Las Vegas-The Mormon Influence
Regardless of your faith, or lack thereof, the fact is that the Mormons had great influence in the making of Las Vegas. They led the way to the actual founding of Las Vegas just 50 years after their first arrival in 1855.
It was the Mormons who, in 1855, established the first permanent structure in the area, the Mormon Fort. The Fort, in its refurbished state, is still standing at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue. We reported on the Fort in an earlier post today. Unfortunately, this first attempt at establishing a permanent community in the Valley failed in just two years. But, they didn’t go away. The marks of their presence are still here today.
According to a story on vegasseven.com:
They (The Mormons) built communities in Bunkerville and Mesquite, and in the Moapa Valley towns of St. Thomas and Overton, the site of Nevada’s first permanent stake in 1912. Mostly farming areas that also supplied nearby residents, they had a stronger Mormon presence than the railroad town that grew near the first Mormon mission in present-day Nevada. Bunkerville even started as a communitarian (and polygamist) experiment, though that effort proved about as short-lived as the Las Vegas mission.
You can read the entire article here.
There is one particular Mormon man, a banker, worth noting, who had a lot to do with the building of some of the earlier hotels and casinos. His name was Parry Thomas who came to Vegas from Utah in 1954.
He was apparently one of the few, or maybe the only banker who would lend money to casino operators. Many of these borrowers were mob connected. Parry’s defense of loaning money to these type of characters was that they were good loans. They could pay the loans back. One would have to admit that the mob doesn’t usually lack money. So, from a business standpoint, this makes sense.
Throughout Vegas’ history, Mormons have been apart of the elected establishment as well as influential parts of the educational and business sectors. They have also wielded great political influence and power. It’s worth noting that both Nevada’s U.S. Senators are Mormons.