The Miracle In The Desert (Part 1)
The fact that Las Vegas has become what it has become in 2016 with a population of over two million residents is just short of a true miracle. Today, this oasis will receive over 42 million people, people who will come for all kinds of reasons. Las Vegas is now in the top ten of the most visited places in the United States..
Prior to 1855 when the Mormons came to the area, Las Vegas was a watering hole in the middle of the dessert located not near anything and populated by the Paiute and Anasazi Indians who dwelt alongside each other.
Over time, the Anasazi around Vegas became part of the Paiutes and disappeared as a distinct group in the area. The Pueblo Indians are direct descendants of the Anasazi and continue to live in the Southwest today. There is a lot of discussion and disagreement about the Anasazi and their history and status.
The first European, or non Indian, to come to the area is also up for debate, however the vast majority of history sources nominate Rafael Rivera, who was actually a Mexican. Rivera was a scout for Antonio Amijo, a Mexican explorer and trader who was traveling the Old Spanish Trail. Rivera was looking for alternate routes and according to accounts discovered the Las Vegas valley around Christmas Day, 1829.
There are some accounts that give Jedediah Smith, a fur trader, the title as the first European visitor. There is, however, no definitive proof of his visit to the Vegas area. One other person given credit as the first European visitor is Father Francisco Garces. He was exploring the southern desserts of California and Arizona in 1776 and possibly wandered through the Vegas Valley. Again, there is not any conclusive evidence of his visit to the valley. However, there is a street named after him just south of Fremont St.
The truth seems to be that no one really knows for sure. However, at least for now, Rafael Rivera will hold the title.