NEVADA CITY, Calif. — The origin of Nevada City’s name said to be a matter of “solid rumor” becoming “historical fact,” according to Nevada City Mayor David Parker.

As Nevada City prepares to turn 163 on April 19, their long history has left behind a number of names.

“Basically, Nevada City sort of sprang to life in 1849 and, for a while, it was called Caldwell’s Upper Store and few other names - basically based on whatever kind of business was selling goods to the miners,” said Parker.

While the city has been known as Deer Creek Dry Diggins, Caldwell’s Upper Store, and Ustumah, Nevada was ultimately the name that stuck. In the 50 years that Parker has been a resident of Nevada City, he says the story behind the city’s name has never wavered and transitioned from a “solid rumor” to a “historical fact.”

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He said the town fathers were “hanging out in some establishment that provides spirits” and decided their town needed a name. After putting together a group, they wandered outside and saw the snow.

“There was snow cover everywhere, and, if you’ve been to Nevada City, you know we live in the basin,” Parker said. “We’re surrounded by mountains. They’re all snowcovered, so they struck the name ‘Nevada’ – which is [Spanish for] snowcovered."

The “City” part of Nevada City was added by the town fathers after Nevada became a state.

“If you actually look on the map, the shape of Nevada County here at the western end looks like the handle of… an old-time pistol with a barrel and a straight line pointing at the State of Nevada. The rumor is that was revenge for them stealing Nevada City’s name,” Parker mused.

Why did people come to Nevada City?

“Gold, simply gold. No other word would apply,” Parker said.

Nevada City would become known as the Queen City of the Northern Mines. It became one of the largest producers of gold, according to Parker, and the area has gold mines to this day.

In modern day, Parker considers his town to be “one of the most charming Victorian communities” in the country that has developed into a warm, supporting place with arts and culture.

For the city’s birthday, Parker said there’ll be a “birthday party” with cake at City Hall and a presentation from Nevada County Narrow Gauge Director John Christensen on the restoration of Steam Engine #5.


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