Gordon Newell Mott

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Gordon N. Mott, Justice of Supreme Court of Nevada. Delegate from Nevada Territory.

Gordon Newell Mott sat on the Nevada territorial supreme court, playing a role in the pivotal single ledge case, which determined the ownership of Comstock mines; additionally, he served as a territorial delegate to Congress.

Born in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1812, Mott was admitted to practice law in Ohio in 1836. That year, he enlisted as a private in the Permanent Volunteers, Republic of Texas, an Ohio military company. After an honorable discharge, Mott returned to law. Married in 1844, he and his wife had three sons and a daughter. Mott served as a captain during the Mexican War (1846-48).

In 1849, Mott came to California during the Gold Rush, settling near Auburn where he kept a store and practiced law. In 1850, Mott moved to Marysville, then to Sutter County, and was elected county judge by the first California legislature. The governor of California appointed Mott to the Tenth Judicial District in 1851. In 1854, Mott was elected recorder of Marysville, serving one term. He was nominated in August 1855 as a justice of the California Supreme Court, but lost to David S. Terry.

On November 5, 1859, Mott instituted a combination saddle train and stage service between Downieville, California, and Virginia City, Nevada, via Sierra Valley. He and Charles DeLong began a law partnership in Yuba and Sutter Counties in 1861. That year, Mott applied to Edward Bates, United States Attorney General, for appointment as Chief Justice of the Nevada Territory. Ultimately, he was nominated as an associate justice.

Governor Nye assigned Mott to the First Judicial District on July 17, 1861. Mott adjudicated conflicting claims that the Comstock was composed of either separate or unified ore bodies, also known as ledges. He sided with powerful attorney William Stewart and the single ledge argument, an unpopular position at the time because it seemed to favor corporations over the average miner.

In 1862, Mott was elected on the Union ticket as delegate to the 38th Congress from Nevada Territory. While Mott left the bench to serve the territory as a congressional delegate, the general hostility toward him and his ruling in the single ledge case applied additional pressure for his resignation, which occurred on August 11, 1863. Directed by the territorial legislature to replace Mott, Judge Horatio M. Jones appointed John Wesley North to fill the vacancy.

Mott's term as delegate to Congress expired in October 1864 when Nevada became a state. Mott then moved to San Francisco, where he resided until his death, practicing law and becoming court commissioner for the Nineteenth District Court. He died on April 17, 1887.

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