Two of the best places to learn about Nevada’s earliest history are the Genoa Courthouse Museum and Mormon Station State Park, both located in the historic town of Genoa, which is 12 miles south of Carson City via U.S. 395 and State Route 206.
The courthouse museum, at Main and 5th streets, is a two-story, brick structure that was built in 1865 and served as the Douglas County Courthouse until 1916, when the county seat was moved to Minden.
For the next four decades, the building was used as a school, then, after 1969, as a museum. In 1978, the building was restored to its original appearance.
Inside, you will find plenty of historic displays, including a replica of the original county jail (which is cramped and dark—you wouldn’t have wanted to get tossed in this hoosegow!), a reconstruction of a 19th century blacksmith shop and a large collection of Washo Indian baskets, cradleboards and other artifacts donated by the late historian Grace Dangberg.
Additionally, other exhibits recreate the original court and county offices complete with oak desks, old-fashioned equipment, wooden file cabinets and other items. On the second floor is the original courtroom, which has been preserved so that it appears ready for a trial.
The museum also has a Snowshoe Thompson exhibit telling the story of the legendary former Genoa-resident, who introduced downhill skiing to Northern Nevada. Thompson regularly transported the mail over the Sierra Nevada range via handmade wooden skis and snowshoes, and introduced alpine skiing to the region.
Of special note is the museum’s collection of paintings by Hans Meyer-Kassel, a renowned, German-born artist who resided in the Carson Valley and painted many Nevada scenes in the 1940s and 50s.
An entire room in the museum has exhibits telling the history of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, which once ran to nearby Minden. The museum is open daily, May through October, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is an admission fee of $5.00.
The Mormon Station State Historic Park, across the street from the courthouse museum, is the most prominent reminder of Genoa’s role in Nevada history.
The park includes a replica of the original Mormon trading post and fort that was erected in 1851 to provide goods to travelers on the Emigrant Trail.
Mormon Station is generally recognized as the site of the state’s first permanent non-native settlement and the town of Genoa eventually developed around the trading post.
The park’s replica of the original trading post was constructed in 1947 on the site of the original stockade, which burned in 1910. Sadly, that fire also destroyed a number of the pioneer buildings once found in the town’s core area.
Inside of the trading post museum are several interesting interpretive historic displays about the area. In addition to telling the history of the fort, the exhibits tell about Nevada’s territorial days (before it became a state).
One signboard includes a copy of the Jan. 1, 1859 issue of the famous Nevada newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise. The Enterprise, where writer Mark Twain began his career, was started in Genoa then moved to Carson City before landing in Virginia City.
A park ranger is available to answer questions and tell the Genoa story. Additionally, group tours are available for a fee; reservations are recommended. The park also offers various talks, presentations and special events throughout the year (check out the park web site for details, www.parks.nv.gov).
Adjacent to the trading post museum is the stockade, a wooden enclosure containing large shade trees and picnic tables. Both the museum and the picnic area are free to the public.
Mormon Station Park is open Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
For more information about the Genoa Courthouse Museum, go to: http://historicnv.org/locations/. For more information on Mormon Station State Park, go to: http://parks.nv.gov/parks/mormon-station-state-historic-park/.
Rich Moreno covers the places Nevadans want to visit.