Explore Genoa: Nevada’s Oldest Settlement
Gardnerville, a small town located in Douglas County Nevada, sleeps quietly under shade from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Hometown to the Douglas Tigers and Sharkey’s Casino and tucked within a valley surrounded by pine covered Sierras on the west and the sage covered Washoe Mountains to the east.
Near the foothills of Gardnerville is a small town called Genoa Nevada. When you drive through Genoa you can see false fronts with ancient wooden sidewalks. Hundred year old Late Victorian mansions lay embedded within lush Sierra greenery.
These historic buildings, including the original Genoa Town Hall, Community Church, and Courthouse, seem to gather at the towns one four-way stop sign.
The Genoa Bar and Saloon has been serving alcohol since the days of “The Wild West.” Due to this bar many summer nights are spent dancing outside by an outdoor stage.
First when a glass of beer is lifted the mirror behind the bar shows off an incredible display of gold dust collected during the Gold Rush. Each inch of the mirror is a lost reflection of prospectors who hit a vein in one of the many regional rivers.
After a hard day moving bales of hay or painting fences a Cowboy could soak his bones at Walley’s Hot Springs. Every year Genoa’s Moms gather their arts and crafts for the yearly Candy Dance where they let their children run free to play games and eat candy.
Genoa may be small but it is rich in history and located in an incredible valley that takes your breath away.
One of Nevada’s Oldest
When Monkey Flower bloomed one spring in 1850 a group of Mormons decided to try their luck in the gold fields and help Bringham Young build a new temple in Salt Lake City Utah. Due to the allure of pine trees few of the returning men stayed and started a trading post. But their dreams only lasted for the season and quickly left when winter arrived.
Instead John Reese restored the trading post, in what is now Genoa, in 1851. Upon completion of Mormon Station the area found its place on the map. Reese brought his family from New York City and they added a Blacksmith and Corral for livestock. Mormon Station, located directly in the path of the Overland Emigrant Trail, promised a large profit.
First, settlers who finished crossing the deserts of Nevada needed to restock and rest before moving into the Sierra Mountains. Second, Reese found profit in providing materials to prospectors climbing down from streams they panned.
Therefore, this large amount of income obtained from Mormon Station informed Reese’s decision to stay in Genoa when the Mormon’s called him back to Salt Lake City. Yet in 1859 the town saw a decline in travelers and Reese left and moved his family back to the Great Salt Lake.
Orson Hyde, a Mormon Elder, heard about Mormon Station from Reese and decided to go there himself. He arrived and renamed Mormon Station Genoa after his hero Columbus’s birthplace.
Hyde, the region’s first Judge, determined the land called the “Utah Territory” and eventually Nevada. First, he played a key role in Douglas County becoming a commercial center during the territorial days of “The Wild West.” Second, he helped to build the area into the agricultural center that it is today.
On June 28th 1910 a fire destroyed most of Genoa and the remaining historical landmarks were moved to the foothills outside Gardnerville, where it sits today.
The Candy Dance
Late September in Genoa and two girls buttoned up their light jackets as they twirled around the Candy Dance Lady Statue. They chased each other through the entrance of the Mormon Station State Park and through a maze of craft vendors and traditional homemade candy.
Another statue, John A. “Snowshoe” Thompson, the father of California skiing, stared down upon a crowd that collected by the stage as a Bluegrass Band prepared to play.
One evening, on a Cruise Liner in 1919, Lillian Virginia Finnegan, from Genoa Nevada, pondered electric streetlights. So many small towns were enjoying the benefits of these lights and she wondered what she could do to help Genoa obtain a few.
While she sat in thought the Cruise Liner staff walked door to door and offered free candy from trays. She realized that Genoa made their own delicious candy and could do something similar to raise funds for streetlights.
Due to her diligence the dance was a success and streetlights were installed. Therefore, the city of Genoa repeated the Candy Dance Annually as a fund raiser for local needs.
The open stadium in Mormon Station State Park started to see vendors from local artisans and within a few years the Candy Dance became a world renown “crafter” event with participation from local artisans and from abroad.
Walley’s Hot Springs
A gazebo, located near steaming hot springs, seemed full of onlookers on this spring day. A minister stood in the shade of the gazebo while a new husband and wife listened intently to their vows. The audience, family members and friends, sat patiently in chairs while looking out over the valley as the late afternoon shade fell.
Some construction workers from Gardnerville sat at the bar inside to enjoy a beer before heading out to the hot pools. Near the hot pools a swimming pool, full of children from vacationing families, produced the sounds of splashing and Marco Polo.
Walley’s Hot Springs, located a few miles North of Genoa and 18 miles East of Lake Tahoe, provides a destination for newlyweds and sore Cowboys.
Recently, within the last ten years, Walley’s expanded into a year round resort that now offers a wide variety of services.
Some of the services offered include an outdoor pool, six natural hot springs, steam rooms, dry sauna’s, fitness rooms, laundry facilities, and a business center.
There is also a Billiards room and bar, a playground, a restaurant, a deli/cafe, and a variety of wedding services.
Walley’s suites offer one to two bedrooms with full kitchens, fireplaces, and balconies, so from your room you can enjoy a morning cup of coffee and look out over the scenic Carson Valley.
Genoa Cowboy Poetry Festival
A Cowboy peaked his head out of his sleeping blankets to test the cold morning air. First on the list of morning chores is to start a fire and brew coffee.
This Cowboy is on the trail to Elko, Nevada to attend the Annual Cowboy Poetry Festival and has planned to stop in Genoa on his way.
He warmed his hands on his cup and put some thought into which of his poems he was going to perform when he reached Genoa.
Cowboy’s started writing ballads about early cattle driving during the Civil War. They mixed a little Victorian Poetry with new terminology they learned from Mexican Vaqueros during the drive. This tradition of Cowboy Poetry is still alive and celebrated by Cowboy’s the world over.
Our mysterious Cowboy could not have stopped by Genoa on his way to Elko due to the Elko Cowboy Poetry Festival opening in 1985 and the Genoa Cowboy Poetry Festival in 2010. Whether this account is fiction or not Cowboy’s flew in airplanes and drove in cars from all over our country and around the world to attend these events.
From May 2nd to May 4th a large variety of Cowboy Poets and Country Musicians perform in Genoa on the Monument Grounds for three days of poetry and “The Wild West.”
Here is a list of some of the performer’s from 2015:
- Riders in the Sky
- Waddie Mitchell
- Hot Club of Cowtown
- Saddle Cats
- and many more…
Genoa Lakes Golf Club
Every Saturday morning a handful of recent graduates from Douglas High School pack up their golf clubs and head to Genoa. These lucky teens spend the morning working around the Genoa Lakes Golf Club performing various jobs.
When the doors close, in the early evening, the course owner lets them play a few holes. A healthy and lucrative past time for the youth of Douglas County. First, providing sport and second, providing relaxation.
Genoa Lakes Golf Club offers a pair of championship golf courses that are two miles apart from each other. Due to this link style layout the golfer faces variety and challenge along with incredible views.
Genoa may remain hidden in shadows of Sierra Nevada Mountains but offers its gifts to any who wish to visit.
- Florman, B. History of the Candy Dance. Nevada Appeal/Lahonton Valley News. Sept. 18th, 2006.
- Stanley, D. On the Trail of Cowboy Poetry, Westminster College. Nov. 22nd 1986.
- Wikipedia. Genoa, Nevada. Last Edited Aug. 16th 2020.