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Bracken, Walter R., 1870-1950


Railroad agent, developer, and civil engineer Walter Bracken was born in 1870 in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. In 1901, while surveying Nevada for the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad, he recommended that the railroad purchase the Stewart Ranch from Helen Stewart in order to build the railroad through Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1904 the railroad took possession of the ranch. Following completion of the railroad in 1905, the railroad announced that it would auction its land parcels for development of a new town. On May 15 of that year, the Clark’s Las Vegas Townsite Auction was held, during which the lots for downtown Las Vegas were purchased. Bracken purchased one of the lots on Fremont Street.

Bracken became the head of the Las Vegas Land & Water Company, which had been started as a subsidiary of the railroad, and was one of the most powerful men in Las Vegas. During his tenure, the company installed Las Vegas’s first water system and he strived for better working conditions for railroad workers. By 1941 Bracken had become the head of operations for the Union Pacific Railroad in the Las Vegas Valley. Though his authority increased, many of the repressive policies of the railroad continued, including the housing segregation of African-American settlers.

In 1905 Bracken married schoolteacher Anna Johnson, a graduate of the University of Nevada and teacher in Delamar. They lived on Fremont Street from 1905 to 1942 and then moved to a new home on 7th Street. Anna Bracken died in January of 1950, and Walter Bracken died in July of 1950.


Hopkins, A. D. “Walter Bracken,” Las Vegas Review-Journal. February 7, 1999.

Burbank, Jeff. “Clark's Las Vegas Townsite Auction,” Online Nevada Encyclopedia. September 27, 2010.