Creation of Nevada’s Counties
The first Nevada Territorial Legislature established nine counties on November 25, 1861, including Churchill, Douglas, Esmeralda, Humboldt, Lyon, Ormsby, Storey, Washoe and Lake. Only Humboldt County, which existed as a county within the Utah Territory, was retained and established as a county within both the Nevada Territory and, subsequently, the State of Nevada. The largest territorial county was Esmeralda which, along with Churchill and Humboldt, comprised four-fifths of the Nevada Territory. Lake County was renamed Roop County on December 5, 1862 and then consolidated with Washoe County in 1889 because of its very small population. Two more counties, Lander and Nye, were organized when Nevada was a territory, so that the total number of counties in Nevada when it became a state was 11. In the first 10 years of statehood four more counties were organized: Elko (1869), Eureka (1873), Lincoln (1866), and White Pine (1869). Over three decades passed before the organization of any additional counties.
After the turn of the century the last three counties were created, Clark (1909), Mineral (1911), and Pershing (1919). In 1969 Ormsby County and Carson City were consolidated into one municipal government known as Carson City.
In 1987, the Legislature created Bullfrog County, a 144-square mile enclave within southern Nye County. The purpose of Bullfrog County was to enhance the state’s ability to receive funds from the Federal Government pursuant to the “Grants Equal To Taxes” provisions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Following a challenge by Nye County in the Nevada district court, the legislation was judged to be unconstitutional and subsequently was repealed by the Legislature in 1989.
The 17 counties of the state, with years of creation and the original and present county seats, are as follows:
|County||Year of creation||Original county seat||Present county seat|
|Carson City1||1969||Carson City||Carson City|
|Clark||1909||Las Vegas||Las Vegas|
|Lander3||1862||Jacob’s Spring||Battle Mountain (1979)|
|Lincoln3||1866||Crystal Springs||Pioche (1871)|
|Nye3||1864||Ione City||Tonopah (1905)|
|Storey||1861||Virginia City||Virginia City|
|Washoe||1861||Washoe City||Reno (1871)|
|White Pine||1869||Hamilton||Ely (1887)|
|1 Carson City became a county as the result of consolidation with Ormsby County in 1969. Ormsby County was created in 1861 and Carson City always served as its county seat.
2 Churchill County was not formally organized in 1864, and its intermediate county seats were LaPlata (1864-68) and Stillwater (1868-1904).
3 Lander County also had an intermediate county seat at Austin (1863-1979); as did Lincoln County at Hiko (1867-71); Esmeralda County at Hawthorne (1883-1907); and Nye County at Belmont (1867-1905).
|Nevada’s Counties were named for a variety of persons or other features. The following summarizes the naming of Nevada’s 17 counties, plus the former counties of Lake, Ormsby, and Roop. Other historical information also is included.