History of California
BY RUFUS SHOEMAKER.
THE following sketch is not intended to be a history of the State, for the limits allowed will not admit of
so pretentious a designation, seeing that they will not permit much more than the mention of a few facts, while
perhaps the necessary omission of many facts will result in the exclusion of some of the most interesting happenings
in the State's career. Hence, only a brief sketch of California's history is here outlined.
California contains one hundred fifty-six thousand five hundred ninety-one and five-tenths square miles.
Fifty years after Columbus discovered America, California was first seen by adventurous European navigators, and
eighty-seven years after Columbus' grand achievement, the first Englishman visited our coast. This was Sir Francis
Drake, in 1579.
It is notable that Sir Francis reported that this country "promised rich veins of gold and silver." He
made a guess, however, and no discovery, for it is very certain that he never saw the " mining regions,"
nor did any of his men.
In 1584 Cortez, that genius of conquest and indefatigable treasure hunter, most probably saw our California (the
lower portion of it), and in 1587 Francisco de Ulloa, one of Cortez' lieutenants, visited this coast.
In 1683 Spain made its first (unsuccessful) attempt to colonize California.
The Jesuits, in 1697, occupied the peninsula of California and spread the Christian religion among the natives
to a greater or less extent. This was done under the leadership and direction of Fathers Kino and Salva Terra.
In 1769 Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest, began his great work of establishing missions in California.
His success was equal surely to his most ardent expectations. The order of this great accomplishment is as follows:-
San Diego, July i6, 1767.
San Carlos, of Monterey, June 3, 1770.
San Antonio de Padua (thirteen leagues from San Miguel), July 14, 1771.
San Gabriel (near Los Angeles), September 8, 1771.
San Luis Obispo, September 1, 1772.
San Francisco (Dolores), October 9, 1776.
San Juan Capistrano (between Los Angeles and San Diego), November 1, 1776.
Santa Clara, January 18, 1777.
San Buenaventura (near Santa Barbara), March 31, 1782.
Santa Barbara, December 4, 1786.
La Purisima Concepcion (on the Santa Inez River), December 8, 1787.
Santa Cruz, August 28, 1791.
Soledad (on the Salinas River), October 9, 1791.
San Jose, June 11, 1797.
San Juan Bautista (on the San Juan River), June 24, 1797.
San Miguel (on the Salinas River), July 25, 1797.
San Fernando Rey (near and southerly from Los Angeles), September 8, 1797.
San Luis Rey de Francia (thirteen and a half leagues from San Diego), June 13, 1798.
Santa Inez (twelve leagues from Santa Barbara), September 17, 1804.
San Rafael (north of San Francisco Bay), December 14,1819.
San Francisco de Solano (Sonoma), August 25, 1823.
The Indians took kindly to the mission life, and were governed in a patriarchal way, and were happy. The California
Indians were (for there are few now) a gentle race and never disposed towards the ordinary cruelties of savages.
In 1822, when Mexico was a vice-royalty of Spain, California accepted that rule, and in 1824, when Mexico achieved
her independence of the mother country and established a republic, there came no objection from California, which
was a territory or province governed by officials sent from the.city of Mexico.
One of the memorable events that occurred in the year 1825 was the arrival of Jedediah S. Smith, from across the
plains. He had strayed, while trapping, too far into the Great Basin to get back safely, and so pushed forward
for succor. He was the first Yankee to cross the plains. Between 1840 and 1845, the fame of California as an agricultural
country had become known to the people of the United States, and its importance in a commercial and political view
was appreciated by our government, by appointing Thomas O. Larkin, in 1844, United States Consul in California.
On November 5, 1841, a small band of immigrants, consisting of John Bidwell, Joseph Childs, Grove Cook, Charles
Hoppe, R. H. Thomas, A. C. Moon, and others, arrived at the foot of Mt. Diablo, after a long journey of six months
from the Missouri River, on which they had suffered fearful hardships. This was the first party of immigrants to
cross the Sierras.
In 1846 John Charles Fremont, who was then a Brevet Captain of Topographical Engineers, United States Army arrived
(his third trip across the plains) on the frontiers of California. Of this arrival and the result of it and of
the achievements under the " Bear Flag" and the conquest of California, there is not sufficient space
here to treat.
