William D. Rowley Papers

Identifier: 2017-43

Scope and Contents

A majority of the collection contains information pertaining to the 1990 Department of Justice, Lands Division Case held in a Colorado Water Division District Court regarding instream water rights in Colorado national forests. Rowley was hired as an expert witness to gather any and all background literature regarding what had been published or was in place concerning instream flows and forests in order to strengthen the government’s position for protection of forests and water. Types of resources include articles and chapters from books dealing with water rights, evidence notebooks, and testimony of government witnesses.

Collection also contains materials and research for a number of histories written by Rowley, including his 1985 U.S. Forest Service Grazing and Rangelands: A History, Bureau of Reclamation book, and Newlands book, work using Ivan Sack original notes for the Reno Forest Service Office (the project was never completed), and M.A. Thesis work at the University of Nebraska on the Communist Party and farmers in Nebraska during the 1930s.


  • late 1880s-2015



Unprocessed collection. Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice required. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law or donor required restrictions.

Biographical Note

Born on August 4, 1939 in Chariton, Iowa, William D. Rowley graduated Lincoln High School, Tacoma, Washington, 1957. He attended the University of Puget Sound, graduating with a B.A. in History in 1961. That same year, he began graduate education in history at the University of Nebraska, courtesy of a 3-year National Defense Fellowship that resulted in an M.A. in 1963 and Ph.D. in 1966. Rowley taught one academic year (1966-67) as a temporary assistant professor at the University of Nebraska before moving to the University of Nevada in the fall of 1967. Subsequently, he taught summer school at the University of Nebraska in 1976 and 1989. In 1971, he was granted promotion to associate professor and tenure at the University of Nevada, Reno, and became a full professor in 1985. From 1988 to his retirement in 2015, Rowley served as the Griffen Chair in Nevada and the West.

Over his many active years in history, Rowley taught a variety of classes in the History Department from Nevada history to Westward Movement in American History, Environmental History, and U.S. Government – Native American Relations. He also spent a great deal of time in research and writing both book-length histories as well as articles, government publications, and professional presentations. Some of his major books include M. L. Wilson and the Campaign for the Domestic Allotment Plan (University of Nebraska Press, 1970), Reno: Hub of the Washoe Country (Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications, 1984), and Reclaiming the Arid West: The Career of Francis G. Newlands (University of Indiana Press, 1996).

Outside of his position at UNR, Rowley also served widely within the larger history profession, serving on committees, working with conferences, and acting as an expert witness in court cases. He served seventeen years as Executive Secretary of the Western History Association (1974-1990) and local arrangements chair for three local conferences of the Western History Association in Reno and Lake Tahoe (1970, 1990, 2010). He also brought other historical organizations to Reno for their academic conferences, especially the Agricultural History Society. Rowley served as expert witness on several important cases concerning water rights and grazing questions in the American West for the U.S. Department of Justice. Most prominent was the in-stream water rights case in Greely, Colorado and the Wayne Hage Case over grazing issues with the Bureau of Land Management tried in Reno, Nevada in 2011-2012.

From 2002-2009, Rowley was a key figure in applying for and implementing cooperation with the Washoe County School District to win five Teaching American History Grants from the U.S. Department of Education. The grants totaled nearly five million dollars and enabled academics from the university’s History Department to work with American history teachers in the Washoe County School District to improve their American history knowledge and teaching skills. On two occasions summer institutes were held in Elko, Nevada to serve teachers across northern Nevada.


10 Cubic Feet (10 boxes)

Language of Materials



University of Nevada, Reno Professor Emeritus in History (1967-2016), William D. Rowley specialized in history of the American West, especially Nevada, Reclamation, and Water history. Collection contains materials related to some of his publications, expert witness materials and background research for Colorado Water Division District Court case, and other materials and research on grazing and ranch lands, the Newlands Project, and forestry history.



Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by William D. Rowley in June and September 2017.

Related Archival Material

Related archival materials held by the UNR Special Collections Department:

Ivan Sack Papers (NC898)


A Guide to the William D. Rowley Papers
Jessica Maddox
October 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)