Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Henry Goode Blasdel (1825-1900) - Nevada Governor and Gambling Foe

Henry Goode Blasdel (January 29, 1825 – July 22, 1900) was the first Governor of Nevada. He was a Republican and stood 6’ 5” tall, which made him a towering figure in those days.

Blasdel was born near Lawrenceburg, Indiana and married Sarah Jane Cox in 1845. In 1852, he made his way to San Francisco via Nicaragua. From 1852 to 1867 he operated a produce commission house before selling off the operation. He worked as a farmer in Santa Cruz, storekeeper and river boat captain before he came to Nevada in 1859, where he was active in mining and milling. Blasdel was the superintendent of the famous Potosi, Hale & Norcross mines.

In 1861 Blasdel was elected Recorder of Storey County. Blasdel was elected Governor in 1864, and re-elected in 1866. He served until 1870.

In Feburary 1866, the Nevada legislature created Lincoln County. In March 1866, Gov. Henry Blasdel traveled to the area to organize the new county. This foray into the wilderness frontier nearly proved fatal for the governor and his party. It was thought that the group perished because for three months there was no communication from the group. But they eventually straggled into the Pahranagat Mining District, a bit worse for the wear but alive.

Like his father, Blasdel was deeply religious and a strict believer in abstinence. He was also and ardent opponent of the burgeoning gambling industry in Nevada. In his 1867 message to the Legislature he stated:

“Gaming is an intolerable and inexcusable vice. It saps the very foundation of morality, breeds contempt for honest industry, and totally disqualifies its victims for the discharge of the ordinary duties of life. Every energy of the State should be invoked to suppress it.”

In 1869, the Nevada Legislature overrode Blasdel’s veto of a bill legalizing gaming. In his blistering veto message, Blasdel called gambling “the root of all evils.”

In 1891, Blasdel moved his family to Oakland, California, where he died on July 22, 1900. Sarah Jane remained at their house at East 24th Street & Orange in the Fruitvale District of Oakland until her death on November 1, 1904.

Governor Blasdel’s death received a one-line obituary in the San Francisco Call. He became the second Nevada Governor to be buried at Mountain View, following Charles C. Stevenson, who died in office a decade earlier.

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