July 2, 1846, Commodore Sloat, of the United States Navy, arrived at Monterey, and on the 7th of the same month
he hoisted the American flag at that place as a symbol of dominion. On the 8th of the same month and year, Commander
Montgomery, of the United States sloop-of-war Portsmouth, took possession of Yerba Buena, or San Francisco.
The difficulties between army and navy, or between General Kearny and Commodore Stockton, along in 1846, were vexatious
and complicated, and in the general wrangle that ensued, Fremont was nominally disgraced (without fault, however),
but for all that the country was held and became Americanized.
Colonel Jonathan D. Stevenson's New York Regiment of Volunteers arrived in San Francisco in March, 1847, coming
by way of Cape Horn in four transport ships. The regiment was composed of men supposed to be willing to tarry in
this country. They were men versed in all the arts of peace. Steven-son's regiment was something of a colonizing
Samuel Brannan, with his party of Mormons, arrived in 1846. These people did not hold together, but soon got to
quarreling among themselves; some of them joined Fremont's command, and often in discovery of gold these Mormons
scattered all over the gold diggings. Thus it happened that the State did not have a strong and organized Mormon
In 1847 San Francisco was pretty well Americanized. The people there talked politics, celebrated the Fourth of
July with ardor, and established a public school.
Trains (wagon) arrived frequently across the plains in 1846. Among these was that of the Donner party, which got
as far as the east foot of the Truckee Pass (now occupied by the Central Pacific Railroad) of the Sierra Nevada,
on the 31st of October, 1846. There, on the banks of Donner Lake, the party became snow-bound, and many perished
of starvation and cold in that terrible winter of 1846-47. The story of the privations of the Dormer party is one
of the most pathetic in any history.
In January, 1848, came the grand event for California. James W. Marshall, an employe in General John A. Sutter's
mill at Coloma, in El Dorado County, found gold in the mill-race. The news got out, and it spread as on the wings
of the wind. The news went around the world. There is no doubt that gold was found in California before Marshall
picked up the piece from the mill-race, but still Marshall's was the discovery that electrified the civilized world,
"and, lo! a nation was born in a day."
From all lands they came, and by every means. The ships brought adventurous men from across the seas, and the plains
swarmed' with trains bound for El Dorado. The treaty of peace between the United States and Mexico was ratified
in March, 1848, and that fact called attention to California, and gave wider circulation to the news of the discovery
of gold. No country ever before had, and probably no country will ever have, such an advertisement for a "
James W. Marshall was born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, October 8, 181o; arrived in California in 1844;
took a part in the revolution of 1846. August 10, 1885, he was found dead in his cabin, near Coloma, and close
by the spot where he had picked up the piece of gold from the mill race. The State has erected a handsome monument
in his memory. It occupies a position from which the spot of the discovery can be seen.
It is pretty certain that the pioneers, the Argonauts, did not come to these shores with the intention of remaining,
and each man expected "to go home" as soon as he "made his pile." Rich as the land was in gold,
the great majority never did " make their piles." And this wonderful country, with its vast possibilities,
grew upon those pioneers, and in due season they began to make homes here, even if they did not acquire wealth.
The home-making spirit was of gradual growth, but it was a strong one, and the wondrous climate, such as can be
found in no other land, was the main assistance to this feeling. And the Californians of to-day have for their
heritage the fairest land the sun ever shines upon.
California in her quasi-territorial organization had Military Governors. These were a necessity of the times. Fremont,
Mason, General Persifer F. Smith and General Bennett Riley were Governors in turn.
General Riley issued the proclamation which called together the convention which was to "adopt either a State
or Territorial constitution." The number of delegates to this convention was fixed at thirty-seven. These
were apportioned to the "ten districts" named, in this way: San Diego, two delegates; Los Angeles, four;
Santa Barbara, two; San Luis Obispo, two; Monterey, five; San Jose, five; San Francisco, five; Sonoma, four; Sacramento,
four; San Joaquin, four.
