There is more then the lake or the casinos to the Tahoe/Reno region. One example is the tiny town of Genoa, about half an hour from Reno or 45 minutes from Lake Tahoe. Mentioned as the oldest town in Nevada founded in 1851, it is also home to the oldest, still operating Saloon.

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Genoa in snow, picturesque located on the slopes of Tahoe's Sierra Nevada mountain range, not far from Lake Tahoe

Genoa is one of the most attractive little villages in the American west, established as a trading post in 1851. It served as a resting place for settlers wagon trains after they crossed the great basin of the Salt Lake valley to reprovision before they take on the granite mountains of the Sierra Nevadas. Initially it was just called the Mormon station after the Mormons, who also build a blacksmith shop, a saw mill, a general store, a hotel and a corral. Also, gold had been found nearby in Gold Canyon near present day Dayton.

Soon gold coins begun to circulate in the area, which had been minted in the church mint of Salt Lake City. Three years later, the Mormon settlement was proclaimed the seat of Carson County, belonging to Utah under the control of Prophet Brigham Young, the Mormon church leader. He sent a group of 30 men to establish a Mormon mission for the church. These men build a 150 square foot adobe brick fort, which gave the village the name Mormon Fort. Later, in 1856, the settlement was officially named Genoa. In 1857, the Pioneer Stage Line became the first stage to navigate the Sierras, travelling once a month from Placerville to Genoa with passengers and mail. A telegraph line soon followed the same route. At the same time, the Mormons abandoned their mission after political fighting among the mission leadership.

In 1861, the region was separated from Utah by an Act of Congress and adapted the name Nevada, Spanish for "Snow Capped". When President Lincoln needed money for the civil war and more electoral votes for the November 1864 election, Nevada was made the 36th state, although it did not have enough people to constitutionally authorize statehood. By that time Genoa's importance was greatly reduced by towns such as Virginia City, Carson City and through the Comstock mines. According to the story, half of Genoa's business district burnt down in 1910, when a poor farmer tried to get rid of bedbugs by fumigating his mattress with a burning pan of sulfur. About 50 original buildings are left today.

One of the buildings still in its original state is the Genoa Bar and Saloon, serving whiskey in its third century. Build in 1863 by Al Livingston, it was initially called Livingstons Exchange. In 1884 Frank Fettic bought it, renamed it Fettic's Exchange and operated it as a Gentlemen's Saloon with no excess drinking allowed. The claim as the oldest continually operating thirst parlor in Nevada had been challenged once by the Delta Saloon in Virginia City, but it turned out that although the Delta Saloon opened its doors in 1862, it moved once in its existence. The Genoa Saloon still looks like it might have looked in the eighteen hundreds, its dark smoky walls seem unchanged. Make sure to stop there and have a glass of whiskey, which feels especially good on a cold, snowy winter morning. But remember: "No Horses Allowed!".

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Pictured left: Genoa Bar and Saloon - The oldest still operating Thirst Parlor in Nevada [click image to enlarge]

Don't be suprised if you see groups of deer wandering around town and pausing in frontyards of gorgeous old and new victorian style homes. Local residents have mixed feelings about this "blessing" - with the deer eating plants, stripping bark from their trees or damaging fences when locking horns in fights. Speaking of trees, check out the large tree at the towns center. It was used to hang a visiting Californian in the earlier times. For more information on criminals, locals and the old life, visit the Genoa Courthouse, now a museum. It is open from May to October. There, a special exhibit is dedicated to famous Snowshoe Thompson, who delivered mail over the Sierras. Coming from a Norwegian family who was used to snow, he made legendary 90 mile treks over snowdrifts and through 80 mph blizzards on his self- made 10 foot long ski's. He set out up 2 to 4 times a month, covering the 90 miles in 2 to 3 days as a postman in the U.S. postal service. He never carried a gun to save additional weight for provisions and mail, which weighted often up to 100 pounds. Thompson is buried at the Genoa Cemetery, which is another place to see. For some reason, his gravestone misses the 'p' in his name. There is speculation that the carver and his wife might have been illiterate, or that they just made a mistake. Folklore says when a gravestone name is mispelled, the person can't go to heaven.

More Pictures from Genoa [click to enlarge]

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