Lyon County

Lyon County Courthouse
Completed 1911

Lyon County was one of Nevada's original nine counties, established in 1861. It was named after Nathanial Lyon, the first Union General to be killed in the Civil War. For a time, there were stories that it was named for Captain Robert Lyon, who had survived the Pyramid Lake War of 1860. A county seal was discovered in the Nevada State Archives showing a picture of the Civil War General, and the debate was settled.

At the time of its creation, Dayton was selected as the Lyon County seat. Most of Lyon County's economy at the time was reliant on mining activity on the Comstock, although other mining locales like Pine Grove existed further south. In 1870, the Virginia and Truckee Railroad was completed, passing through the western tip of Lyon County. In 1880, Mound House became the junction point for the new Carson & Colorado Railroad, which ran the width of the county and led to the creation of other communities (including Yerington), and connected the county seat with fertile farmland in Mason Valley.

By the 20th Century, mining had subsided near Dayton and Yerington had grown as a farming hub. Fernley, which was established in 1904 after the re-routing of the Southern Pacific Railroad, was also developing as an agricultural hamlet. In 1909, the courthouse in Dayton burned, and in 1911 the seat moved to Yerington.

Anaconda Copper Pit
Weed Heights

Throughout the 20th Century, ore of a different type - copper - attracted people to Lyon County. The Nevada Copper Belt Railroad chugged from 1911 until 1947, connecting copper mines in the Singatse Range to the Southern Pacific Railroad (formerly Carson & Colorado). In 1952, copper mining began on a larger scale at the Anaconda Mine above Yerington. A company town called Weed Heights was formed, and a massive pit operation was undertaken. It operated until 1978.

In more recent years, Fernley and Dayton have grown as suburban bedroom communities to Reno and Carson City, respectively. Fernley is now the county's largest city, with just under 20,000 residents.

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