The convention met in Monterey on Saturday, September 1, 1849, and, completing its labors, adjourned on Saturday,
October 14, 1849.
The election for the first State officers and members of the Legislature was held (by districts) on November 13,
1849. The vote cast was only fourteen thousand two hundred and thirteen, which was so light that the advocates
of Statehood were very much discouraged. However, they formed an excuse for the small vote in the fact that a drenching
rain fell that day and kept the voters from the polls.
Of the vote polled for Governor, Peter H. Burnett received six thousand seven hundred and sixteen votes; W. Scott
Sherwood, three thousand one hundred and eighty-eight; John W. Geary, one thousand four hundred and seventy-five;
John A. Sutter, two thousand two hundred and two; William M. Stewart, six hundred and nineteen, and there was a
The first Legislature met at San Jose, April 22, 185o. The Senate consisted of sixteen members, and the Assembly
of thirty-six. General Riley, the Military Governor, turned over the affairs of the State to Governor Burnett,
with all books and papers. The Legislature promptly proceeded to business.
The Supreme Court was organized by the Legislature with S. C. Hastings as Chief Justice; H. A. Lyons, First Associate
Justice; Nathaniel Bennett, Second Associate Justice.
The Legislature elected John C. Fremont and William M. Gwin as United States Senators.
The first Legislature divided the State into twenty-seven counties, General Vallejo being the chairman of the Committee'
on Names of Counties.
David C. Broderick first appeared in public life in this first Legislature. He was elected a Senator from San Francisco,
to fill a vacancy caused by Nathaniel Bennett being made a Supreme Court Justice. Broderick was a central figure
for years in the most exciting political times of the State. He was the son of a stone-cutter and was born in Washington
City, in 1819. In 1825 his parents removed to New York, where young Broderick grew up. He was an active politician
always. In 1846 he was defeated in New York for Representative in Congress. In 1849 he came to California, and
soon impressed himself on the State. He had no early advantages or education, yet he made himself something of
a scholar. But he knew more of men than of books. On the Toth of January, 1857, he was elected to the United States
Senate, to succeed John B. Weller. September 13, 1859, he met David S. Terry, who had just resigned as a Justice
of the Supreme Court, in a duel, which took place in San Mateo County, and Broderick was mortally wounded, dying
four days after.
California, after being fully equipped as a State, and having all the while an efficient government, was not admitted
into the Union for several months. The debates in Congress over the proposition of admission were long and of exceeding
bitterness. The members divided according to sections-the North generally favoring admission and the South opposing.
The bill for admission passed the Senate August 12, and the House of Representatives, September 7, and was signed
by President Fill-more September 9, 1850. The rejoicing in California over the news of the admission was very great,
and the anniversary is always celebrated with proper spirit.
The winter of 1849-50 was a wet one, and therefore good for the miners. Mining towns sprang into existence and
became populous in a day. For several years the mining regions had the sway in the State's affairs, while the now
prosperous agricultural counties were nothing but "cow counties," and were so called by way of derision.
In those early days flour was brought from the Eastern States around Cape Horn, or from Chili. The big wheat counties
of the present did not dream they could raise anything better than scrub cattle. But the change came in due time.
The placer mines were worked out and the gold would not grow in them again. The agriculturist's land improved,
and crop would succeed crop.
Mining soon left the shallow gulches and the grass roots of flat places and went to the deep hills, where vast
beds of gold-bearing gravel were deposited, or to the deeper quartz ledges These vast gravel beds deposited by
"old rivers" or by glacial action, soon came to be worked by the hydraulic process, and that kind of
working sent to the valleys such large quantities of debris that valley lands were overwhelmed, and the courts
stepped in, and by injunctions stopped hydraulic mining. Quartz mining still flourishes in many parts of the State,
the chief district for that mining being Grass Valley, in Nevada County. The decline of mining and the growth of
agriculture were gradual, and ran through many years.
California has not had peace in all the times of her existence. In 1849, beginning September 16, San Francisco
had the first Vigilance Committee. That one did not execute anyone, but it ordered the imprisonment of several,
which orders were never carried out. She had some Indian wars, the most notable of which was the Modoc War, which
began in November, 1872.
