Governor #2, McDougal

John McDougal was California’s lieutenant governor when Peter Burnett resigned after little more than one year in office. McDougal was sworn in on January 9, 1851, and served out Burnett’s two-year gubernatorial term through January 8, 1852. Born in Ohio in 1818, McDougal served in the Indiana Volunteer Continue reading Governor #2, McDougal

Governor #1, Burnett

Born in Tennessee, Peter Burnett was a lawyer living in Missouri before he migrated to Oregon in 1843 to “make a comeback” after a series of business losses. There, he became a judge on the Oregon Territory Supreme Court. News of the gold discovery lured him to California in 1848, where he mined at Long’s Bar on the Yuba Continue reading Governor #1, Burnett

Founding San Jose

Now the largest city in northern California, San Jose was founded November 29, 1777, twenty years before Mission San Jose was built, as a farming community to provide food for Spain’s presidios in Monterey and San Francisco Bay. Its original name was El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe (the Town of Saint Continue reading Founding San Jose

A Holiday to Give Thanks

President Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in September 1863. Prior to that, the observance was sporadically celebrated, mainly in New England, as a day of feasting and merriment after the autumnal harvests. California was not yet a state when military governor General Bennett Riley proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in November 1849 during the turbulence of the Gold Rush. It is unlikely, however,  that very many gold miners abandoned their prospecting to sit down to a groaning table.

The Elephant as Metaphor

The gold rushers who swarmed into California hoping— but failing— to find an easy fortune, boosted the folklore phrase “I’ve seen the elephant” into national usage during the 1850s. A metaphor unused and forgotten today, it once meant to experience something extraordinary and dangerous, and to Continue reading The Elephant as Metaphor