We built it and they came E-mail
Anyone who has ever visited Virginia City, Nevada knows that this little mountain town of Northern Nevada is drenched in gold- and silver-mining history.

Mark Twain penned many of his stories from this little town, and the Comstock Lode brought men from all over the world to seek their fame and fortune.

Dennis McMahon and Thomas Reed, both Virginia City police officers in 1863, were shot and killed by a local bandit just north of town.

In fact, Mark Twain wrote of hearing the shots from his home and the sadness he felt at the loss of his two good friends and protectors. Lives were lost at the famous Suicide Table, and Julia Bullette brought comfort to the miners. The stories never end in Virginia City.

Today, historical buildings and museums, along with small shops, line the main street. It is easy to spend an entire day there and not see everything it has to offer.

Those old enough to be hitting retirement age about now may recall the Cartwright boys riding to Virginia City from the Ponderosa Ranch at beautiful Lake Tahoe in the television show "Bonanza."

Now there is a new museum that stands out as one of the jewels of Virginia City.

The Silver State National Peace Officers Museum opened in 2009 inside the 1876 Storey County Jail. The strap iron doors, steel lined rock walls, narrow cells, and solid stone floors set the stage for a one of a kind museum experience.

More than 5,000 guests visited the museum last summer. They were greeted by knowledgeable docents, all retired from law enforcement.

Tours are given, and visitors hear about the magnificent collection of one man, the late Kensington, California Chief of Police Walt Gist.

If we build it, they will come, right? That was the question.

The museum project found its start with a group of active and retired law enforcement friends, all dedicated to the vision and bound by decades of serving as honor guard members in Reno area law emforcement agencies.

Once the demolition, renovation and construction began, it was just two short years before the doors opened doors to a packed house.

Fellow officers from as far away as Seattle traveled to the site in order to take part in the project's development.

Many things can be found at the museum, including the lawman badge of Matt Warner, who as a young man spent his time robbing banks with Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, which helps demonstrate the tremendous advancements in law enforcement since the day that lawmen straddled and often crossed the line between right and wrong.

Visitors love seeing a very unique old 1864 circle-star badge of the Committee for Safety which actually represented the vigilantes of Aurora, Nevada in a day when the town required a little more cleaning up than local law enforcement could manage.

John Dillinger's death mask and other 1930s-era gangster memorabilia brings back the memories of Thompson submachine guns, dark suits, and riding on the running boards as bullets flew toward the bandits fleeing ahead.

Exhibits include artifacts relating to the kidnapping and murder of a man by Baby Face Nelson in 1934. You can read about Roy Frisch, a local banker about to testify against the mobsters, who suddenly disappeared off the Reno streets and was never seen again.

The oldest of exhibit items include a handwritten warrant from Albany, New York dated in 1784, and a sheriff's commission document from Kentucky dated in 1799. Visitors will enjoy much more from the 1850s through the 1930s.

To learn more about this fascinating museum, visit their website at www.PeaceOfficersMuseum.org.

Doug Gist, a retired captain from the Washoe County Sheriff's Office in Reno, Nevada, is president and chief executive director of the Silver State National Peace Officers Museum. Tel: (775) 846-5948. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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