Patty Cafferata

Attorney, author, and historian, Patty Cafferata is a life-long resident of Reno, Nevada, and has had a diverse career in the law and politics. She was elected Nevada State Treasurer in 1982 and in doing so became the first woman elected to any constitutional office in the state. She also served as the district attorney for Lincoln, Lander, and Esmeralda counties, and for one term as a state assemblywoman.

Patty has published five books on Nevada history, including The Goldfield Hotel: Gem of the Desert; Mapes Hotel: The History of Reno’s Landmark Hotel and Casino; and More than a Song and a Dance: The Heyday of Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City, Nevada, circa 1863 to 1897.

Patty is married to fellow Reno native Treat Cafferata, a retired surgeon, and they have two daughters, a son, and nine grandchildren.

Presentations:
By Gas, Rope, Bullet, or Poison: A History of Capital Punishment in Nevada
Some Were Righteous, Some Were Rogues: Introducing Nevada’s State Treasurers
The Glory Days of Goldfield and its Eponymous Hotel


BY GAS, ROPE, BULLET, OR POISON: A HISTORY OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN NEVADA

In a presentation suitable for anyone with interest in the criminal mind, or in the laws put in place to thwart all those possessing such a thing, distinguished Nevada lawyer and former district attorney, Patty Cafferata, explores the fascinating history of the death penalty as practiced within Nevada. She describes the methods of execution the state has used since its territorial days in 1860 through to the present; they have included death by hanging, firing squad, lethal injection, and the gas chamber. Indeed, Nevada was the first state in the union to make use of fatal gas when it put to death Gee Jon. Gee had been found guilty of murdering a rival gang member during a “tong war” (tong wars were violent disputes between different Chinese factions in the West). Cafferata also, through colorful commentary, brings to life some of the state’s more interesting murderers, including the only woman executed in Nevada: Elizabeth Potts. Potts was hanged by the neck - along with her husband and partner in crime, Josiah - after they had together murdered and mutilated one Miles Faucett, whom Potts had lured to Elko and “married,” albeit bigamously.

Appropriate Audience:  Adults; high-school students
Duration:  Approximately 1 hour
Presenter Requirements:  N/A
Categories:  Nevada, history


SOME WERE RIGHTEOUS, SOME WERE ROGUES: INTRODUCING NEVADA’S STATE TREASURERS

Since 1864, twenty people have served as the Nevada state treasurer, and only one of them has been a woman: Patty Cafferata. In this presentation, enhanced by visual materials and contemporary accounts, Cafferata introduces all nineteen of her peers and uses their biographies to provide a unique view of Nevada’s history. In doing so, she pulls no punches. Take Eben Rhoades, for example. Rhoades was Nevada’s first state treasurer and he dubiously distinguished himself by embezzling most of the money held within both the permanent school fund and the general fund. Alas, Rhoades was not alone in dishonoring the office he held. Among the other colorful characters who held the post was Lyman Crockett; he was seen carrying out sacks of money from a bank in the middle of the night, which failed to reopen in the morning for lack of deposits. Then there was George Richards; he was treasurer when some phony "Mexican" silver dollars, containing considerably less than the requisite amount of silver, made their way into the treasury. In addition to her focus on these personalities, Cafferata also includes a discussion of the responsibilities borne by those holding this important constitutional role, and the key ways in which those have changed over the years.

Appropriate Audience:  Adults; high-school students; can be modified for younger audiences.

Duration: Approximately 1 hour

Presenter Requirements:  N/A

Categories: Nevada, history


THE GLORY DAYS OF GOLDFIELD AND ITS EPONYMOUS HOTEL

In 1902, the town of Goldfield played host to the last major gold strike to take place within Nevada. Eight years later, it became the seat of Esmeralda County. In this presentation, former Esmeralda County District Attorney, Patty Cafferata, describes the birth of the town and the characters that populated it, and explores its development from its earliest years through to the present day. Drawing on period photographs and historical accounts, she pays particular attention to the Goldfield Hotel, the famous ghost structure which has become the town’s primary landmark and an opulent reminder of its heyday. She also discusses the hotel’s one-time former owner, the prominent banker and businessman, George Wingfield, whose journey to wealth and power began when he acquired control of the mines in the area.

Appropriate Audience:  Adults; high-school students; can be modified for younger audiences.

Duration:  Approximately 1 hour

Presenter Requirements:  N/A

Categories:  Nevada, history