Monday, August 15, 2016

Caliente is born, dies and revives

CALIENTE, Nev. — The advent of the steam locomotive in the early 19th century, while a technological marvel, had its drawbacks. Steam locomotives required water for their boilers every 20 miles. As a result, stations and settlements popped up across the desert region as water wells were bored into the earth. When diesel engines replaced steam-driven trains, many a station turned ghost town with nothing left to indicate their existence besides a marker or pile of adobe. However, Caliente, Nevada, stands today with splendid ghost town features. The Cherokees and Paiutes were the first dwellers in the area known as the Meadow Valley Wash, where U.S. Route 93 is located today. Members of these native tribes knew about shiny rocks and helped miners find more precious minerals. But more permanent pioneers came to the area in 1857 for various reasons and began settlements. Brothers Ike and Dow Barton, two African-American slaves escaped from Arkansas, settled in the valley in 1860. Brothers William and Charles Culverwell bought up all of what is now Caliente in 1874 and named it “Culverwell Ranch.” Meadow Valley Wash transformed into dairies and lush farmland with orchards and vineyards. The ranchers found a perfect market for their produce, hay and grain among the miners in nearby boomtowns. During the time Caliente was gestating, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, creating the Union Pacific Railroad and authorizing the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. It spanned 1,700 miles of prairie to Salt Lake City, Utah, the only developed settlement before reaching gold rush territory. The rail line was built by three private companies largely financed by government bonds and huge land grants. A race began and ended 1869 at Promontory Summit in the Utah territory – essentially the Oregon Trail became railroad in less than six years.
Property in the middle of Culverwell Ranch was needed to continue the rail line, Gray said. The rail companies continued to bicker. Two separate lines could only get through the canyon by crossing each other more than 20 times. One company would lay track by day, and the other team pulled it up in the dark. Gray tells a story of how William Culverwell pointed his long-barrel shotgun at two arguing men. Adamant about giving only one right-of-way, Cullerwell demanded the railroad companies settle the dispute or he would pull the trigger. The two rivals eventually settled their differences...more

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