Sacramento History Online

Historic Sacramento Photograph and Document Archive

1800-1839  |  1840-1879  |  1880-1899  |  1900-1929

1808 Lieutenant Gabriel Moraga and Spanish soldiers from Mission San Jose are the first Europeans to enter the Sacramento Valley. They discover the two rivers (the Sacramento and American) which they name the "Jesus Maria" and the "Sacramento."
1824 Otto Von Kotzebue sails up the Sacramento River as far north as Freeport.
1827-28 Jedediah Strong Smith and other American fur trappers pass through the Sacramento area, followed by Hudson Bay Company fur trappers.
1832 The Hudson Bay Company makes its second expedition to California.
1833 An epidemic in the Sacramento Valley of either smallpox or fever kills about 20,000 Native Americans. The surviving population is too small to resist future expansion into the valley.
1837 Ewing Smith passes through the Sacramento Valley while driving a herd of 600 cattle to Oregon, the first time such livestock have been seen in the valley. Escapees from this drive are the ancestors of the herds of wild cattle seen in the valley by 1850.

August 12: Captain John Augustus Sutter arrives at his land grant on the American River to establish the colony of New Helvetia (present day Sacramento).

1841 Sutter begins construction of Sutter's Fort, relying mostly on labor from local Native American tribes.
The Bidwell-Bartleson Party reaches the Sacramento Valley as the first overland caravan from the United States to California. Its members include John Bidwell and Charles M. Weber, who later establish the cities of Chico and Stockton.
September: The Russians abandon their settlement at Fort Ross and offer it to Sutter for $30,000. Sutter agrees to buy it in four installments of cash as well as agricultural goods. One of the cannons at present-day Sutter's Fort is from this purchase.
Settlers at Sutter's Fort plow the land for planting crops and grain in order to pay for Fort Ross. In addition to working the land, they also construct a mill for grain processing and later a winery and tannery.

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Theodore Cordua leases part of Sutter's land grant (near present day Marysville) and establishes the New Mecklenburg Ranch. Like Sutter's Fort, the settlement is built using labor from the local Native American population.
Heavy rains ruin the crops at Sutter's Fort.
Drought ruins the crops at Sutter's Fort.
Sutter's crops fail from neglect while he is off fighting in one of Alta California's Civil Wars.
April: The Donner Party departs for California.
June 14: The Bear Flag Revolt. A group of American settlers raise the Bear Flag at Sonoma and declare California to be independent of Mexico.
Sutter's crops fail from neglect while he is fighting in the Bear Flag revolt.
The U.S. Navy occupies Monterey and claims California for the United States.
July: The American flag is raised at Sutter's Fort and John Augustus Sutter lays out the town of Sutterville. It is quickly eclipsed by Sacramento with the advent of the Gold Rush.
October: The Donner Party trapped at Donner Lake.
Sutter's first census report of the Sacramento area reports a population of 22,657.
February-April: Relief parties from Sutter's Fort rescue the Donner Party's survivors.
December 22: Sutter receives 2,000 fruit trees, which start the Sacramento Valley's agriculture industry. (Can anybody verify what type of trees?).
January: James W. Marshall discovers gold at Coloma while building a sawmill for Sutter.
February 2: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo transfers what is now California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado from Mexico to the United States.
Sutter's Fort holds the valley's first elections.
Darius Ogden Mills, later the first president of The Bank of California, founds the D. O. Mills Bank in Sacramento.

December: Captain William H. Warner, aided by future Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, surveys and lays out Sacramento's street grid. The city's first buildings are erected near the embarcadero of the Sacramento River.


Miners, entrepreneurs and developers pour into Sacramento as the start of the Gold Rush begins. Some of these newcomers squat on Sutter Fort and steal his livestock. Sutter will eventually be forced from his land and die bankrupt as a result of the Gold Rush.

C. T. H. Palmer establishes Sacramento's first school at the corner of Third and I Streets. The school closes a month later due to low enrollment.

