Las Vegas A frontier Town

how it began

In the early 1800's traders would follow a path of the Santa Fe trail which roughly would go from Santa Fe New Mexico into southern and southwest Utah and Northern Arizona to the Colorado River before heading west to Los Angeles. Traders would trade goods for California mules, horses, and other goods. This route was long and hard.

Everybody now knows Las Vegas was put on the map by John C. Fremont and his expedition to California. But he was not the first white man to have entered into the Las Vegas Valley. In 1829 a caravan of 60 men under the leadership of Antonio Armijo of New Mexico was going along the route of Jedidiah Smith. He was camped in the northwest corner of Arizona and sent two scouts north to look for a shortcut. The problem is water, if they could find a water source to the north and then cut across the Mojave they could shave about 50 miles off their trip to Los Angeles.

One young scout by the name Rafael Rivera who probably was no older than 20 years old spent nearly two weeks on horseback searching the area. He discovered Stump Spring near present day Pahrump Nevada and Resting Spring near Tecopa California. He also was probably the first white man to have stopped for water in the Las Vegas area near the Virgin River. It was an oasis in the desert.

The Armijo caravan in 1829 was the first caravan to have entered the Las Vegas area, however they bypassed the Las Vegas Springs. They did spend 10 days camping and traveling near the present day border of Nevada and California near Interstate 15. They followed their scout to the north and stopped at Stump Spring, then Resting Spring and then followed the Mojave River all the way to Los Angeles.

The Spanish Trail as it was known was a path that was not dependent on the Colorado River but could connect traders in New Mexico to Los Angeles. A year later two traders and beaver hunters by the name of George Yount and William Wolfskill would continue the path of Armijo they were the first to travel the entire distance without being dependent on the Colorado River. (Also these two would be interesting California Historical figures about 15 years later)

In the years to follow the oasis in the desert provided much needed water for travelers and traders. From the Muddy River near present day highway 169 to Las Vegas is about 50 miles. A 50 mile hike back in the 1830's with no water source to replenish your supply was just about the limit people could do. The water of the Las Vegas oasis was a welcome site.

On May 3, 1844; Thirty One year old John C. Fremont came across the Las Vegas oasis and noted it as

Two streams of clear water, four or five feet deep (which) gush suddenly and quick current, from two singularly large springs. At a water temperature of about 72, the men found the pools refreshing for bathing. But the taste was too warm to be agreeable.

Sadly the story gets a little dark from here. In the 1840's there was a slave trade that existed from New Mexico to the California area. It was a Native American slave trade where Spanish and other wealthy New Mexican land owners would sell Native Americans along the route and sometimes in California. The Armijo family was a large wealthy New Mexico family involved in this business who eventually found their way to California as well.

Animal theft such as steeling another rancher's cattle was also prevelant along the trail to Los Angeles. It was authorities in Los Angeles who worked with the Governor of New Mexico to adopt regulations of the importation of food and agriculture and ban the Native American slave trade in California. People needed passports to enter California in the late 1840's and their herds were inspected and this cut down on the amount of criminal behavior that was being imported into the Los Angeles area along the Spanish trail.

The Mormons were also settling in Salt Lake City at the time and were expanding their missionary work and establishing routes. In 1851 Mormons establish a mission and colony in San Bernardino, and in 1852 the US Postal Service begins a monthly mail service from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles and eventually San Diego. Mormons eventually establish a mission in Las Vegas in 1855 when a caravan of mormons arrived on Flag Day June 14 1855. They began by building a small 150 square foot fort. Eventually they began turning the oasis into a water source for agriculture and creating a settlement.

The Rest as they say is History.

Source for the content of this writing: Las Vegas as it began as it grew, Stanley W. Paher published by Nevada Publications Las Vegas Nevada 1971. Stanley W. Paher grew up in Las Vegas and is an alumni of the university I went to, Sacramento State graduating with the same degree I got from Sacramento State a B.A. in political science/government, but he graduated in 1965 and I graduated in 2009.

Armijo Mascot Controversy

The Armijo family eventually settled in Solano County California. They settled the Rancho Tolenas area near Tolenas elementary and TABOR road. It bordered the Rancho Suisun grant which was given to Mariano Vallejo to Chief Solano. the Armijo's one attempted to sue over the legality of the Rancho Suisun in an attempt to take over the grant given to a Native American from the tribe that once occupied the same plot of land. The US Supreme Court in the 1850's held up the legality of the Rancho Suisun grant.

