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Carson becomes county seat and territorial capital

Guy Rocha
Special to the Appeal

Editor’s note: This is the fourth part of a five-part series on the early history of Carson City, written by State Archivist Guy Rocha. Profiles of people, events and places instrumental in Carson City’s history will be featured throughout 2008 on this page in celebration of Carson City’s sesquicentennial.

In an ironic turn of events, John Jacob Musser was elected Delegate to Congress on Nov. 12, 1859, filling the vacancy left by the untimely death of “Judge” Crane in Gold Hill on Sept. 26. He spent the early months of 1860 trying to convince the House and Senate to recognize the highly unusual actions of the territorial convention, which had usurped the prerogative of both the Congress and the President in establishing a “Nevada” Territory. His initial efforts in Congress resulted in a House bill recognizing “a temporary government for the Territory of Nevada.” Amendments were also proposed to provide for a permanent territorial government when the population of the area exceeded 20,000 inhabitants. On May 11, after an unsuccessful attempt to amend the bill to allow for slavery in the territory, it was tabled following a relatively close floor vote.

The continued growth of the region associated with the fabulous mineral wealth of the Comstock and other prosperous mining districts, and the coming of the Civil War with the secession of South Carolina and six other southern states prior to Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration as president, finally influenced the remaining members of Congress to pass an Organic Act on March 2, 1861. As one of his last actions in office, President James Buchanan signed the bill the same day officially creating Nevada Territory.

In the meantime, in a desperate attempt to prevent the partition of Utah Territory, the territorial legislature in Salt Lake City designated Carson City the county seat of Carson County on Jan. 18, 1861. Curry and his associates must have taken great pleasure seeing Genoa lose its county seat status. Carson City would remain the county seat of Carson County, Nevada Territory until the territorial legislature, meeting at Curry’s newly-constructed Warm Springs Hotel, created new counties in November.

On the 25th, Carson City was designated both the county seat of Ormsby County, named in memory of William Ormsby, and the territorial capital. Attorney William M. Stewart, the Councilman from Carson City and acquaintance of Curry, Proctor, Musser and Green when they all resided in Downieville, was instrumental in negotiating the political deals favoring Carson City.

The plaza that Abe Curry had set aside in 1858 was designated as the site for the construction of any territorial government office buildings. The Warm Springs Hotel was leased to the territory in 1862, converted into a prison, and Curry was appointed the first warden. He sold the property to the territory in 1864. During this period, Curry served in the Nevada territorial legislature, in both the House of Representatives in 1862 and Council in 1864.

John J. Musser enjoyed some success with the territorial legislature. He was granted a charter to establish a water system and a franchise for a gas company for Carson City in 1861. In September 1862, he finished a disappointing third in the election for Territorial Delegate to Congress. However, the following year the Acting Governor of Nevada Territory, Orion Clemens, appointed him prosecuting attorney for the Second Judicial District.

Musser also continued in his private law practice and remained close friends with Abe Curry. Leaving his family behind, he moved to Shermantown in White Pine County in 1869 to practice law. He fell ill in October 1870 and returned to Carson City, where he died on March 8, 1871, at the age of 41. Musser was eulogized in The Daily State Register as “a man of eminent ability; a sound lawyer; a brilliant orator, and socially, was genial as sunshine. He had his faults, as most men of genius have, but they will be buried with him, and lost sight of in the recollection of his intellectual brilliance and many noble traits of character.”

By all accounts, Benjamin Green left the Carson City scene prior to the creation of Nevada Territory. It appears he had sold all his properties in Carson City following the Pyramid Lake Indian War in the spring of 1860 and for a brief period resided in nearby Virginia City. By the time of Nevada statehood in 1864, Green was living in Placerville, Calif., working as a shoemaker. He died and was buried there on Dec. 8, 1883 at the age of 74.

NEXT SUNDAY: Following the last of Carson City’s founders

LAST SUNDAY: City’s stature grows quickly in late 1850s (previous installments can be read at http://www.nevadaappeal.com