An 1870s ranch for pioneers, rodeo stars, and divorcees was abandoned and left for dead, until the city reopened it for exploration.
Las Vegas’ oldest buildings withered away for decades, hiding the secrets to mysteries and murders.
When Conrad Kiel (sometimes styled as “Kyle”) settled his 240 acres of land in 1875, it was a peaceful desert ranch with an artesian spring. It was one of the most prosperous ranches in the Las Vegas Valley, perhaps even in all of Nevada. It had previously been occupied by Mormon missionaries there to convert Native Americans on their “Indian Farm,” evidenced by adobe structures dotted on the land. The rare wetlands on the property even allowed Kiel to grow an orchard. But lot would change in the years to come.
Ten years after the ranch had first opened, a pioneer named Archibald Stewart was killed in a gunfight. Later, Conrad’s descendants Ed and William Kiel were found dead by shotgun in what was thought to be a murder/suicide. Later evidence revealed it was a double homicide, though the case has never been solved. These individuals, along with others who died at Kiel Ranch, were buried in the cemetery on the premises.
In the early 20th century it experienced a rebirth as a tourist destination. At different points it hosted famous rodeo stars and divorce-seekers looking to take advantage of Nevada’s lax marital laws.
The property has been owned by the City of North Las Vegas Parks and Recreation department ever since the 1970s, but has mostly sat untouched and abandoned, fenced off and overgrown by weeds. It was even used as a dump for a period of time, which rendered its archaeological and forensic resources practically nil. Aside from a small plaque detailing its past, there was no indication of the ranch’s historical significance.
However, in July of 2016 Kiel Ranch reopened to the public as a historical park. Now, those who want to see what Las Vegas was like long before all the neon and casinos can step back into the past by walking amidst the 150-year-old buildings on Kiel Ranch.
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