There have been financial disasters in this land of gold. In 1855, Page, Bacon & Co., a big San Francisco banking
house, had troubles. This was soon followed by the failure of Adams & Co., a concern that did banking and express
business all over the coast. Failures spread with the fall of Adams & Co. Among the bankers who failed was
James King of William, as he signed his name. Then he turned editor and publisher, and brought out the Evening
Bulletin, of San Francisco. This paper started in to reform the " tough " element that afflicted that
city. Among others whom the Bulletin attacked was James P. Casey, an officer in the customs, and an editor of a
Sunday paper. The Bulletin said Casey had been in the Sing Sing State Prison of New York. This Casey did not deny,
but claimed that King was not justified in making the publication. May 14, 1856, Casey shot James King of William,
the wound resulting fatally, in six days after.
Then the second Vigilance Committee assembled and perfected an organization that held the city of San Francisco
for many months, and defied the power and authority of the State for the same length of time. The committee tried,
after its own methods, Casey for the murder of King, and Casey was hanged May 22, 1856, from a beam that ran out
of a window of the committee's rooms. At the same time Charles Cora, who had killed a United States Marshal named
Richardson, was hanged by the Vigilance Committee. Hetherington and Brace, who committed murders while the committee
had charge of affairs, were hanged by the committee. Several offenders were banished from the State, and Yankee
Sullivan, a noted prizefighter, was frightened so that he committed suicide while he was in custody of the Vigilance
Judge David S. Terry was for a time a prisoner in the committee's rooms, for cutting Sterling A. Hopkins, an officer
of the committee, and nothing saved Terry's life but the recovery of Hopkins.
Governor Johnson made various efforts to put down the Vigilance Committee. Major-General William T. Sherman (since
famous as "Marching through Georgia") was at the head of the Governor's troops, and to him were orders
given to suppress the Vigilance Committee. General Sherman failed. The committee finished its work, and, August
12, 1856, disbanded of its own accord. Those were exciting times in California.
California has always had interesting politics. It was Democratic up to the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion,
and was so in spite of that party being divided in sectional issues. The Democrats from the Northern States were
Broderick men (sometimes called "mackerel catchers"), and those of that party from the Southern States
were Gwin men (or "Chivalry," or "Chivs"), and these two factions quarreled all the time, but
the party generally managed to elect its ticket over the Whigs. Only once, 1855, the Democrats suffered a defeat
at the hands of the American or Know Nothing party - when J. Neely Johnson was elected Governor - and Johnson was
something of a Chivalry man.
The Governors of California since the organization of the State (the year of inauguration being given) are: Peter
H. Burnett, 1849; John McDougal (Lieutenant Governor), 1851; John Bigler (twice), 1852 and 1854; J. Neely Johnson,
1856; John B. Weller, 1858; Milton S. Latham, 186o; John G. Downey (Lieutenant-Governor), 1860; Leland Stanford,
1862; Frederick F. Lowe, 1863; Henry H. Haight, 1867; Newton Booth, 1871; Romualdo Pacheco (Lieutenant-Governor),
1875; William Irwin, 1875; George C. Perkins, 1880; George Stoneman, 1883; Washington Bartlett, 1887; R. W. Waterman
The railroad across the Isthmus of Panama was opened in January, 1855, and the Pony Express across the continent
was established in 1859. The Central Pacific Railroad was completed in May, 1869. In 1861 the telegraph wire overland
The convention which formed the present (new) constitution of the State, met at Sacramento, September 28, 1878,
and adjourned March 3, 1879. The present constitution was ratified by a vote of the people May 7, 1879.
The State has prospered under the new constitution, as it did under the old, and as it would have done had the
old continued in operation. Railroads have been built, steamer lines have been established, factories have grown
up, great improvements have been made in every direction, and vast natural resources have been developed, or are
Still greater prosperity is promised to the State, and the promise will surely be fulfilled at an early day. Irrigation
is to bring about the greatest of all grand results. The land from one end of the State to the other is to be made
fruitful, at all times, and no matter what the season may be, while the water that brings plenty from the soil
will give the chief power for turning wheels, that will industriously hum in the workshops and in the towering