The Armijo Indians of Armijo High School were the Indians for almost a century. Armijo High School has been named Armijo since 1891 and had the mascot "Indians" until 2019.

In 2019 the Fairfield Suisun school board caved to the political climate of out of towners who recently purchased new homes in the area who complained about the Indians being the mascot of Armijo High School.

Instead of googling local history, teaching the founding of the town, and how the Chief Solano is a founding father of California and the Indian mascot channels the heroic and brave actions of the Suisun tribe. They decided to change the mascot to "The Royals"

They also seem to have absolutely no problem with keeping the name "Armijo" even though historically it is documented that the Armijo family from New Mexico was involved in the slave trade of Native Americans and the Armijo Family who settled the area attempted to illegally steal the land that was given to Chief Solano.

Across the street of Armijo High School is a 100 year old statue of a Native American.

This photo is of the Budweiser Clydesdales, because...

Well it's iconic to the area, and if you think you need a drink to try to unpack the oddity of what you just read about the Armijo High School mascot controversy. I'm right there with you.

(For the record I attended the rival high school of FHS, colors Black and Red, mascot: Falcons, why? it's right off Air Base Parkway and the Air Force Academy mascot is the Falcons. Absolutely zero controversy)

A Las Vegas Story

I waited a few seconds to catch my breath before I left. After three days in the desert the government finally unlocked my cell phone allowing me to use it. The CIA has been tracking my movements my entire life.

There was a gun that was not mine; in the backseat of my car, I shot it off the secret entrance to Area 51 the day before. Last night I got into a fight with a leader of a Southern California motorcycle gang. I was scared, running on fumes, I had only eaten one stick of jerky all day. I knew what was coming once I hit the Las Vegas.

Three days before I was living a simple kind of life, just a guy doing the best he can with the cards he was dealt. They were not the best cards a guy could have, but there are worse ones out there. Five years prior I was pulled aside in the hallways of the Capitol in Sacramento. I was introduced to a world of shadowy figures, lowly characters, lying, love, joy, happiness, death, wealth, and power. I was to play a central role in the events that were to come. It was up to me to do what needed to be done once I entered Clark County.

As I left the brothel and pulled onto the 95 freeway I recalled the series of events that had recently preceded it. Why did the gas

station attendant in Pahrump know my name? Why did I have a familiar feeling of knowing the stranger who introduced the Nevada tradition of “Cash is King?” Somehow I knew these roads and towns even though I have never driven them before. I learned years ago that even if I tried to change what was about to happen I couldn’t; they knew me inside and out, and there was nothing I can do about it.

I snapped into a moment of clarity and realized the white truck I had been following was driving too slow for my taste. I was about to pass it, but I paused. I had a quick vision that if I passed this car right now I would get into an car accident and die. I was supposed to die in Las Vegas anyway, that is what everyone had been telling me. Sure enough, as I was thinking this I looked over my shoulder, there was a car passing me in my blindspot, I waited for the coast to clear and passed the truck.

There was only one way I make it through the next few days, one, single, step, at a time. It was mid April 2017 when I saw Las Vegas for the first time coming from the 95. I left my charging cable in Tonopah knowing it was important to other people for me to not have a cell phone while I was in Las Vegas. I checked the juice and saw it was down to 20%, If I was to get to the Sheriff's office before my phone ran out I had to get directions soon. I took an exit off the freeway to get the address, I pulled into a parking lot of a pharmacy to remind myself I was to spend the night in the lobby of a local hospital. I quickly got the address, memorized the directions and found my way to the Clark County Sheriff's.

As I approached window 11, I was both scared and relieved. I gave my statement, informed the police there was a firearm in my car. They confiscated it and sent me on my way. I quickly called my family with the last 3% of battery, there was supposed to be a Western Union going through later that night. My phone died on me. There was a motorcycle gang after me, I had to get to the most public place I could as soon as possible. There was only one place to go, straight to the the Las Vegas Strip.

I was told dozens of times before that there was no way I make it out of Las Vegas alive. But fuck what other people think and say, I knew the grandson of the bomber navigator who dropped the Atomic Bomb on Nagasaki ending World War II does not die in Las Vegas.

I saw Trump Tower and decided that would be the safest place to park my car. After I almost hit a tourist with a red backpack I stashed my car behind Trump’s Tower. I had only five dollars, and aside from law enforcement I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day. The mall across the street was the safest place for me to relax and calm myself for a moment, I had a quick conversation with a salesman who was trying to sell me a teeth whitening program. To get my sanity back I asked him where he was from, he had an accent, he said he was from Israel. I remembered my CIA trainer was Israeli but I thought that was best kept a secret. The conversation ended with me giving him my name, he said his name was Antone, the same name as my great grandfather.

