Sarah Robinson

Carson City


My hometown is Carson City, Nevada. Carson City is the capitol of Nevada, and named after the famous explorer Kit Carson. It was once a tiny little western town built around a trading post, going back to the 1850s, and became the Capitol in 1864 when Nevada was declared a state.

This picture of Carson City was taken in the 1880.

Like much of Nevada, Carson City prospered partly as a result of the Gold and Silver Rush.

My hometown isn't necessarily a historically important place, at least for anyone outside of Nevada. Nevertheless, it does have a lot of history, and is closely involved with legends of the "Wild West," due to its geography and its position as the state Capitol. For a long time, it served as a hub for the Virginia and Truckee Railroad.

The Washoe People lived in the area before any European settlers arrived, and much of the area is still named "Washoe" in reference. A loca historical figure is Dat So La Lee, a Native-American artist famous for her beautiful basket-weaving.

Dat So La Lee's beautiful baskets can be seen in the Nevada State Museum, which is in Downtown Carson City. She is still buried in Carson City today.

A few other people who have lived in Carson City include George Ferris, inventor of the Ferris wheel, whose historical house is still standing, and Mark Twain, one of the first great American Authors. Mark Twain's brother Orion Clemens was the Secretary of Nevada Territory. Twain also lived and worked in Virginia City, a town only a few miles from Carson City, for some time, both as a miner on the Comstock Lode and writing for a newspaper. Today, Virginia city is a delightful little tourist town full of kitschy shops, historical buildings, and saloons.

Though as far as I know he never lived in Carson City, the legendary Wyatt Earp, lawman and gunslinger, is known to have taken up residence in Tonopah, Nevada, just a few hours away, at some point in the years following the infamous shootout at the OK Coral, where he made money gold mining and gambling.

From his writings, one could be tempted to conclude that Twain may not have exactly been in love with the arid, hot climate.

"Some people are malicious enough to think that if the devil were set at liberty and told to confine himself to Nevada Territory, he would...get homesick and go back to hell again." -- Mark Twain, a Biography.

...Or the state in general. "[In early Nevada]:...there was but little realty to tax, and it did seem as if nobody was ever going to think of the simple salvation of inflicting a money penalty on murder." -- Mark Twain, Roughing It

Many locals in Carson City complain that there's not much to do around town. That may be true, especially if you, like most of the locals, have no interest in gambling. Nevertheless, the surrounding hills provide excellent hiking trails, leading up to quaint natural beauties like waterfalls. In the whole town there are only two local coffee shops, which, in my opinion is a tragedy. One of them is called Comma Coffee and has hosted presidential candidates, such as Barack Obama back in 2008, when they come campaigning through Nevada. Nevada being a "swing state" means that candidates always come to visit us and campaign, typically in Carson City, Reno, or Las Vegas. Comma Coffee is my favorite coffee shop, so I don't love politicians interrupting my afternoon coffee! But it's conveniently located across the street from the Capitol Building, which makes it a good location.

Besides Comma Coffee, there's also San Rafael Coffee. Other things to do include visiting one of the small bars, or, if you are so inclined, trying out one of the great big casinos that fill the center of town. You can also visit the museum, to learn more about Dat So La Lee and Mark Twain, or visit my favorite place in town, Morley's Books, a used book store housed inside a beautiful historical building. Or, if you're feeling brave, take a short road trip to one of Nevada's many old ghost towns.

All told, Carson City seems to me to be a strangely anonymous place. People often think Nevada's Capitol is Reno or Las Vegas! But it has been home to a number of fascinating historical figures, is full of the oddities of historical Old West. Here you can find kitsch and gambling, but also natural beauty and a history that is part of the American legedarium.

This weird little western town is the place I'll always think of as home, no matter where I go.

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