Every city has their fair share of historical stories both true and false. Carson City is no exception and its history continues to surprise and amaze people of various ages and backgrounds. However, you can’t believe everything you hear. There are several historical stories that have gone down as truth but are really fiction. Myths and folklore about our capital city continue to surface but thanks to former Nevada archivist Guy Rocha, there’s plenty of fact to be separated from fiction. Rocha sheds light on many myths, legends and truths on the State Library and Archives site, but here are a few of our favorites.
- Was Nevada admitted to Union in 1864 to finance the Civil War with its Silver and Gold? False. While it stubbornly keeps recurring as the state’s #1 legend, Nevada’s mineral wealth is not the reason it was admitted to the Union on October 31, 1864 as a “Battle Born” state. “It seems writers of the day were so caught up in romanticizing Nevada’s role in the Civil War they decided to re-invent history,” says Rocha. In actuality new states with their popular and electoral vote were needed to reelect Abraham Lincoln in support of his moderate, reconstruction policies for the South. Republicans believed that the Confederate states were in need of reconstruction. Many conditions, including slavery issues, would have to be met before a rebel state could rejoin the Union. Most important, if Nevada were a state, it could ratify the proposed 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and help in the passage of the landmark humanitarian legislation.
- Is Carson City the nation’s smallest state capital? False. The claim dates to the 1890s when a shrinking Carson City inherited the title of the smallest state capital from Bismarck, North Dakota, however, it lost that claim more than two generations ago. As a quiet hamlet of 5,163 residents, Carson continued to be the smallest state capital until 1960. Yet during the early 1960s the town grew so quickly that by 1963 it passed Montpelier, Vermont (which at about 7,500 residents still holds the honor today). Then Carson’s population and physical size grew, spurred by a 1969 consolidation with Ormsby County, ranking it among the ten largest capital cities in area in the U.S. at 143.35 square miles. With an estimated population of 57,000 in 2006, Carson City ranks 16th smallest in population and 10th in physical size.
- Were Barbra Streisand and Elliott Gould married In Carson City? True.Everybody seems to know that actor/Academy Award nominee Elliott Gould and award-winning singer/actress Barbra Streisand once were married. Yet, virtually nobody knows where the wedding was performed. While both Gould and Streisand hailed from Brooklyn and their careers took them to Las Vegas, the nuptials actually occurred in Nevada’s state capital, Carson City in 1963. Four days prior to the wedding, Monday, September 9, 1963, Streisand appeared as the opening act for piano virtuoso Liberace at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room. She was touted as “the nation’s newest singing sensation.” Tempting luck in Nevada, the couple appeared on Friday, September 13, before Pete Supera, Carson City Justice of the Peace. He presided over the secret wedding of Elliott Gould, 25, and the 21-year-old Barbra Joan Streisand in his office. The Certificate of Marriage was filed on Monday, September 16, at 9:58 am in the Recorder’s office and at the time the media failed to uncover the story.
- Did John Wayne’s killer in the movie The Cowboys get married in Carson City? True. Actor Bruce Dern married Andrea Beckett on Oct. 20, 1969. Beckett, a fledging actress from Santa Monica, used her maiden name as her stage name, the 28-year-old widow signed the application with her married name, Andrea R. Kermott. Justice of the Peace Pete Supera, who had presided over the Gould-Streisand wedding six years earlier, conducted the ceremony for Dern and Beckett.
- Speaking of John Wayne, was the Duke’s final movie filmed in Carson City? True. The Shootist, filmed in 1976, much of the action took place at the The Krebs-Peterson home. Wayne starred with Jimmy Stewart, Lauren Bacall, Ronnie Howard and Harry Morgan in a classic of a gunfighter dying from cancer in his final days. It was turn of the century Carson City, moving from mule train to electric trolley, from Wild West to Mild West.
What are some other Carson City myths that you know to be true or false?
Tags: andrea beckett, barbara streisand, bruce dern, capitol fence, carson city, elliott gould, ferris wheel, folklore, george w.g. ferris jr, hanna keziah clapp, john wayne, myths, the cowboys, the shootist