Dennis Cassinelli: Winnemucca: Famous criminals (maybe) and big fossils

One of my favorite towns in Nevada is Winnemucca, county seat of Humboldt County. The town was named for Paiute Indian Chief Winnemucca. The town now has a colony for the Native American population.

In 1868, Winnemucca became a major distribution point for the Central Pacific Railroad. Many of the Chinese laborers who had worked on the railroad later settled in the Winnemucca Chinatown. This also happened in Lovelock.

On Sept. 19, 1900, the first National Bank of Winnemucca was robbed of $32,640 in gold coins. The three men who committed the crime escaped and the gold was never recovered. It is very likely that Harry Longbaugh (Sundance Kid) may have been one of the robbers. Leroy Parker, (Butch Cassidy) was elsewhere during the robbery. The old bank building still stands at the corner of Fourth and Bridge Street in Winnemucca.

Several relatives of mine live in the Winnemucca area, including nearby Paradise Valley. We visited regularly and often went on hunting and fishing trips in the region.

I often worked in Winnemucca when I was working for NDOT several years ago. NDOT resident engineer Jerry Fitch and crew were working on a project at the Rose Creek Pit east of town one year when they uncovered the fossilized tusk of a huge mammoth. They contacted the Nevada State Museum and Donald Tuohy, who came out and recovered the ancient fossil. It is still in storage at the museum and never has been displayed.

Much later, when I was working under the east Winnemucca I-80 underpass, I found the fossilized jawbone of a mammoth containing all the teeth. I contacted the State Museum and brought it to them in as a donation. These were from the Pleistocene Era, over 10,000 years ago.

Often when staying in Winnemucca, family, friends and I have dined at the Martin Hotel or Ormachea’s Dinner House. Once when I spent the week in town and stayed at the Martin Hotel where at that time, in the 1970s, room and board was ridiculously low.

North of Winnemucca, there is a large agricultural area where tons of potatoes, hay and other crops are grown. This is also true for the Paradise Valley region further north. Another industry in the Winnemucca area is gold mining where leach fields can be seen along the highway where gold is being extracted from the ore.

The Humboldt River flows through town and on occasion has been known to flood. It is the source of water for the agricultural area from wells drilled for that purpose.

On the political side, my late Uncle, Bob and Cousin Dan, have both served terms as Humboldt County commissioners. I also have a niece, Kathleen Brum, who works at the Humboldt County Courthouse.

Like many other travelers between Reno and Elko, we always stop at Winnemucca for food and fuel. It has been a habitual stop for us and many others traveling on the Interstate. I appreciate Jen Anderson at Winnemucca Publishing for printing my articles every week and thanking me for sending them in.

Dennis Cassinelli is a Dayton author and historian. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at


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