On December 29, 1868, representatives of the Central Pacific Railroad started laying out lots for the future town of Elko. By 1870, the thriving town had 5,000 people. There was an immense volume of freight and passenger traffic over the stageline roads north and south from the railhead at Elko to the mining area.
The University of Nevada was originally built in Elko in 1874 and remained here until 1885, at which time it was moved to Reno to its present location.
By the early 1870's, Elko became the marketing and economic center for northeastern Nevada's vast range livestock empire. In the 1870's and 1880's, great ranching principalities were built on Elko County's vast rangelands. These ranches were ruled over, absolutely, by such powerful and colorful cattle kings as L.R. "Broadhorns" Bradley, Nevada's second Governor and its first "cowboy" Governor; the French Garat family, Spanish Altubes, and John Sparks, Governor of Nevada in the early years of this century.
Elko remains the economic hub of Nevada's greatest range area. At the same time, it has also become a recreation-tourism center in northeast Nevada.