal Springs, but since there was hardly anything there, except a small Paiute village and a few settlers, it soon shifted to Hiko on March 18, 1867. A few years later, on February 24, 1871, the county seat was moved to Pioche, where it remains today.
One of the most notable buildings in Pioche is the famed Million Dollar Courthouse, a two-story red brick structure built in 1871 at a cost of only $75,000. The story in itself is quite interesting. The base price should have been only about $30,000, because the actual contracts called for $16,400 for the courthouse and $10,000 for the jail.
Broken contracts, corrupt officials, and many other issues eventually brought the price for the building when the last obligations were finally paid for in 1937 to over $1 million, an extremely exorbitant price for its time. A more modern and the present courthouse opened in 1938.
Pioche in the 1870s was the toughest town in the west, about a decade before Tombstone, Arizona, gained the same reputation. The town, and several others in the County, were little better than they had to be, and all of that resulted in numerous killings, with most of the defendants not being punished at all. Murderers were acquitted regularly or else their deeds were not investigated very well. More often than not the crime was usually found justifiable. One historian even commented, ?even with a nolle prosequi (do not prosecute) thrown in for good measure.?
There was one exception of particular note. The case of Perry Fuller, who was sentenced to 15 years for killing Fannie Peterson, his one-time common law wife on July 12, 1872. It was considered an ?ungentlemanly deed.?
Pioche was named for F.L.A. Pioche, a Frenchman and San Francisco-based mining entrepreneur. Pioche never visited the area, but since he owned quite a bit of the mining interests in the area, the residents decided to name the town after him. He later committed suicide in 1872, for reasons some have said might be overcome with grief for France losing the Franco-Prussian War that year.
Further to the south, the community of Alamo was first settled in the 1860s by the Sharp family and later the Richard family, as well as others like the Stewarts. An early Mormon community that became an established town in 1901, it now attracts many to the fishing and duck hunting opportunities at the Pahranagat lakes and visitors to the national wildlife refuge at the same location. A new visitors center was just opened this year.
Alamo lies on U.S. 93, a major route for commercial trucks and ?snowbirds? heading south for the winter and home again in the spring.
A Nevada Historical sign just outside of town notes that the valley, right after the Civil War, was a hideout haven for cattle rustlers. One writer said on a ride through the valley one day, he counted at least 350 different brands.
Caliente was famous for the railroad that lasted as a major route from L.A. to Chicago until the 1970s, and its beautiful 1923 Spanish style depot that now serves as City Hall, the community library and art gallery, plus a few other offices. Railroad Row, homes built for one time railroad employees, and still lived in by private families, is a noted attraction. A few years ago, Caliente was designated in a special ceremony by the Union Pacific Railroad as an official Railroad City.
Ghost towns from the mining days of the Old West include Tempiute, Logan City, Delamar, Bullionville, Bristol City, Highland and Atlanta.
The spectacular Cathedral Gorge State Park, along with Beaver Dam State Park and Kershaw-Ryan State Park, attract many visitors to the area annually.