When you visit Pahrump, be sure to start your tour with a stop at the Pahrump Valley Museum. It’s a great place to begin your journey and learn what our town is all about.
The American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, once said, “I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.” With this in mind, a small group of Pahrump residents created the Pahrump Valley Museum and Historical Society. The founders’ purpose was to “collect, preserve, and study those objects, photographs, local crafts, and documents that will serve to illustrate the story of man and nature in the area which includes Nye County and related surrounding areas.” (A History of The Pahrump Valley Museum and Historical Society by Harry Ford)
Marilyn Davis, Museum Director, loves her work and enjoys teaching visitors about everything Nevada, Nye County, and Pahrump. She is an excellent resource on the history of the area. She’ll take you on a tour of the museum and will answer questions you may have. She’s been working in the museum for six years but has lived in Pahrump for 18. As an experienced Virginia City Gunfighter, she moved here because she wanted to live in the Wild West. Even though she was born in Denver, CO, she’s always had a soft spot in her heart for Nevada. She also loves learning about the people who choose to live here.
What does the museum have to offer?
Following are five things you will discover during your visit to the museum:
1. Learn about the town history and its people
At the museum, you will learn the story of Pahrump starting from the time of the Native American Inhabitants up to today. Who were these people? You’ll find pictures and belongings of the early settlers and learn not only who they were but what brought them here, and how they survived so far away from some of the modern conveniences we now take for granted. Things like electricity, phone service, and other everyday commodities didn’t arrive here until the early to mid-1960s.
The people of the Pahrump and Amargosa Valleys fought hard since the mid-1950s to bring power to the Valleys but were unsuccessful. Nevada Power Company felt the Valleys were “unproven and did not represent a potential profit.” Finally, the town reached out to the Atomic Energy Commission for their support in their fight to gain electricity to the area as a backup plan for the Nevada Test Site (now called Nevada National Security Site). The Pahrump and Amargosa Valley Cooperatives merged into a single co-op. They proceeded to get a loan of $3.9 million to construct a 120-mile long transmission line that served Pahrump, Amargosa Valley, and Beatty from Hoover Dam. Up until that time, families had to use expensive-to-run generators to power their homes, businesses, and farms.
There are many other stories of the towns struggle to survive in the early days that you’ll discover at the museum. Not only are there exhibits depicting the history, but books written by people who lived through it are available for purchase.
2. Explore authentic buildings and equipment from the early settlement days
The museum is home to an outside exhibit, which features actual structures of the early days of the town. Stroll through the old Pahrump schoolhouse, Dixie’s Ranch House (a brothel), a mining exhibit which includes a mine tunnel mockup, the Raycraft and Bowman Tie Houses made from railroad ties, the Pahrump Store, Grain Silos, and other remnants of historic buildings. The museum is creating “Main Street Pahrump” to help depict life in the early days.
Also, you’ll find equipment that was used on local farms and ranches, and in mines. Cotton harvesting machinery, tractors, fire engines, cars, trucks, mining carts, and other artifacts of the era surround the museum building. Inside the museum are other historical exhibits, including rooms furnished with authentic old Pahrump furniture illustrating pioneer family lifestyles, a collection of miniature automotive items depicting trucks of past years. Rocks and minerals found in the area during the peak mining days are on display as well as rare silver coins from the famous Binion Heist. There is also an exhibit of the various wars in which people from this area fought.
Don’t forget to visit the display of a model train making its way through a mural of the Valley painted by local artists. Take notice of the authentic furniture from the railroad company found in the train room. Listen to the story about the role the railroad played in the growth of this area.
3. One of a kind exhibit of the history of the Nevada Test Site (Nevada National Security Site) and Yucca Mountain
People come from all over the world to visit this unique display, which follows the history of the Nevada Test Site and Yucca Mountain. Exquisite photos and explanations of events tell the story of this facility. This site was sanctioned on January 11, 1951, for nuclear device testing. By visiting this exhibit, you’ll learn about the various tested devices and results. The site is still used for storage of low-level radioactive waste and first responder training in situations concerning hazmat spills and potential terrorist attacks. Tours of the test site are available but are usually booked a year in advance, so you must plan ahead. You can learn more about them by contacting the museum.
4. Listen to lectures on varying subjects by locals who were part of or studied the development of the area
If you plan your visit right, you will be able to take advantage of guest lecturers providing insight into the development of Pahrump Valley and its surroundings. Learn about the roles that mining and farming played in the growth of the town. Listen to the story of how the first winery came into being. Now there are three with plans for more. Pahrump could be the future wine country of Nevada. Enjoy discussions of Death Valley. Discover the history of this remarkable National Park and what it has to offer. Pahrump is only 60 miles away from this rare phenomenon, so once you hear all about it, you’ll want to visit it and see it for yourself.
There are many other topics covered in these lectures, and you can contact the museum to find out more about them. (775-751-1970)
5. Learn about plants which survive in the Mojave Desert by touring the Desert Gardens
The museum plays host to several local special interest group meetings and events. These groups include Pahrump Artists and Artisans, the Hemp Association, private well owner co-ops, Chamber of Commerce, and more. One of the groups that regularly meet here is the local Garden Club. Not only do they hold their gatherings here, but they have also created a desert garden surrounding the museum building showcasing the varying kinds of plants that grow in our area. Included are the wide variety of cacti and other succulents, ground cover, flowering bushes, etc. If you have an interest in desert vegetation, be sure to take in the living example of the beauty of the desert.
Pahrump has an intriguing history. If you are going to visit the area, Pahrump Valley Museum is a necessary first stop. The information you gain from your visit will help you plan out your tour of the town. It’s always more fun to be knowledgeable about what you are seeing. Ask Marilyn for recommendations on things to see and how to get there. She’s more than willing to help.
Pahrump Valley Museum
401 E Basin Ave
Pahrump, NV 89060
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 9am-5pm, closed Mondays