By Dennis Cassinelli
When I worked for the Nevada Department of Transportation in the 1970s, I spent many weeks working in the town of Wells, Nevada. My duties at that time were preparing the final reports on the many Interstate 80 projects being constructed during that time in Elko County.
Wells is at the Junction of I-80 & U.S. 93 in Northeastern Nevada, about 50 miles east of Elko.
The construction projects involved ran from Elko to the Nevada-Utah State line. Wells was founded in 1869 by the Central Pacific Railroad as a water station due to the town’s strategic location at the headwaters of the Humboldt River. Water use from wells by travelers and area residents dates back thousands of years to the Western Shoshone who still live in a colony overlooking the town. Shoshone, Hudson Bay trappers, mountain men, and westbound wagon trains all replenished at the Humboldt Wells.
Today, Wells’ prosperity is solidly based in the crossroads created by I-80 and U.S. 93. I-80 is a main east-west transcontinental artery. The north-south highway U.S. 93 extending from Alaska to Panama. As the regional hub for ranchers, Wells is in the heart of the Ruby Mountains, and the Humboldt Range. The area boasts world class recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing and winter sports. Winters in Wells are extremely cold. Truckers at the truck stop often leave their trucks run all night so they don’d need to worry about them starting again in the morning.
The site of Wells began as a place called Humboldt Wells along the trail to California. It was subsequently founded as a railroad town along the original Central Pacific Railroad, and was once a stopover for passenger trains. The Humboldt River has its source in springs and a swampy area just west of the the town that was called Humboldt Wells. In the late 19th century, Humboldt Wells was burning down in a fire, and in a frantic plea for help, a telegraph was sent that said, “Wells is burning.” After that, the town was rebuilt and was simply referred to as “Wells.”
When the I-80 construction was being done, NDOT crews and Contractor crews filled Wells with a boom town atmosphere of prosperity. Local hotels, restaurants and bars thrived during that time. One time some fellow NDOT people and I were playing pool in a local bar when a contractor’s roller operator came in quite intoxicated. As I walked past him, he smacked me on the side of my head with a beer glass that broke and cut my scalp open. I tried to retaliate to no avail and fellow NDOT people took me to the hospital in Elko to get the wound stitched up.
Wells had a truck stop with a restaurant, lodging, casino and bar for truckers named the “Four Way.” This was a favorite hang-out for construction crews, NDOT people and contractors during the time I worked there.
In the mountains just southwest of Wells there is a high mountain lake called Angel Lake. One summer I took a camp trailer on a trip with my family around northern Nevada. When we got to Wells, it was the Forth of July weekend. As I drove up the steep road to Angel lake and entered the basin where the lake is located, we were amazed to see large chunks of ice still floating on the surface of the lake even in July. We were so hot and dusty from traveling across the deserts, we jumped into the frigid water to wash and cool off anyway.
This article is by Dayton Author and Historian, Dennis Cassinelli. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at denniscassinelli.com Just click on ”order books”