Nevada Day marks the admission of the Nevada Territory into the Union as the 36th state despite the fact that the population of the territory lacked the required 60,000 for statehood.
The proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln Oct. 31, 1864, and came at a critical time in the Civil War which was raging back east. Lincoln urgently wanted the territory to become a state to ensure the wealth from the Nevada Comstock Mines would remain in the hands of the Union, rather than being captured by the Confederacy.
This is the reason for Nevada’s motto, “Battle Born.”
Historians note the first observance of Nevada Day (originally known as Admission Day) was by the Pacific Coast Pioneer society during the 1870s. In 1933, the Nevada Legislature established a state holiday to be observed on Oct. 31, no matter the day of the week.
However, since 2000, Nevada Day is observed the last Friday in October. All state, county and city government offices are closed as are most schools and libraries. Some banks and private businesses also choose to close.
Nevada is said to hold the largest statehood celebration in the nation. Occurring in Carson City, there is usually a popular parade, music and art shows, a carnival and a pancake breakfast at the governor’s mansion, to which all are invited.
Other events during the state holiday include the Nevada Day Classic Run/Walk, World Championship Rock Drilling Contest, Beard Contest, Annual Chili Feed and numerous free local concerts. Food and drink vendors line the streets of Carson City and local businesses and restaurants often offer specials on food and beverages.
The theme for 2019’s celebration is “Nevada’s Counties.”
All counties have been asked to make something in the parade.
Historian Dennis Cassenelli notes that although Nevada only has 17 counties, there was once an effort to create an 18th county in 1987. The county of Bullfrog would have consisted of 144 square miles with no people or buildings. It failed, being deemed unconstitutional by a county judge.
Cassenelli also writes that Ormsby County in western Nevada was once the state capital from 1864 to 1969. The county is named for Major William Ormsby, one of the original settlers of Carson City. Orsmby was killed along with 75 other men in the Pyramid Lake Indian War in the spring of 1860 during an unsuccessful attempt to subdue a perceived uprising of Paiute Indians near Pyramid Lake, Nevada, which was at the time part of Utah Territory.
On April 1, 1969, Ormsby County and Carson City officially merged to become the Consolidated Municipality of Carson City, named for the famed scout and guide who traveled with Col. John C. Fremont on his western explorations in the 1840s.