The California Trail Interpretive Center is located not far from Ruby Valley, which was once the home of Fort Ruby – an important landmark along the overland trail to the west. This destination was a former stop for the Pony Express and protected against skirmishes.
A Mail Station In Ruby Valley
The fort began its life in 1859 as a trading post and mail station. It was established and managed by William “Uncle Billy” Rogers and Frederick William Hurst and was a vital link to send information to settlers in California. In April 1860, it was briefly used by the Pony Express until the end of the service in October 1861.
Eventually, tensions and battles with the Western Shoshone tribe caused the station to be converted into a military fort.
The Transition To Fort Ruby
In the September of 1862, the settlement officially became “Fort Ruby” under the command of Colonel Patrick E. Connor. His men spent several months building the fort into an actual military establishment, especially with the threat of a hard winter looming just months away. However, there were struggles in establishing shelter and security.
Sickness swept through the ranks of soldiers, and several died. This period actually earned the fort a reputation as a “fever breeder,” according to some reports.
The Treaty Of Ruby Valley
Eventually, tensions with the Shoshone reached a peak, and a treaty was drafted and signed in 1863. The Treaty of Ruby Valley allowed European Americans safe passage through the region, including allowing them to maintain telegraph lines, conduct mining activities, and even build a railroad. In exchange, the Shoshone would receive payments worth $5,000 for the next 20 years.
Sadly, although the Shoshone did not agree to give up any of their lands, this is what happened. To this day, the tribe is in dispute with the U.S. Government to get their land back and refused payment of 145 million dollars in 2006.
The End Of An Era
Between the Treaty of Ruby Valley, which brought some peace to the region, and the First Transcontinental Railroad, Fort Ruby eventually become unnecessary and obsolete. During its short life, it was an essential piece of the local economy and a part of the California Trail’s history.
- It was a mail station used by the Pony Express and the Overland Stage Company.
- Several soldiers got sick and died while building it in 1862.
- The stage lines and traveling parties were often raided by Native American tribes, especially the Western Shoshone.
- The Treaty of Ruby Valley brought a temporary peace, but the tribe and the U.S. government are still disputing it.
- After it’s closure, Fort Ruby became known as “Camp Ruby” for a time.
- Some of the remains of Fort Ruby were destroyed in a fire in 1992.
Visit The Ruby Mountains
Come see us at the California Trail Interpretive Center, located just a short drive from the gorgeous Ruby Mountain range in Nevada. Learn about California Trail history, famous people, and life on the trail. You can take part in some of the experiences emigrants had as they journeyed to their new lives and opportunities. Contact us today to find out about upcoming exhibits and special events.