Museum weaves tales of state heritage |

Museum weaves tales of state heritage

Robyn Moormeister
Visitors walk by a historic Chinese altar at the Nevada State Museum Tuesday afternoon. On Oct. 26, museum curator Bob Nylen will give a lecture and slide show on some of the more famous exhibits. Rick Gunn/ Nevada Appeal

Most people don’t know Nevada’s first gold rush was sparked by a curious Mormon with a butcher knife.

John Orr, a Mormon settler on his way to California in 1850, saw a glint of gold when he stopped his horse to rest in Dayton Valley. He gouged the layer of rock covering his little treasure, and the gold rush was born.

That same nugget is on display at the Nevada State Museum, along with dozens of other icons from the state’s history.

History buffs will get a rare opportunity to hear the tales behind these pieces during a free lecture and slide presentation Tuesday with Curator of History Bob Nylen.

It’s a separate program from the museum’s monthly lecture series for which speakers are brought in from other areas. Nylen is well-versed and familiar with the museum’s exhibits and a gold mine of historical facts.

“It’s a pretty rare occasion where he talks about what’s on display,” said museum public affairs representative Bob Harmon.

Nylen’s talk will include some of the more famous pieces from the museum’s collection, such as the Orr Nugget, the original coin press, a mint coin collection and the famous Garcia Saddle.

“It was made a 100 years ago for the vaquero and it was in the St. Louis World’s Fair,” Harmon said.

The saddle, made by renowned Elko saddler Guadalupe S. Garcia, was also the only saddle to win a gold medal at the Louis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Ore., in 1905.

The world-famous Dat-So-La-Lee baskets, made by a Washoe Indian woman who used her teeth, her fingers, a piece of sharp stone or glass, and a bone or iron awl as tools.

“These baskets are beautiful,” Harmon said. “There is such beauty in their lifestyle. It’s amazing how the tribe eked out an existence in the middle of the Nevada desert. These are the finest baskets. They’re magnificent.”

The Treasures of the Nevada State Museum tour is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Nevada State Museum, 600 N. Carson St.


What: “Treasures of the Nevada State Museum” tour

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Nevada State Museum, 600 N. Carson St.

Information: Call 687-4810, ext. 239, or go to

Contact reporter Robyn Moormeister at or 881-1217.