Early Days Of Las Vegas Full Of Violence And Sin
What was life like in the early days of Las Vegas? The early days, as we will define them, began with the auction of May 15, 1905, when 1200 lots were auctioned off and Las Vegas was established as a city. This was the start of permanent buildings and residences although less than 200 people lived in the area in the first few years. Remember, Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert. If it wasn’t for the springs, life couldn’t have been sustained there.
Las Vegas was a rough and tumble western town, much like Dodge City or Tombstone in many ways. It was part of the wild west.
We have written before about the establishment of Block 16 that was basically an area of open prostitution and drinking. William Clark, owner of the San Pedro, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City Railroad that created Las Vegas established these special blocks. He wanted a place where alcohol could be served without a license, but it soon became much more than that. It became a place of open prostitution.
Block 16 was a place where fights were the norm and murders quite frequent. The owner of the Arizona Club located on Block 16, knew something had to be done. So, he hired a man by the name of Sam Gay to be a bouncer.
Gay was an unusual man in many ways. First, he was large at six feet and 260 pounds. He didn’t feel he need to carry a gun. He preferred to use his bulk and his hands to deal with customers who got out of hand.
One account records that Gay ran 16 men out of town. He earned their respect and they feared him. Although legally these men should have been arrested, Gay thought his way was better. He got the men out of town permanently and therefore saved the state money for trials and jail time.
Gay didn’t see himself has an enforcer so much as someone who saved lives. He did a good job at what he did. The sin didn’t stop, but it was done with less violence.
During those early years, Las Vegas began to grow, very slowly, but it did survive many ups and downs. 1931 was a banner year when gambling was legalized and Hoover Dam was being built. Workers would go to Las Vegas to burn off steam.
Here is an interesting time line of Las Vegas development. Click here.