Formed in 1911 as a literary club for women, the Mesquite Club quickly became a force for community improvement in the railroad town of Las Vegas. The name, suggested by an early settler of the area, Helen J. Stewart, emphasized the hardiness and usefulness of a tree native to the area. The women of the club began immediately to enhance the appearance of the raw new town constructed on the Southern Nevada desert. They decided to add trees along the dusty streets, building on Las Vegas' history as a shady oasis for travelers along the Old Spanish Trail. With the approval of the chamber of commerce, the city commission, and the school board, February 14, 1912 was declared Arbor Day in Las Vegas.
To finance the purchase of trees, the club organized a "Tag Day," and its members sold tags on the street for ten cents apiece which residents purchased and wore to show support for the project. A headline in the Las Vegas Age for January 27, 1912 read, "Tag Day a Great Success: Citizens So Decorated With Tags That They Resemble Cottonwoods in Full Leaf." With the proceeds the club purchased 2,000 small trees and planted them on Arbor Day along the streets in front of every lot in the residential areas, on school grounds, and in other public spaces.
The Mesquite Club took the responsibility for watering trees, sometimes paying a worker to water those planted on vacant lots, sometimes hauling hoses and buckets themselves. Once the trees were established, the club persuaded the city commission to take on the responsibility, and thereafter the city sprinkling truck watered the trees as it made its rounds to keep the dust down on unpaved streets. Mesquite members monitored their trees, requesting that a reward be offered for the capture of livestock roaming at large and damaging the young trees.
The Mesquite Club, inspired by its sisters in the Nevada Federation of Women's Clubs, made important contributions to its young community and its state. In the early years, the club established, stocked, and staffed the first library; inaugurated the Community Christmas Tree celebration; worked to pass state suffrage for women in Nevada; and joined with the Red Cross to make bandages and raise funds during World War I. The club that helped Las Vegas to put down roots celebrated its ninety-year anniversary in 2001 and is still actively involved in supporting city initiatives.
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