April 28: The Placer Times, Sacramento's first newspaper, rolls off the press at Sutter's Fort

California votes to be a free rather than slave state during its constitutional convention.

Sacramento city government begins with the adoption of the second City Charter.

June or July: The steamer Sacramento (part of Sutter's Fort Ross purchase) begins its run on the Sacramento River.

August 17: The first river steamboat in California, George Washington, begins regular service between Sacramento and San Francisco.

October 18: California's first theater, the Eagle Theatre, opens on Front Street. The great flood of 1850 destroys it less than four months later.

The Sacramento City Cemetery opens at Tenth and Broadway.

The sailing vessel Whiton operates as Sacramento's first post office.

December 22: The California State Library opens.

Gold Rush newcomers are unhappy about Sutter's land titles and the result are the "Squatter's Riots. " The climax of these riots is a gun fight at the corner of 4th and J Streets in Sacramento. Victims of these riots include both the city's sheriff and mayor.

January 8: Sacramento's first major flood inundates the waterfront. Townspeople erect a temporary settlement on higher ground near present day CSUS. Fundraising begins for building levees on the Sacramento and American Rivers.

Sutter boards his livestock at Bidwell's Hock Farm on the west bank of the Feather River. He later settles there with his family after being forced out of Sutter's Fort by squatters.

The California State Legislature grants an official charter to Sacramento City and County.

May: First term of Sacramento County Court of Sessions.

September 9: California becomes the 31st state in the Union.

December: Another serious flood destroys most of the city. Community leaders begin discussing building levees to prevent future floods.

Taking advantage of Sacramento's proximity to the American and Sacramento Rivers, George Cooper opens the city's first fish packing business.

Building of the first County Courthouse at 7th and I Streets. The State Legislature hold its 1852, 1854, and 1855-1869 sessions in this building.

March 19: The Sacramento Union publishes its first edition.

Formation of the California State Agricultural Society to "display the state's diverse crops and varieties of livestock."
Mohr & Yoerk Packing Co. operates a pork packing and butcher shop at 316 J Street.
The Sitka Ice Company opens on 3rd Street between I and J to bring ice to Sacramento for the first time. The ice is brought by steamship from Alaska to San Francisco and then Sacramento.
Over 90,000 head of sheep and cattle are on the trail to California from the midwestern states.

Col. Colonel James Lloyd Lafayette Franklin Warren receives a shipment of Sacramento's first camellia flowers.

Fire destroys more than 85% of the city, which is rebuilt with brick rather than wood.

June 13: Wells Fargo & Company opens for business in Sacramento, on 2nd Street between J and K Streets.

August 16: The Sacramento Valley Rail Road incorporates.

September: Warren funds and hold California's first agricultural fair at his New England Seed Store (located at 111 J Street). This event is the beginning of the California State Fair.

Warren introduces the camellia in his store catalog as the official flower of Sacramento, "'ere long it will be acclimated with as to our pride as an ornamental tree in our gardens."
Farmers begin planting more wheat and looking into flour production as California experiences a shortage. The state becomes self-sufficient for wheat and flour production by 1854.

Founding of the California Stage Company.

Sacramento becomes California's permanent state capital.

Sacramento's first public water supply becomes available from the construction of the City Hall and Water Works Building (now the site of the Discovery Museum in Old Sacramento).

February 20: Opening of the city's first segregated schools.

March 1: Organization of the California Steam Navigation Company to provide steamer service to San Francisco, Stockton, Marysville and Red Bluff.

May 14: As Californians begin to realize that its future lay more in agriculture than in mining, the State Legislature creates the California State Agricultural Society. Its founding members include Warren and part of its mission is to hold an annual agricultural fair (now the California State Fair).

Warren funds and organizes the first California State Fair in San Francisco.

The California Supreme Court meets in Sacramento.

Collis Potter Huntington and Mark Hopkins open a hardware store at 54 K Street.

