Spike Teams

Before bicycles and automobiles, city folk got about on foot or horseback, and in a variety of four-wheeled conveyances. A solitary horse could manage a light-weight buggy, but heavier wagons were generally powered by teams of mules or oxen. A “spike team” was a familiar term for an unusual turn-out of three oxen (two at the wheel and one in the lead) that always attracted much attention when it passed by on city streets.

The Trail Blazers

Companies of wide-ranging American fur trappers were the trail blazers for subsequent explorers, gold rushers and settlers.  The mountain passes they crossed, the routes they trod, and the valleys where they camped became the routes and stopping places that others followed.  When the fur trade declined in the mid-1840s, many of these adventurous mountain men became emigrant guides to caravans of covered wagons.

San Francisco is Born

At the opening of 1847 the little hamlet known as Yerba Buena sat perched on a sheltered cove in San Francisco Bay. For a hundred years sailors had agreed it was the greatest harbor on earth, capable of comfortably accommodating all of the assembled navies of all of the nations of the world. As things were, it rarely harbored Continue reading San Francisco is Born

The Stanford Mansion

The loss of his law library to fire in 1852 prompted New York attorney Leland Stanford to migrate to California, to join brothers who were already successful merchants in Gold Rush Sacramento. Leland managed the Stanford Brother’s wholesale business on K Street, became wealthy, and involved himself in local politics.  In Continue reading The Stanford Mansion

The Sacramento Valley Railroad

From the early 1800s New England boasted railroads, factories, and telegraph lines–but prior to the Gold Rush, California was a pastoral land with none of these hallmarks of civilization. The first railroad west of the Mississippi was the Sacramento Valley Railroad, officially opened for passenger and freight transport in Continue reading The Sacramento Valley Railroad