STATION & GENOA
“If you’re looking for cute old towns, you should stop in Genoa, I love that place”, said the girl behind the counter in Virginia City. I had heard of Genoa in Italy, but not Nevada, but since I was visiting the queen historic town of the Comstock silver rush, I was indeed interested. It turns out I had passed Genoa earlier traveling on Highway 395, but the sign I had seen was for Mormon Station. Turns out, one is part of the history of the other and the beginning of Nevada.
Wilderness men and pioneers had traversed the high desert plains to trails across the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains since about the 1830s. With the discovery of gold in California in 1848, the trickle of intrepid explorers turned to a growing stream of emigrant wagon trains. In 1850, a party of Mormons returning to Salt Lake City from the Mexican War established a trading post just to the east of Lake Tahoe, but abandoned it after six months. On September 9, 1850, Congress established the Utah Territory which encompassed present day Nevada. In 1851, by an enterprising Mormon merchant from Salt lake, John Reese, who’d been told of the earlier trading post, brought his family and 17 wagons of goods to the site and established the Mormon Station, the first permanent settlement in Nevada, building a hotel and store within the wooden walls of an Indian fort. Reese eventually left after business fell off and a Mormon Elder named Orson Hyde was sent to survey the settlement and establish a town. He was an admirer of Christopher Columbus named the new town after the Italian explorers birthplace. Genoa became the seat of Douglas County in 1861 with creation of Nevada Territory.
Genoa (pronounced with the emphasis on the “o”) now consists of several buildings at a crossroad at the foot of the mountains just four miles off Highway 395, south of Carson City, near the Minden-Tahoe Airport. A State Park replica of the Mormon Station fort takes up one corner, mostly a park with picnic area around a recreation of the trading post. Across the street the Genoa Courthouse which served as the county seat, until moved to Minden in 1916, houses the Genoa Courthouse Museum, with exhibits of when it served as a school, a recreation of the jail inside when it was a court, holding murder trials and adjudicating mining disputes, maps and artifacts of the “Fearful Crossing” illustrate the travails of the Emigrant Trail with the routes followed by the pioneers, an exhibit to “Snowshoe Thompson” who carried the mail on foot across the Sierras between Genoa and Placerville in California. One room in the museum features an exhibit of one of Genoa’s other unique places in history, as a stop on the Pony Express, that grand and heroic idea of carrying mail by horse and riders across the country, which only lasted for 18 months before the invention of the telegraph made it obsolete.
Across the corner from the Mormon Station park is Nevada’s first saloon, or as it was called, a “thirst station”. The saloon, built in 1854, still serves as a long bar for a cooling drink in the summer heat, with locals playing pool rather than cowboys and pioneers as a gambling table. The rest of Genoa is a few stores, and a restaurant, with a good portion taken up by the Genoa Country Inn hotel, with 11 rooms in the historic hotel, though not the earliest one, as much of Genoa burned nearly to the ground in 1910.
Genoa is located in the center of a range of recreational activities, fishing, hiking, and water sports, camping and horseback riding, or sail planes, attested to by the most curious bronze statue of a combination skiing, rock climbing, fishing, mountain man at the center of town. Lake Tahoe is a 30 minute drive over the Kingsbury Grade, along the original Overland Emigrant Trail. Genoa is 40 minutes south of Reno and 20 minutes from Carson City. © Bargain Travel West
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