Theodore Dehone Judah published his proposal for building the Transcontinental Railroad, A Practical Plan for Building the Pacific Railroad.

August 17: The first passenger railroad in the West, the Sacramento Valley Railroad, makes a trial run from Sacramento to Folsom.


The first foreign language newspaper in Sacramento, The Chinese News, begins publication.

February 22: Ceremony to mark the opening of the Sacramento Valley Rail Road.

Sacramento's tax rolls and city directory report a variety of agriculture related businesses, including the following: six steam flour mill, a salmon fishery, and 47,305 acres being farmed.


February 3: The Daily Bee, later the Sacramento Bee, publishes its first issue.

Production of grapes, especially for wine making, is widespread in the Sacramento Valley. Sutter produces over 400 gallons from his crop at the Hock Farm.

June 1: Groundbreaking of the California Central Railroad which by October 13, 1861 connected Lincoln to the Sacramento Valley Railroad at Folsom Junction.

August 26: W.P. Miller holds a demonstration in Marysville of his steam driven traction engine, one of the first attempts to use mechanical rather than animal power for agricultural equipment.
The Agricultural Society builds California's first Agriculture Hall
Sacramento County leads the state in production of produce including apples, peaches, plums, lemons, almonds, walnuts, and raspberries.
April: The Sacramento Library Debating Club meets to discuss the question "Resolved, that the agricultural interests of California are of more importance to the state than the mining interest."

April 4 : The Pony Express begins service between Sacramento to St. Joseph, Missouri and completes its first run in under ten days.


September 18: Service begins for the Sacramento Pioneers Railroad Company's horse-drawn streetcars.

October 24: The first transcontinental telegraph message is transmitted to the Pioneer Telegraph Building at 1015 Second Street. The Pony Express stops operations two days later.

Construction begins on the State Capitol.

June 28: Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis Potter Huntington, and Leland Stanford (aka "The Big Four") incorporate the Central Pacific Railroad.

California legislature selects Sacramento as the permanent location for the California State Fair.

The worst flood since Sacramento's founding prompts residents to raise the downtown area up to fifteen feet between 1862-1869. The tunnels under present-day Sacramento are remainders of the original downtown buildings and streets.

Inauguration of the Sacramento, Placer and Nevada Railroad which connected Auburn to Folsom.

July 1: Abraham Lincoln signs the Pacific Railway Act.


January 8: Construction of the Central Pacific Railroad begins with a groundbreaking ceremony at Front and K Streets.

October 26: Laying of the first rail for the Central Pacific Railroad.

November 10: Central Pacific's first locomotive, No. 1 Governor Stanford, is placed into service.


June 10: Trains running on the Central Pacific Railroad from Sacramento to Newcastle.


The Civil War ends and John Wilkes Booth assassinates President Lincoln.


Mark Twain visits Sacramento and agrees to write a series on Hawaii for the Sacramento Union.


The American River is re-channeled to prevent flooding.


May 10: The Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads meet at Promontory Point, Utah, completing the Transcontinental Railroad.

May 13: The Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads inaugurate regular service between Omaha and Sacramento.

May: The Wakamatsu Group, the first Japanese immigrants to the Sacramento Valley, arrives in Gold Hill to begin an agricultural colony.

September 6: Western Pacific Railroad completed from Sacramento via Stockton to San Jose.

December: The California State Legislature holds its first session in the new Capitol building.

Central Pacific Railroad builds an ice-cooled freight car at its Sacramento Shops to ship California-grown fruit across country

Sacramento creates its first professional fire department after twenty years of service by the all-volunteer Mutual Hook and Ladder Company No.1.


Construction of the California State Capitol completed.

March 31: The first train shipment of produce and salmon from Sacramento arrives on the East Coast.

The Constitutional Convention adopts a new state constitution.
Beginning of free postal delivery in Sacramento.
June 14: Sacramento Public Library reopens as the city's first "free" library after operating for 6 year as a subscription library.

