Plan to name peak for explorer approved
January 22, 2014
The 19th century Western explorer John Fremont would finally have a major geographic feature named for him in Nevada under a proposal approved by a state board.
The Nevada State Board on Geographic Names last week unanimously voted to name a Lyon County peak where the man known as "The Pathfinder" is thought to have stood as Fremont Lookout.
The panel's recommendation now goes to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for final action.
Former Nevada state archivist Guy Rocha said Fremont is deserving of the honor because of his historic expeditions across the West, including one in 1843-44 that took him across portions of Nevada, California and Oregon.
Fremont was also one of the first two U.S. senators from California, the first presidential candidate of the Republican Party and a Union major general in the Civil War.
"He was one of the principal players in the exploration of the West in the 19th century," Rocha said. "The fact is he did these things, and it's appropriate we recognize him."
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Rocha said it's "highly probable" that Fremont stood on the west rocky point of Churchill Butte on Jan. 20, 1844, to gain a view west of the Sierra Nevada above Carson City.
Historians seek to name the 5,801-foot point for Fremont, who crossed the snowbound Sierra near California's Carson Pass a month later. The second highest point on Churchill Butte, it's located near old Fort Churchill along the Carson River 35 miles east of Carson City.
Mileages provided in Fremont's journal and a government report led historians to the site, Rocha said, and the view from it is similar to the one Fremont described in his journal.
"We'll never be able to know for sure if it's where Fremont stood, but the consensus was to go with this point," Rocha said, adding it matches best with historic documents.
The point is about 8 miles to the east of an ancient 5,003-foot volcanic cone at the northeastern end of the Pine Nut Mountains where historians initially believed Fremont stood.
In Nevada, Fremont has streets, schools and an obscure mountain pass named for him — but no major geographic feature.
On his 1843-44 trek across Nevada, he named some prominent features, including Pyramid Lake and the Humboldt and Walker rivers. He also came up with the name Great Basin for the vast region of interior drainage that covers most of Nevada and much of Utah.