Francisco Garcés was the first European in the area. The area of Nevada was part of the Commandancy General of the Provincias Internas in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Nevada became a part of Alta California (Upper California) province in 1804 when the Californias were split. With the Mexican War of Independence won in 1821, the province of Alta California became a territory of Mexico.
Jedediah Smith entered the Las Vegas Valley in 1827, and Peter Skene Ogden traveled the Humboldt River in 1828. When the Mormons created the State of Deseret in 1847, they laid claim to all of Nevada within the Great Basin and the Colorado watershed. They also founded the first white settlement in what is now Nevada, Mormon Station (modern day Genoa), in 1851.
As a result of the Mexican–American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico permanently lost Alta California in 1848. As part of the Mexican Cession (1848) and the subsequent California Gold Rush that used Emigrant Trails through the area, the state’s area evolved first as part of the Utah Territory, then the Nevada Territory (named for the Sierra Nevada). In March 2, 1861, the Nevada Territory separated from the Utah Territory.