Nevada’s newest town officially opened for business July 1st, 2001. One hundred years earlier though, there was no such place.
The general area was part of the fledgling Truckee-Carson Reclamation Project created by Congress in 1902. On June 9th, 1904, the Lyon County Commissioners created the Canal Township next to the newly constructed Truckee Canal.
It was not until the Southern Pacific Railroad realigned its route through northwestern Nevada that the Fernley siding was created. Fernley first shows up as a station stop on September 18th, 1904.
Nearly a year later, Fernley is listed with a day and night telegraph office and wye facilities, for turning trains around. A public school also operated during the 1908-09 school year.
The one room school-house is still in use today as the home of the Fernley Chamber of Commerce.
Jus’ 159 people lived in the Fernley area in 1910 and most were active in the Socialist Party. The Southern Pacific Railroad completed the Fernley & Lassen Railway four years later and a suitable depot was constructed in Fernley.
Residents welcomed the Transcontinental Lincoln/Victory highways through town in the 1920s. Yet by 1960, only 654 people were living near the siding.
In 1965, the Nevada Cement Company opened a new plant built on the north side of the city between Fernley and Wadsworth. This was the first significant non-agricultural/ranching business to come to Fernley, aside from the railroad.
The population more than doubled by 1970 with the construction of Interstate 80. By 1980, the population more than doubled again.
Then in 1999, Amazon opened an order fulfillment center in the former Stanley Works building, providing thousands of new jobs. Since then, more companies have opened facilities in the town including Trex Inc., Allied Signal, UPS Worldwide Logistics (Honeywell), ARE Campers, Johns Manville, and Sherwin Williams Paint.
In 2010, the census listed 19,368 people living in Fernley.
Over the years, there has been speculation about Fernley’s name. One claim is that a Welsh physician by the name of Fernley opened a coal mine in the area, supplying coal to the railroad and yet another is that a Tom Fernley owned and operated a casino there in the 1930s
Yet no coal mines are known to have operated near Fernley, there’s no record of a Dr. Fernley living or practicing medicine there and Tom Fernley never operated a casino there either. It should be noted however, the Fernley family name is of Welsh origin and the town of Hereford, near Wales, was once known as Fernley.