Nevada Day celebrates longshot
October 26, 2017
Nevada's founders knew they were placing a big bet in 1864 when they went for statehood.
The Civil War was raging across the eastern half of the country, and were it not for the precious metal beneath their feet, there was little to recommend Nevada for statehood.
Firstly, Nevada didn't have the 60,000 people Congress had required of states up to that point. Both Kansas and West Virginia, which acquired statehood just before Nevada had the requisite number of residents, but Nevada was 18,000 people short.
The Census wouldn't determine there were 60,000 people living in Nevada until 1880, and then the population dropped back below that number until 1910.
But the presidential election of 1864 opened a door of opportunity that the Silver State's original gamblers couldn't resist.
With two generals challenging Republican Abraham Lincoln for the presidency, he needed all of the electoral votes he could get.
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Gen. George McClellan, who led Union forces early in the war and was dismissed by Lincoln, received the nomination of the Democratic Party.
More concerning, the first man to run for president as a Republican, and the man whose name appears all over the state, John C. Frémont was running from Lincoln's own party.
Territories seeking statehood at the same time as Nevada included Nebraska and Colorado, either of which would have sufficed to re-elect Lincoln.
Nevadans were better prepared, and were able to get a Constitution written and telegraphed the 16,543-word document to Washington, D.C., the longest telegram ever sent to that date.
Had those early Nevadans not succeeded, there's no telling if or when Nevada would have ever become a state.