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1880s The Sacramento Valley enjoys the "fruit epoch," as advances are made in agricultural techniques and equipment. Agriculture replaces mining and cattle ranching as the valley's most profitable industry.

First telephone and electric light service available in Sacramento.

The D. DeBernardi & Co. grocery store installs refrigeration equipment, the first of its kind in Sacramento. Customers are now able to purchase fresh fish, meat, and produce during the summer months.

November 18: The United States and Canada adopt standard time.


March 17: Creation of the Southern Pacific Company.


March 1: Southern Pacific Company leases the Southern Pacific Railroad.

April 1: Southern Pacific Company leases the Central Pacific Railroad.

May 6: Sacramento holds the "Festival of the Flowers" to celebrate Margaret Rhodes Crocker's gift of the Edwin Bryant Crocker home and art collection (now the Crocker Art Museum).


June 24: First express train delivery of fruit from Sacramento to the East Coast.


Orangevale begins as a Jewish agricultural colony.

Battery operated streetcars operate for a brief period signaling an end to the era of horse-drawn streetcars.

1888-1891 Southern Pacific sends five-car trains called “California on Wheels” through the Midwest with exhibits of California products and agricultural displays.

The Sons of the Golden West donate Sutter's Fort to the State.

Central Street Railway replaces horse-drawn streetcars with trolley-driven streetcars.

1894 75% of all fruit shipped to the East Coast from California is grown in the Sacramento Valley.

Pullman strike

1895 First use of electricity at the California State Fair.

July 15: The first long-distance transmission of hydroelectric power from the Folsom powerhouse to Sacramento on what was the longest transmission line in the world.

September 9: Sacramento holds a "Carnival of Light" to mark the July 15th power transmission.

1898 May: Southern Pacific Company's Passenger Department publishes the first monthly issue of Sunset magazine to promote settlement, travel, and investment in the states it serves.

Spanish American War.

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March 9: George Melies' landmark film A Trip to the Moon opens at Grauman's Vaudeville Theater, 619 J Street.

First automobile races at the California State Fair.

There are 27 registered automobiles in Sacramento County.


April 18: San Francisco earthquake and fire.

July: Southern Pacific builds nation's first steel passenger car in Sacramento.

October 1: Pacific Fruit Express, formed by the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, commences operation with a fleet of 6,600 refrigerator cars.

Opening of the Sacramento Northern's main line, service between Sacramento and Chico.

The California Almond Grower's Exchange opens in Davis

April 18: SP abandons its terminal at Rocklin and moves to Roseville.


The University Farm School opens in Davis.

Construction of City Hall at 915 I Street.


The Southern Pacific Railroad provides 33% of all jobs in Sacramento.

August 22: The Western Pacific Railroad begins through passenger service between San Francisco and Salt Lake City.

The Central Pacific Railroad fills Sutter Lake (China Slough).

Mohr & Yoerk Packing Co. move into 1029 K Street and open one of Sacramento's first important grocery stores.
Founding of Citrus Heights.

September 11: Robert G. Fowler lands his primitive airplane at Agricultural Park en route across country from San Francisco. He crashes in Colfax later that day.


September: Beginning of Sacramento Northern connecting service between Oakland and Sacramento.

San Francisco holds the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

May 11-14: Yolo Causeway opens.


April 6: The United States enters World War I.


Establishment of Mather Field.

April 23: The Sacramento Public Library opens at 8th and I Streets.

November 11: World War I ends.


The city purchases land to create William Land Park.

The California Packing Company (later Del Monte) opens at 16th and C Streets in Sacramento.

North Sacramento incorporates.


July 1: The first transcontinental mail plane lands at Mather Air Field.

Opening of the Memorial Auditorium convention and cultural center.

The American Can Company breaks ground at 32nd and C Streets in Sacramento.

February 27: Dedication of the new Southern Pacific station.


September 24: Alhambra Theater opens.

Voters approve creation of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).


Stock Market crash.

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