The south, concerned about preserving the institution of slavery, had resisted adding any new “free-soil” territories to the Union. But after the southern states seceded, Congress was able to pass a bill creating a separate Nevada Territory. President James Buchanan signed the bill on March 2nd 1861, as one of his last acts in office. Two days later, Buchanan’s successor, Abraham Lincoln, appointed New York Republican James W. Nye territorial governor of Nevada.
Leaving New York on a luxury ship, Nye started for Nevada with a dozen other officeholders and their aides. Orion Clemens, a lawyer and one time newspaper publisher in Missouri, had been appointed territorial secretary of the Nevada Territory. His brother Samuel came overland by steamboat and stagecoach to serve as Orion’s private secretary. Samuel Clemens would later gain worldwide fame as a writer and humorist, using the pen name Mark Twain.
It took Governor Nye three months to reach the Nevada Territory. William Stewart, a powerful attorney in Carson City, convinced Nye that the territorial capital should be located there. He and some of his friends had real estate interest in and around Carson City. Only a year old, Carlson City consisted of a handful of buildings situated around a town square. But it was only a few miles from the Comstock Lode and shared the turbulent life of Virginia City. Nye was installed in Nevada’s first governor’s mansion, a two room white frame house. Later, a territorial council, further influenced by Stewart, made Carson City the permanent capital.