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Henry Goode Blasdel was Nevada’s ‘chocolate and tea’ governor

Henry Goode Blasdel - NV

An American politician and member of the Republican Party, Henry Goode Blasdel was born on January 29, 1825 near Lawrenceburg, Indiana. With a limited education from Indiana’s common schools, he began to study law at the age of 17.

In 1845, Henry took Sarah Jane Cox for his wife. By the time he was 21, Henry was the captain of his own steamboat and an active participant in the produce shipping business on the Mississippi River.

Blasel later felt the call to move west and settled his family in Nevada during 1859. Though strong in his principles, he was also flexible in his disposition. He made a fortune in grain speculation, but later lost it during the financial panic of 1860.

Finding employment with the Hale & Norcross Mine, he assumed the responsibility of a superintendent; a position he later resigned due the fact he refused to work his crews on the Sabbath. Eventually he obtained his own mine and in doing so, reclaimed the fortune he previously lost. He used these funds to begin investing in silverware he bought from dealers in Sacramento, San Francisco and Virginia City.

His political career began in 1861 when Blasdel was appointed Recorder of Storey County. He was also an active participant in the National Union League Committee. This group was responsible for notifying President Abraham Lincoln he would be on the next ballot as the Republican candidate when he sought re-election.

A surprising announcement awaited Blasdel when he returned from a trip back home to Indiana in 1864. He had been nominated to be the gubernatorial candidate on the Republican ticket for the recently formed State of Nevada. After winning the election, Blasdel used Nevada’s silver stores to help support the Union Army near the end of the Civil War. In 1866, he was re-elected. During his years in Nevada’s version of the Oval Office, the state’s government was organized, plans were authorized for the capitol building and Indian uprising were a monumental issue.

A man of incredible height for his time (6’5” tall), Blasdel was forced to go to special lengths to find clothes. A man of fastidious taste and fashion, he contacted his friend, Attorney John Drish of San Francisco, to enlist the services of one of that city’s tailors to construct clothing and gloves for him in the specific styles and colors he preferred.

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Approximately one month following the assassination of President Lincoln, the Carson Daily Appeal began. The paper received information from the east by way of sporadic telegraph messages, due to the fact Indians many times tore down the lines. Governor Blasdel wrote a proclamation about the president’s death and then beginning on April 15, 1865, made daily notes in his diaries:

Friday, April 14, 1865

President Lincoln was this day assassinated in Washington City, by the notorious J. Wilkes Booth, illegitimate son of Junius Brutus Booth, an English actor and attempted at the same hour to assassinate Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secy of State, in his bed, to which he was confined from recent injuries by a fall from his carriage.

Saturday, April 15, 1865

Rec'd the sad news of the assassination of President Lincoln, and attempted assassination of Secy. Seward, last night, at Washington City. Mr. Lincoln died this morning.

Sunday, April 17, 1865

The Cheering news by telegraph today is that Mr. Secy. Seward is improving slightly.

Rev. W. F. White delivered a feeling and eloquent discourse on the assassination of President Lincoln. (A. F. White was an early minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Carson City. (from Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Summer 1983).

Monday, April 18, 1865

Earnest and appropriate preparations are being made by the citizens generally, to observe, in a becoming manner, the funeral rights of President Lincoln.

On May 23, 1865, Governor Blasdel released a Proclamation in which he called for a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer:

State of Nevada

Executive Department

WHEREAS, GREAT GRIEF HAS BEEN officially brought upon our land and nation by the untimely death of our Chief Ruler, Abraham Lincoln; and whereas, in this time of national sorrow, we should look up to a higher source than a man for relief and consolation and whereas it is right and proper at all times to acknowledge God as our Supreme Ruler, and the giver of all good gifts, therefore, let us humble ourselves before our Heavenly Father, with fasting; and sincerely pray for His protection and guidance in this time of great affliction...

And to this end, and in accordance with the Proclamation of the President of the United States, and wishes of a heart stricken people I do appoint,

Thursday, the 1st day of June, 1865, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer..

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In February 1866, Nevada’s legislature created Lincoln County. Governor Blasdel traveled there in March to organize the county. For the next three months, the citizens of Nevada were concerned over the welfare of their governor due to lack of communication from him. Fearing the group had perished, it was later learned they were only slightly the worse for wear when they trailed into the Pahranagat Mining District.

One might find themselves wondering the thoughts which would fill the mind of Nevada’s first governor were he able to return to this state for a visit. A devout Methodist and strict believer in abstinence, Blasdel was fervent opponent of the gambling industry. In the message he delivered to the Legislature in 1867, Governor Blasdel said:

Gaming is an intolerable and inexcusable vice. It saps the very foundation of morality, breeds contempt for honest industry, and totally disqualifies its victims for the discharge of the ordinary duties of life. Every energy of the State should be invoked to suppress it.”

Referring to gambling as the “root of all evils,” Blasdel vetoed the bill Nevada’s legislature sent to his desk in 1869. The legislature, however, overturned the veto and “the rest is history.”

During Blasdel’s time in office, visitors to the Governor’s residence located in Carson City were never served alcohol of any form. This came as a surprise to those who held a hard-drinking mindset of the territory’s earlier residents. As a result, Governor Blasdel was referred to as Nevada’s “Chocolate and Tea” Governor.

Following his time in office, Blasdel retired from politics and moved his family to California. After establishing his residence in Oakland, Blasdel continued his interest and activity in milling and mining.

Henry Blasdel died on July 22, 1900 at his home in Oakland, California and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery. Though the first of Nevada’s governors, he was the second to be buried at Mountain View. Charles C. Stevenson, Nevada’s fifth governor, had died in office 10 years earlier and was buried in that same cemetery.

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