Believe it or not, there was once an oasis in Las Vegas, which is how Las Vegas got its name from the Spaniards, meaning, The Meadows. Paiutes lived here for thousands of years before the Spanish came through, moving their goods and cattle from Santa Fe to Los Angeles without having to go all the way back through Mexico to get there. They formed the Old Spanish Trail. The water here was critical to getting across a barren section of formidable desert.
A permanent settlement was started by the Mormons in 1855. They wanted a way station between Utah and Los Angeles. They built a fort here but abandoned it by 1857. They had leadership difficulties, couldn’t grow enough food and gave up. But, they had established a Post Office and others soon took up residence here and began ranching. The flag with 19 stars was the first flag that flew over Las Vegas. And the fort pictured above is just a replica from descriptions and pictures of what it looked like. Only a small portion of the original fort remains.
Helen and Archibald Stewart took up ranching on this spot in 1882. He was killed in a gunfight at the Kiel Ranch two years later. Helen received this message from her husband’s killer. Bring horses and a wagon. Come and get your husband. He is dead. She had few choices but to carry on with her three children. She built up the ranch, increased the herds and was honored by the State for being the First Lady of Las Vegas. The town that formed around her ranch of 2000 acres and was officially named Las Vegas in 1893. The Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park is small and easy to do. They only charge $1 to visit. And, on some Saturdays they have Civil War Re-enactments on the grounds.
Avie Ward participates by making the dress that I wore, and presenting the female side of the Civil War Period. She told me that 450 known women soldiers fought in the Civil War. Most likely more than 450, but those that were wounded or killed were discovered to be women. They cut their hair to resemble boys, and because they were smooth skinned, sometimes became spies at the requested of their commanders. to dress up as women was easy for them, of course.
Avie educated me to the intricacies of womens dress and embellishments. The heart around her neck contains a piece of fabric saturated with perfume so a woman could stomach the stink of standing next to an unwashed man with unwashed clothing. She could hold the piece up to her nose and sniff perfume while talking to them.
A flattened and bent spoon was slipped into her waist cincher (I’ve already forgotten the name for that waist piece) to hold her “reticule” (purse) which carried all of her essentials. A fan, money clip, perfume, and so on. The reticule is hand tatted by Avie, a skill that is almost extinct. I so admire someone who can tat because I tried it a long time ago and failed at tatting. Its beautiful work.
On her opposing side, hangs her “chatelaine”. A piece of jewelry in effect, with scissors, thread, needles and other necessaries.
And, a bold woman might carry a derringer in her garter for protection. (Avie’s is a small replica). This was such a fun place to visit. Oh, and I almost forgot. I’ve always heard slot machines called the one armed bandits. In this museum was a cardboard replica of one.