%> Nevada Riches: The Land and People of the Silver State
People & Life Ways
Territory & Statehood

Political Figures

Most of the people who came to Nevada in the territorial period were seeking new opportunities in the booming territories of the American West.  Some, of course, were miners searching for opportunity and wealth in precious metals.  Others, however, came as laborers, businessmen, or trained in a profession such as the law or medicine.  Women most often came with husbands and family members, and they, too, were seeking a better future and new opportunities.  Some of the opportunity came in the political field, as the territory was organized and a government assembled.  Women did not have a voice in the new government, and did not have political rights for many years.  Their political contribution was not part of the public arena, but many men eagerly pursued office.

Benjamin Curler was one of the men who came to Nevada seeking opportunity.  He was born in Vermont, and moved around in the midwest, living in Illinois and Wisconsin.  Curler headed for the Colorado mines, then to Kansas Territory, in 1859, but traveled on to Carson City.  He worked as a carpenter and by 1862 was keeping a stage station on the Carson River.  He also studied law.  During the 19th century it was not necessary to attend law school to become a lawyer.  Many people read books about the law, and worked as an assistant to a lawyer before setting up their own legal practice.

Curler's first experience with politics came in 1863 when he was elected to the Territorial Legislature.  He went on from there to become a County Commissioner in Churchill County, a District Attorney, a District Judge, and District Attorney in Nye County in 1876.  Curler's opportunities in the young state of Nevada were closely tied to politics, and he was a well known political figure in the territorial period.

H. H. Bence left New York and headed for California in 1852.  He made the difficult and long trip by ship, around the Horn.  Bence mined for a few years in California and in Canada, then moved to Carson City in 1860.  He began his political career in 1863 when he was elected County Assessor.  After that he held a number of political offices and appointments: member of the Assembly, County Surveyor, Deputy U.S. Revenue Assessor and Deputy U. S. Mineral Surveyor.  Bence was also an attorney and a civil engineer, but he held public office for many years.

Photo Credits:
Nevada State Library and Archives