Abraham Curry

Abraham (or Abram) Van Santvoord Curry was the founder of Carson City and a businessman who greatly influenced the evolution of Nevada territory and the early state. Curry was born in 1815 in Ithaca, New York, married Mary Cowen in Ogdensburg, New York, and spent a brief time in business in Cleveland, Ohio. Little more is known about him until he turned up in western Utah Territory, now western Nevada, in 1858. He and his three partners, B. F. Green, Frank M. Proctor, and J. J. Musser, hoped to establish a mercantile business in the thriving town of Genoa. Discouraged by the price of real estate, they found a large tract in Eagle Valley, fifteen miles north, which could be bought for the price of a small Genoa lot. At Curry's request, the land was surveyed and a town site platted, with lots divided equally between the four entrepreneurs. Lots sold slowly at first, and went for as little as $50, or were given to individuals who promised to build on them.

Musser and Proctor, who were less confident than Curry about the future of their investment, gave him their interests in the Warm Springs tract, two miles east of the new Carson City. Green sold Curry his interest for twenty-two pounds of butter and a pony. On this new tract, Curry opened a sandstone quarry and, with material from the quarry, built a two-story hotel on the site. He also built the Great Basin Hotel on one of his town lots, and, in a burst of calculated enthusiasm, donated ten acres in the center of town as the site of an anticipated state capitol building.

In 1861, when Congress cleaved Nevada Territory from gigantic Utah Territory, Curry donated the use of the second floor of his Warm Springs Hotel to the first territorial legislature. That first session divided Nevada into counties; Carson City became the seat of Ormsby County as well as the capital of the new territory. The following year the Ormsby County Commission, tired of meeting in rented quarters, purchased Curry's Great Basin Hotel for $42,500 and turned it into the county courthouse.

On January 1, 1862, Governor James W. Nye appointed Curry warden of the territorial prison. As part of the deal, Curry leased his Warm Springs Hotel as the prison, and the adjacent quarry provided the hard labor opportunities for prisoners, who quarried much of the building material for early Carson City. Curry served as warden for several years. In 1864, he sold the prison and the quarry to the Territory for $80,000. That year, Curry and a partner acquired rights to build and operate a macadamized toll road between Carson and Empire City, a mill town on the Carson River. Part owner of the Gould and Curry Mine on the Comstock, Curry sold his interest for a few thousand dollars to men who later became wealthy from the gold and silver ore.

In 1865, a year after Nevada statehood, the United States Congress authorized construction of a branch mint in Carson City, naming Curry one of three planning commissioners. By July 1866, when ground was broken, Curry was the superintendent of construction, which finished in 1869. Minting began in 1870, with Curry now serving as superintendent. That year he was also elected county surveyor of Ormsby County, and held that post for two years. Socially as well as financially prominent, Curry was a member of the Carson City Masonic Lodge No. 1, and in 1867, a founding member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Carson Encampment No. 2.

Late in 1870, Curry left the Mint to accept a commission to build the engine house and machine shop for the Virginia and Truckee Railroad. Construction began in 1872, using stone quarried by state prison inmates. Completion was celebrated on July 4, 1873, with a grand ball held in the engine house. Only three months later, on October 19, Curry died of a stroke at age fifty-eight. At the largest funeral ever held in Carson City, he was laid to rest in the Lone Mountain Cemetery. The United States Mint closed for the day out of respect for its first superintendent. Despite his impressive accomplishments, Mary Curry claimed Abe had only one dollar in his pocket when he died.

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