California History to 1869

  • Sep 28, 1542

    Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo Discovers Alta California

    In an expedition of two ships and 250 soldiers and sailors, Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to visit what is now California. They sailed into San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542.
    Source: California History Online
  • Vizcaino Expedition Enters Monterey Bay

    Vizcaino Expedition Enters Monterey Bay
    Searching for a good harbor in northern California for the Manila galleons to replenish their stores of food and water, Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino entered Monterey Bay on December 16, 1602.
    Source: James J. Rawls and Walton Bean, California: An Interpretive History, 8th edition (New York: Mc Graw-Hill, 2003), 26-28.
  • Mission San Diego de Alcala Founded

    Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded by Spanish missionary Father Junipero Serra on July 16, 1769. It was the first of 21 Spanish missions that would be founded in what is present-day California.
    Source: Wikipedia
  • First Civilian Pueblo Founded in California at San Jose

    The first civilian town or pueblo established in California was El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe, founded on November 29, 1777. The first settlers consisted of 14 men and their families, and the population slowly grew to 700 by 1848.
    Source: California History Online
  • Fort Ross Completed

    Fort Ross Completed
    On September 10, 1812, Fort Ross was completed. It was built by the Russian-American Fur Company, located north of San Francisco, and served as the company's headquarters for hunting sea otter in No. California waters.
    Sources: Fort Ross SHP; California History Online.
    Image credit: Fort Ross Historic Park Archives, California State Parks.
  • Mexico Gains Independence from Spain

    In 1821, Mexico gained its its independence from Spain, making California a Mexican territory.
    Source: California History Online
  • Gold Discovered in California

    Gold Discovered in California
    On January 24, 1848, carpenter James Marshall discovered several flakes of gold while inspecting the tailrace at Sutter's Mill, a sawmill being built on the South Fork of the American River. Although he and his employer, John Sutter, tried to keep the find a secret, word leaked out by May and sparked a rush of people from around the world to try their hand at being gold miners.
    Source: Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
  • Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Signed

    On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, which officially ended the Mexican American War and transferred more than 525,000 square miles of land from Mexico to the United States. This land transfer included the area that would become the state of California.
    Source: California History Online
  • California Gains Statehood

    California Gains Statehood
    As a result of the Compromise of 1850, California became the 31st state of the United States on September 9, 1850. It was admitted as a free state, and the first state capital was located in San Jose.
    * Source: James J. Rawls and Walton Bean, California: An Interpretive History, 8th edition (New York: Mc Graw-Hill, 2003), 121-123.
  • Transcontinental Railroad Completed

    Transcontinental Railroad Completed
    On May 10, 1869, the first transcontinental railroad connecting California with the eastern United States was officially completed at a ceremony held at Promontory, Utah, after six-years of construction by the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads.
    Source: NPS Historical Handbook: Golden Spike