O.D. Gass & the Los Vegas Rancho
Octavius Decatur Gass was looking for a way to make his fortune. When the 18 mining claims he filed in Eldorado Canyon had not paid off the way he had hoped he was open for something new. A friend asked him to partner with him in a venture to turn the abandoned fort into a store and ranch. His friend’s name was William Knapp. William’s brother had been one of the original missionaries to the fort. The brother, Albert Knapp had returned to the abandoned fort around 1860 and opened a store to supply travelers and miners. He returned to California and died there in 1864. He must have told his brother enough to convince him that nice profits could made in the expanding territory.
In 1865 O. D. set about building a ranch house using part of the foundation and walls of the old fortification and the local Natives for labor. He called it Los Vegas Rancho deliberately changing the spelling so as not to be confused with Las Vegas, New Mexico, another Mormon settlement about 500 miles east. The ranch consumed more than 600 acres of what is now North Las Vegas.
When the post office was established, it was named Bringhurst in honor of the Mormon leader to the mission. The postal address would not be officially named Las Vegas for another four decades.
The ranch had sufficient water and would support enough livestock, fruit trees, and vegetable crops to keep O. D. in business for nearly twenty years.
The introduction of the US Army into the Los Vegas Rancho between 1867 and 1869 was another point of note, and is covered seperately. It helped O.D. Gass by providing security during the seasons when as many as 200 Indians were camped nearby, as well as providing him a source to sell his fresh fruits and vegtables to.
Gass’s ownership of the ranch began to wind down in 1879 when he recieved a $5,000 loan from Archibald Stewart. Due to the high interest rate, he was unable to pay and predictably defaulted ownership by the summer of 1880.