Remembering an Old Friend: Reno 1868

When Reno's new soccer team chose the name "Reno 1868 FC," it brought back some memories of times I had spent with an old friend at the Nevada Historical Society. My friend is quite old now, rough around the edges, and stained with years of use. Small strips of tape hold her backside together in spots and her golden skin is brittle. (No Karalea, I'm not talking about you.) The friend I speak of is Reno's first map—150 years old next year—and what I believe to be the most precious artifact in our city's history.

The 1868 Central Pacific Railroad map of Reno
Photo courtesy of the author

In one sentence, this is how the map came to be: Myron Lake (who owned about 137 acres of patented land smack in the center of Reno in 1865), sold to the Central Pacific Railroad, for $200, about 107 acres of land north of the Truckee River to build a town, and that caused this wonderful map to be drawn by CPRR employees, probably in April of 1868, and it was likely used on May 9, 1868, when the town was officially founded and the first lots were auctioned off. Whew! [Note: The town of Reno didn't become the "City of Reno" until it was incorporated in November of 1903. See HRPS Blog "Elevenses," for a mind-numbing article about the minute details of the land deals between Myron Lake and the CPRR.]

Back of the 1868 Central Pacific Railroad map of Reno
Photo courtesy of the author

What I love about this map are the notes that were made on it in pencil. The most common mark is "C." Were these lots sold for cash? If you look real close you can also see some names like Oaks, Forbes and Vance. In one large lot was written the word MILL, and on a smaller lot the word HOUSE printed next to the letter C. Later in the year a different map of the town was recorded in the Washoe County Recorder's office. "Town of RENO...Filed Aug 1st 1868." The newer map is nice enough, drawn on dark blue paper, its edges defined and the town lots are free of pencil markings. But it doesn't even compare to the first map. At some point in the original map's history, someone wrote in pencil on the back, "First Map of Reno Very Rare." We can't be absolutely sure this is Reno's first map, but it appears so, and we're lucky to have it.

Title section of the 1868 Central Pacific Railroad map of Reno
Photo courtesy of the author

Now, every time I hear Reno 1868, I'll think of my old friend, AND Reno's new soccer team.

  • Paula Riley

    What a marvelous story, now connected with the soccer team. I've not ever examined this map, and would not have even thought to ask about the earliest map of Reno. I can imagine it being archivally stored and researchers being cautioned about handling it with care. These photos show how the paper has aged to that beautiful golden hue and I can just imagine the pencil markings through the writer's storytelling. A map likes this brings Reno history to life.

  • Gloria Geil

    Kim,

    I have lots of friends that are soccer fans and I will have so much fun sharing this info with them. How cool to have a map this old!

    Gloria

  • Sharon Cunningham

    Thanks so much for sending this link, Kim. I love that old map of early Reno! as you knew I would.

    Sharon

Add comment