Dennis Cassinelli: Abraham Lincoln and Nevada statehood

In 1864, Nevada Territory had only 40,000 inhabitants, considerably short of the 60,000 normally required for statehood. Fortunately, the discovery of the incredibly large and rich silver deposits in and around Virginia City made the region one of the most important and wealthy in the West. Not only silver was found, but placer miners had been finding gold in what was called Gold Canyon since 1849.
The massive underground silver discovery became known as the Comstock Lode. The ore from the Comstock demanded a wide array of expensive new technologies for profitable development. For the first time, western mining began to attract investments from large eastern capitalists, and these powerful men began to push for Nevada statehood.
The decisive factor in easing the path to Nevada’s statehood was President Lincoln’s proposed 13th Amendment banning slavery. Throughout his administration, Lincoln had appointed territorial officials in Nevada who were strong Republicans, and he knew he could count on the congressmen and citizens of the new state of Nevada to support him in the coming presidential election and to vote for his proposed amendment to the Constitution. Since time was short, the Nevada constitutional delegation sent the longest telegram on record up to that time to Washington, D.C., containing the entire text of the proposed state constitution.
Their speedy actions paid off with quick congressional approval of statehood and the new state of Nevada did indeed provide strong support for Lincoln. On Jan. 31, 1865, Congress approved the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning slavery.
Lincoln was the first Republican President of the United States. I find it interesting to note that Lincoln was not the first Republican to run for President. In 1856, Republican nominee John C. Fremont ran against Democrat James Buchanan for the office. Fremont lost the nomination by 174 electoral votes for Buchanan to 114 for Fremont. John C. Fremont is an icon in Nevada History. He was known as the Pathfinder for his early exploration of the Great Basin, a name he gave to our region.
In 1861 Fremont was given command of the Department of the West during the Civil War by president Lincoln. During his brief tenure as a general, he ran his department autocratically and made hasty decisions without consulting President Lincoln or Army Command. President Lincoln relieved Fremont of his command for Insubordination.
Due to the fact that President Lincoln was the President of the United States when Nevada became a state, many places in Nevada bear his name. Lincoln County, Lincoln Hall at University of Nevada, Reno, streets named Lincoln, the Lincoln Highway and others.
On the centennial of President Lincoln’s birth in 1909, the design for the one cent coin was changed from the Indian head design to the Lincoln image we have today. In my office, I have a small bronze statue of Lincoln to remind me about one of our greatest presidents.
This article is by Dayton Author and Historian, Dennis Cassinelli. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at Just click on “order books."


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