Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Traveling Tuesday: Las Vegas, Nevada

Traveling Tuesday: Las Vegas, Nevada 

Last week I was supposed to attend a writers’ conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. A number of things came together to prevent me from going in person, but fortunately, there was a virtual option, so I was able to view all of the sessions. Not quite the same as hanging out with fellow authors and getting room service, but a good experience, nonetheless. I’m not sure why the conference founders choose to hold the event in Vegas each year, but the possibility of visiting ignited a desire to know more about the area. 
Sin City, as it has been nicknamed, has a much longer history than I knew. Las Vegas (Spanish for The Meadows or Fertile Plains) was not officially founded until 1905, but had been given its name seventy-six years earlier when a Mexican scout came through the valley in 1829. Later that same year a trader by the name of Antonio Armijo led a 60-man group along the Spanish Trail that connected Santa Fe, NM to Los Angeles, CA. 
In 1844, John C. Frémont, son of a French-Canadian schoolteacher who had immigrated to the U.S.
sometime before the early 1800s, visited the valley and sent reports and writings to the east that found their way into newspapers. The resulting articles helped entice pioneers to head west. Eleven years later, the Mormons chose to erect a fort in Las Vegas but eventually abandoned the location. A native American tribe, the Paiutes, had been living in the area for thousands of years, but when the population of white settlers increased, tensions between the two groups rose, leading to a new treaty that sent the Paiutes away. 
Then came the railroads. 
The San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroad was building a line through southern Nevada in 1902 and purchased 1,800 acres from the Stewart family to continue the project. Using the State Land Act of 1885 to offer land at $1.25 per acre, Montana Senator William Clark and Utah Senator Thomas Kearns promoted the area to American farmers who responded in droves. With the use of wells and irrigation, agriculture became the primary industry for the next two decades. Amazing to consider when you realize Las Vegas is located within the Mojave Desert. 
As additional railroads sprang up, more people chose to settle in the area. Businesses, shops, saloons, and casinos lined the streets. However, the city hit a snag in 1910 when Nevada outlawed gambling, going so far as to forbid the western custom of flipping a coin for the price of a drink. Ever creative, business owners ensured that the practice continued in speakeasies and illicit casinos. 
Population declined until 1931– a banner year for two reasons: 1) construction began on the massive Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover Dam), drawing thousands of workers to a site just east of the city, and 2) Nevada legalized gambling bringing back tourists and professional gamblers. By 1936, inexpensive hydroelectricity allowed owners to erect the flashing neon signs that epitomize “The Strip.” Post-war riches enabled corporations and business tycoons to buy and build hotel-casino properties. Gambling became known as “gaming” to transition the industry into a legitimate business. 

More than 600,000 now call Las Vegas home, a far cry from the sleepy collection of farms in the 1800s. 

A Family for Hazel

Can a widowed preacher who must marry to keep his church and an alleged thief find true love? 
After the Civil War takes Hazel Markham’s father, and her mother dies of a broken heart, a friend of her parents hires Hazel as a companion. All is well until the woman’s lecherous son takes an interest in his mother’s assistant. When Hazel spurns his advances one too many times, the man frames her for theft, and she is fired. As a last resort, she applies to be a mail-order bride, and to her dismay, her groom-to-be is a preacher. Will he believe her claims of innocence or reject her as unacceptable? 
Olav Kristensen has no plans to remarry after being widowed five years ago, but when the church elders give him an ultimatum to find a wife or lose his job, he advertises for a mail-order bride. The woman who arrives attests she was unjustly accused of robbery at her last job, but when his daughter’s heirloom locket goes missing, he is hesitant to believe his bride-to-be. Will he lose his church and a second chance at love?

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