A Brief History Of California

, , Leave a comment

  1. California was the 31st state to join the USA in 1850. It was named after an island in a popular 16th century Spanish story. California’s topography varies from the coastal areas to mountains, valleys and desert regions. The Sierra Nevada mountain range separates California from the rest of the country. Because of these peculiar physical features, the original inhabitants of California (called Indian tribes by European settlers) did not share a common language and culture. There were Hupa, Maidu, Pomo, Modoc and Mojave tribes scattered across the fertile parts of California.
  2. The Spaniards were the first Europeans to explore the coast of California. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was trying to find a waterway from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in 1542. In 1579, Francis Drake claimed the land for England. By 1602, several Spanish expeditions had been carried out along the Californian coast, and Sebastian Vizcaino recommended that Spain colonise California. The Spanish efforts to colonise and convert the local population consisted in building a series of forts and mission churches within a day’s walk from each other. This was carried out by Franciscan priests led by Junipero Serra. The first fort or presidio was established in 1769 in San Diego. In time, settlements called pueblos developed around the missions.
  3. The local population who lived around the missions were taught Spanish and the basic beliefs of Christianity. They learnt new means of livelihood from the Spanish, such as livestock rearing, brick making and weaving. They picked up diseases from the Europeans which killed many of them. Their numbers gradually reduced. When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1822, California became a province of Mexico. The missions were broken up, and large plots of land called ranchos were sold to private landowners who were called rancheros. Economic activity now centred on the rearing of cattle and the sale of meat, hides and related products.
  4. From 1825, Mexico sent governors to administer its province, but many Californians resented what amounted to outside interference. A ranchero named Pio Pico led a group which clashed with Mexican troops. The ruling governor returned to Mexico, and after that, Mexico found it hard to maintain control over California.
  5. From the time that an American trading ship came to California in 1796, more and more Americans came there to trade and explore. In 1841, the first American settlers arrived by a land route. They were followed by other Americans, and the new settlers wanted to make California a part of the United States. The US government offered to buy California from Mexico, but the offer was refused.
  6. John C. Fremont was a military explorer who was conducting a surveying expedition in California with armed scouts and US soldiers. In 1846, Mexican authorities ordered him to withdraw from the area. He defied the order and raised the US flag over Hawk’s Peak, near Monterey. He started building a fort. Elsewhere too, trouble erupted. A group of American rebels near Sonoma declared their independence by raising a flag depicting a star and a grizzly bear. The United States and Mexico went to war in May, 1846. In 1848, Mexico surrendered and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed. California was now a part of the United States, though the formalities were completed only in 1850.
  7. Soon before the peace treaty was signed, gold was discovered in California. John Sutter owned land in the Sacramento valley. He hired James Marshall to build a sawmill on the American River. Marshall discovered gold nuggets there. The news spread, and in 1849, thousands of people rushed to California to make their fortunes. This was called the gold rush and the prospectors were dubbed the forty-niners.
  8. The gold rush prompted a wave of migration from countries all over the world. It is estimated that about 100,000 people settled in California at that time. Not all struck gold, but many became farmers, and the more enterprising among them started businesses providing for the needs of miners. San Francisco and Sacramento flourished, and California’s population burgeoned in just four years from 14,000 to 250,000. As more deposits were found, mining techniques improved and towns and cities developed. A large number of Chinese miners worked the gold mines, and were charged a non-resident fee. Though this was repealed after a short while, many Chinese workers moved to San Francisco, establishing the now famous Chinatown. The residents of California did not rely only on gold mining. Many were very successful farmers and grew high quality agricultural produce.
  9. In 1869, Sacramento was linked by rail to eastern USA. Chinese workers contributed greatly to the laying of the railroad, and it is estimated that there were about 60,000 Chinese workers in California. In the 1870s, a nation-wide depression resulted in vast unemployment. Anti- Chinese sentiments flared up, leading to riots in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
  10. The coming of the railroad proved a boon for California. The Yosemite National Park was established in 1890, and was visited by thousands. By 1910, Hollywood had become the world’s most important movie producer. When the Panama Canal was opened in 1914, the sea route provided even greater access to the east. Towards the end of the 20th century, the southern part of the San Francisco Bay area, nicknamed Silicon Valley, became the global hub of the newly emerging information technology industry. The Napa Valley produces some of the world’s best wines. California has the largest economy in the USA, and is also its leading agricultural producer. Southern California is an earthquake prone zone. Though most have a magnitude of less than 4.0, there were major quakes in 1906 and 1989.

Tea Time Quiz

[forminator_poll id="23176"]

Leave a Reply