James D. Torreyson - Republican, Elected

8th Nevada Attorney General

Term:  January 5, 1891 - January 7, 1895


James Duncan Torreyson, born February 14, 1854, in Wellsburg, West Virginia, moved to Carson City, Nevada, with his family in 1863.  At 20 years of age, he returned east to study at Yale University and graduated in 1879.

From the Biographical Record of the Class of `79 Yale College:[1]

JAMES DUNCAN TORREYSON is a native of West Virginia, having been born in that State (or what is now that State) the 14th of February, 1854.  His parents were William D. and Statira C. Torreyson.  His youth was passed much in the usual manner of children attending school, and when out of school being kept busy at work—or play.  After the removal of his family to the Far West, he entered the Hopkins Grammar School, New Haven, in 1873, where he completed his preparation for college.  After graduation, Torreyson studied law in Carson City and was admitted to the bar of Nevada, January, 1882.  In November, 1882, he was elected district attorney of the county, and at the expiration of his term, in 1884, was re-elected without opposition, the Democrats making no nomination against him.  This would seem to show that Torreyson's popularity was as great in the territories as in college.  The law also makes him ex-officio city attorney of Carson City.  His double duties, together with his general practice, therefore combine to keep his mind in a healthy condition of activity.  He observes modestly that he has been moderately successful, and like all who meet with success we presume he has worked hard for it.  He is not married, and may be found at any time at Carson City, Nev.

On January 4, 1882,[2] Torreyson gained admittance to the Nevada State Bar and entered into a partnership with Sardis Summerfield.  Voters elected him as Ormsby County District Attorney in 1882, and again in 1884, 1886, and 1888.[3]

Election of 1890

Elected as Nevada’s eighth Attorney General on November 4, 1890, Torreyson (Republican) received 7,163 (58.1%) of the 12,338 votes cast, and W.C. Love (Democrat) received 5,175 (41.9%) votes.[4]

Election of 1894

In this election, Torreyson lost his reelection effort to Robert Beatty.

Office Administration and Duties

Torreyson had no deputies or other support staff according to the Nevada Attorney General’s budgets for the 1891–1893 and 1893–1895 state biennial fiscal periods:

1891–1893 Budget




Attorney General’s Salary



Office expenses came from an appropriation “[f]or current expenses, telegraphic, postal, and contingent, of the state

officers, Supreme Court, and State Library, for transportation

of books and documents, and storage and transportation of

state property, $5,000”

1893–1895 Budget




Attorney General’s Salary



Office expenses came from an appropriation “[f]or a current expense appropriation, to defray the telegraphic, postage, and contingent expenses of the several state officers, Supreme

Court, and State Library, to be expended under the direction

of the Lieutenant Governor, State Controller, and Secretary

of State, $5,000”

The 1891 Nevada State Legislature added a number of duties to the office of the Nevada Attorney General, including:

  • Nevada Attorney General is to advise the Nevada State Board of Education; upon their request.  (Statutes of Nevada, 1891, Chapter II, page 14).
  • Nevada Attorney General is an ex-officio member of the Nevada Board of Regents (Statutes of Nevada, 1891, Chapter LXI, page 77).
  • Nevada Board of Assessors and Equalization is created with the Nevada Attorney General as a member thereof.  (Statutes of Nevada, 1891, Chapter LL, pages 56–63).
  • Nevada Attorney General is to take action to prevent an insurance company from doing business in Nevada upon a statutory violation complaint by the Nevada State Controller (Statutes of Nevada, 1891, Chapter XCVIII, page 134).

[1]The Biographical Record of the Class of `79 Yale College, Complied for Its Sexennial, by F.W. Williams, pp 92-93.  Harvard College Library from Yale University, catalog number V educ U 8260.879.5.
[2] Nevada Reports, Number 22, p. 13
[3] Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Volume XXVII, Spring 1984, Number 1, pp. 22 – 23
[4] Political History of Nevada, 2006, p. 361

    • James D. Torreyson - Nevada Historical Society