This is the story of two men and a lucrative spot on the Truckee River.

The area now known as Reno came to life as Lake’s Crossing in 1861, when Myron Lake purchased a wooden bridge, rustic tavern, and an inn along the banks of the Truckee River from Charles William Fuller.

Fuller was a former Pony Express rider and station manager who saw the potential for the area as a commercial and transportation center. He built a store, saloon, and boarding house, which quickly became a hub for miners, freighters, and settlers in the area.

Fuller had spent years trying to capitalize on the supply wagons that routinely traversed the Sierra Nevada mountains on their way to Virginia City.
But where Fuller had given up, Lake succeeded. He amassed a fortune from his 10-year franchise of the toll bridge across the river, and encouraged a town site be created on his property, which he then leveraged by giving the Central Pacific Railroad the right of way across his land, and through the newly formed town of Reno in 1868.

For his efforts in the creation of the city and the railway’s access, Lake is credited as the founder of Reno in nearly all the history books. But it was Charles Fuller who first came to build an inn and tavern, and construct a toll bridge at a ford on the south side of the Truckee River in 1859 and 1860.
Some historians believe Fuller should be recognized as Reno’s founder, rather than Myron Lake who purchased the property and the two structures from Fuller in 1861.

For those seeking to transport goods from California to The Comstock, they found there were few options to safely cross the Truckee River. The river flowed swiftly, and the bottom was covered with huge boulders, making it nearly impossible to drive wagons and herds across.

While making the wagon crossings for his mother, the entrepreneurial Bill Fuller sensed an opportunity. In late 1859, he claimed—or squatted on—a piece of unoccupied land on both sides of the Truckee River at an obscure ford and began building a crude inn, tavern, and trading post on the south side of the river.
The winter of 1859-1860 was brutally harsh, but Fuller finished the hotel and tavern. By April 1860, he had built a ferry across the river, and installed a line of posts and stringers to pull the ferry across. By that December, Fuller constructed a wood-and-timber bridge across the river for $3,000.

On March 5, 1861, he was officially granted a charter for his bridge, tolls were established, and the Utah Territory County Court levied a 10-percent tax on those tolls.

Bill Fuller was now in business as a Truckee River station keeper. His new enterprise immediately began to thrive, becoming the primary river-crossing site for wagon and stagecoach traffic between eastern California and The Comstock.

Just 18 months after he launched his enterprise, Fuller would trade it all—hotel, tavern, trading post, and toll bridge— in 1861 to the family’s Honey Lake Valley neighbor, Myron Lake, in exchange for a farm.

After the trade, Bill Fuller moved back to Honey Lake Valley. He was close to his family again, which may be why he made the deal with Lake.
Myron Lake would go on to achieve fabulous wealth from a 10-year franchise he received on his toll bridge at the renamed Lake’s Crossing. The town of Reno was established on May 9, 1868, with Myron Lake hailed as Reno’s founder.

Fuller may not have been around when Reno was incorporated in 1868, but there is no question that without his early efforts, Reno may not have come to pass as it did. While historians will continue to debate the question of Lake or Fuller, the Biggest Little City owes them both.

Reno, Nevada was named after Major General Jesse L. Reno, a Union officer who served during the American Civil War.