As I approached the Bellagio Water fountains I was finally able to calm myself enough and control my emotion. I saw the Las Vegas version of Eiffel’s tower and recalled my experience walking along the Seine in Paris. I had fallen in love with Paris, and was beginning my love affair with Las Vegas. I thought of Hollywood and the movie Ocean’s 11, Hollywood tells people they make movies based off me.

I wanted her to be there waiting for me. She was supposed to be there waiting for me. She wasn’t, she was somewhere else. She was close but too far away for me to see. If I had played my cards differently she would have been there. I had messed everything up four years prior and destroyed any chance I had with the girl of my dreams. Or did I?

We had a plan. She was to bet a million dollars on red at a roulette table at precisely 7:30 pm. It was to be a diversion to throw her mob family and motorcycle gang off my trail. A million dollars to her would have been a drop in the bucket to her, she agreed she would do it, I was counting on her.

As the clock struck closer to midnight I noticed a change in the air. The music had shifted the air into a more upbeat, happy, energetic mood. Bruno Mars had me laughing and smiling to Uptown Funk. I noticed the Flamingo Girls had changed from rainbow bikinis into

the hottest pink bikinis in existence. Vegas, similar to a good woman, has a way of getting under your skin, making a guy feel Up, Down, Sideways, ecstatic, and heartache. If I was going to make it out of the city of chance alive, I was going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers and my environment. Being positive had always worked for me and I was not going to let some assholes ruin my moment at the Bellagio.

It was 5:00 a.m. when the voice in my head screamed “Carpowichs Don’t Quit.” I had to get out of the hospital I slept in the night before. I crossed the street to check on my Western Union, a stranger approached. He was Japanese, he explained how his glove compartment had been broken into and he was stuck. I knew the CIA did it to him but didn’t tell him. I politely told him I was in a similar situation and I couldn’t help. I was exhausted but I had a long day ahead of me.

My Western Union finally came through. The people behind the curtain threw in an extra 50 dollars for me to encourage me to keep going. I used it for a burrito at Pepe’s and a monorail pass to the Excalibur. I parked my car at the Palazzo, I didn’t want my car and me at the same hotel. The lady gave me my room key, I already knew what room number it would be, room 4920 because rumor had it that the Bear Flag was hidden in my attic.

I entered my hotel room, stripped naked and climbed into bed. When I woke up I grabbed my watch only to see that the time had stopped while I slept. I had only 17 dollars left from my Western Union. I went downstairs and ordered a double of Beam, the total was $11.91, I tipped him a couple dollars. I was hungry, but I was feeling more positive about getting out of Vegas alive. As I was walked inside the Excalibur I decided to rest next to the wedding chapel.

I thought of her, in a different life she would pop up behind me, grab my hand, and we would run straight into the chapel and get married. But she was not there, she was going to marry someone else.

As I finished the snack I purchased with my last few dollars, a bachelorette party entered the bar. I was too stressed to hit on these unbelievably attractive women. But the maid of honor approached me and asked me to take a picture of the group. She was a brunette, and British. Her dress was tight fitting and she had a great smile, it was the first picture I took in Las Vegas. I remembered I hadn’t started my photography company in earlier years as I was supposed to; but this moment would be a good anchor for me to do it when I returned home. I returned to my hotel room and slept well that night.

In high school I read both “The Stranger” and “Streetcar named Desire.” Las Vegas is a town where strangers can become friendly in

an instant. It is a town of empathy, courage, bravery, love, chance, and desire. I was at the mercy of Sin City, and she had me hook, line, and sinker. Without the kindness of strangers I would not have made it. The next day I received another Western Union, purchased a charging cable for my phone and my first bottle of Marvel Mystery Oil at the Walmart.

Before I left Las Vegas, I took another picture, this time of of the Las Vegas sign. I also asked a stranger for one last favor, to take a photo of me with my arms up. Being positive and taking the good from a bad situation works every time.

I took one tiny step to put myself in the exact spot she once said she wanted me in. The man in the straw hat pressed the shutter. Now we are strangers.

I walked back to my car and paused again. I looked into my review mirror, gave a nod and salute to the city of Sin. Turned the ignition key and headed West toward Hollywood.