Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear on the first & third
Tuesday of each month.
Genoa Mayor Mark Vicary is so busy finishing the last two
classes toward his masters degree he must have a hard time
staying awake at City Council meetings. I had recently been to
a town called Genoa just over the Sierras in Nevada and wanted
to tell him all about it. He explained how he has been burning
the midnight oil to complete his coursework, all the time handling
a new job in the airline industry, where he received a recent
So I kept my phone call short, but mailed him a packet
of Genoa, Nev., literature. We went there last month with my
wife Kays Sycamore High classmate Joyce (Van Ostrand) Wensmann
who lives nearby in Gardnerville. She wanted us to witness the
annual re-enactment of the Pony Express mail run from St. Joseph,
Mo. to Sacramento, Calif., which dates back to 1860 before trains
and planes could carry the mail faster.
The route covered almost 2,000 miles and usually could
be ridden in less than 10 days. But the mostly teenage riders
faced harrowing obstacles including blizzards, Indian attacks,
robbers and steep trails that sometimes crippled their mounts.
This method of delivering the U.S. Mail only lasted 19 months,
but has become one of the legends of the wild west.
This sign marks the entryway to Genoa, Nevada, in the
picturesque Sierras. There are at least four cities named "Genoa"
in the United States, but DeKalb County's Genoa has the largest
population. (Schrader photo)Pony Express re-enactor mounts his saddle to carry the
U.S. mail through Genoa, Nevada on June 26. Notice the addition
of modern technology in his earBluetooth.
It was a thrill to see the rider trotting into Genoa at 7 a.m.,
passing saddlebags full of mail and watching the next rider with
a fresh horse gallop away. In the back of my mind I could see
a similar scenario back here in Genoa, Ill., when the Pacific
Hotel (now a credit union at 501 W. Main St.) was a stopover
on the Chicago-Galena Trail for stagecoaches and riders in the
I can just picture a team of sweaty horses pulling the
Wells Fargo stage up in front of the hotel as the mail pouch
was dropped off and passengers alighted for a drink, a meal,
or overnight stay. We get to see that stagecoach pulled by a
team of similar horses on Main Street each Genoa Pioneer Day,
this year Aug. 25.
During our visit to this other Genoa, it dawned on me there
must be more towns with the same name across the country. So
I did some online research and found at least four. There is
Genoa, Neb., with a population of 2,005, north of Kearney and
Lincoln. It was first settled by Mormons who dropped off a wagon
train heading out west in 1846.This has a similar history to
Genoa, Nev., which was settled by Mormons in 1851 who called
it Mormon Station, then in 1855 was renamed Genoa, after the
birthplace of Christopher Columbus. The population of the Nevada
town has dwindled to 221 people, though.
Oldest of all Genoas (in the U.S.) is in New York. That town
was first named Milton in 1789, then changed to Genoa in 1808.
The population is about 1,900 today. It is where Thomas Madison,
founder of Genoa in Illinois, first lived.
Vicary can proudly boast he has the most thriving Genoa
in the country, with a population of 5,200 and the expected arrival
of an Amtrak station within the next couple of years. He did
say he would enjoy making contact with the mayors or town leaders
in those other namesake communities, so maybe after he gets that
masters degree, he will have the chance.