Think You Know all About California History? Surprise!


Could Southern California have been split off to join the Confederacy during the early part of California's history? Almost!  That's just one surprising fact I learned on my recent road trip with my kids to explore the history of California (and do some sightseeing!).  Since my youngest son is about to start the fourth grade here in California, I wanted to make sure he learned about and saw some important places in California (the fourth-grade history curriculum in California focuses only on California's history).  


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


Road Trip to Northern California


We drove to Northern California up Highway 101, which is the original path the Spanish established as El Camino Real (The Royal Road).  It was along this path that the Spanish, early in California's history, built 21 missions and four Presidios (forts).  Our first stop was the San Luis Obispo Mission which was Founded by Father Junípero Serra in 1772 as the fifth mission.  Learning about the Spanish Mission Era is an essential part of the curriculum in fourth grade.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


For us, this was the sixth Spanish mission we have visited.  If you ever visit California, I highly recommend visiting at least one of the missions, including the missions at San Juan Capistrano and Santa Barbara.  They offer a detailed look into life before statehood while the Spanish colonized Alta California.  

Here's another surprising fact about California history.  Who was the President who signed the document to return the missions back to the Catholic Church?  After México became the ruler of Alta California, the missions were either abandoned or sold off.  Believe it or not, it was Abraham Lincoln!  Yes, after California achieved statehood and fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War, Lincoln wanted to actually visit California but was assassinated before he got the chance.  In one of the last documents he signed before his death, he upheld the 1855 decision by the US Land Commission to return the missions to the Catholic Church.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


Capital of Spanish California


Monterey, located on the bay by the same name, was discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542.  He and other early California explorers mapped California for later expeditions.  Father Serra actually established a mission and presidio in Monterey.  The mission was moved to Carmel, but the Presidio stayed.  Monterey was also the capital of Mexican Alta California.  

California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


Of course, you can't go to Monterey without visiting the world famous aquarium!  Monterey Bay was important to the Spanish, and later the Russians who started building forts and outposts in California.  Why were the Russians in Alta California?  Sea otter furs!  That is one reason the sea otter almost became extinct in California.  But with the help of the aquarium, their numbers are roaring back! We also visited Cannery Row made famous by the California Pulitzer Prize winner, John Steinbeck, who was born in nearby Salinas, California.  

San Francisco or Boomtown, California!


Did you know that after gold was discovered in California in 1848, San Francisco (originally called Yerba Buena by the Spanish), went from about 800 people in 1847 to 25,000 in 1849!  Talk about unrestricted growth.  But San Francisco has also played many other roles in California History. Did you know that San Francisco is home to the Ellis Island of the west coast?  Yes!  Angel Island, now a California State Park, was the place immigrants from China and many other nations passed through to a new life in the United States.  


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.



San Francisco is also home to one the four Presidios the Spanish built to control Alta California.  The Presidio is now a national park with lots to see.  Though we didn't visit The Presidio on this visit, we did go to Chinatown, climb all they up Coit Tower and took a bay cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge.  By the way, the Spanish did NOT discover San Francisco Bay during the explorer period, but two hundred years later during the colonization period. Why? Fog of course!  The entrance to the bay was shrouded by fog each time the Spanish initially sailed by it.

California State Capital and Capitol


It was now time to head northwest towards Gold Country and the capital of California, Sacramento.  We stayed in nearby Folsom, which is about 20 minutes east of Sacramento.  This is where I learned something new about California History.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


During a tour of the State Capitol Building, our tour guide had many interesting stories not only about the building but about early California History.  It seems that after California became a state, the two California senators (Gwin and Broderick) who served California before the Civil War, were on opposite sides of the slavery issue!  It had gotten to the point, in which Senator Gwin, who was pro-slavery and a southern sympathizer, thought it a good idea to split the state between the north and the south.  The north would continue as a free state, while the south would allow slavery.  Of course, it never came to fruition though it was surprising to me that this was even considered!  If that doesn't surprise you, then did you know the other Senator from California, Senator Broderick was killed in a duel with the California Chief Justice, David Terry!


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


In the State Capitol Building, we were also given a tour of both the Assembly and Senator rooms.  They are completely different.  Surprisingly, they are modeled after the British Parliament.  The State Assembly room is green like the House of Commons, while the State Senate room is red like the House of Lords.  Also, the State Assembly is wired for the digital age with microphones, laptops and electronic voting screens.  The State Senate is a little more formal and does not have an electronic voting screen nor buttons for voting.  A State Assembly Person votes by touching a button on their desk which immediately shows up on the electronic voting screen.  A State Senator still has to vote with Yay or No and someone records the votes.   


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


In the State Assembly room hangs a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, who was very popular in California which helped elect him to the presidency.  In the State Senate room, hangs a picture of George Washington (a copy of a famous portrait and the oldest painting hanging in the Capitol building.  There's also a very interesting portrait of Governor Brown.  It is a state law that every California Governor must have his portrait painted after leaving office.  All the portraits hang in the building.  By modern times, the governors broke from tradition, including Governor Brown.  The tour guide said it took five sitting of three hours each for the artist, Don Bachardy, to get this expression.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


By the way, here's another surprising fact about California's move to be split to support slavery.  One of California's earliest governors, John Bigler, later became a Southern sympathizer.  California's deepest lake was named in his honor while he served as governor for two terms.  But with his support for slavery and the South, Lake Bigler was erased from history and renamed Lake Tahoe. Surprise!

The California Gold Rush!


It's 1848 and gold is discovered in California (which had not attained statehood yet until 1850) near Sutter's Mill on the American River.  This area is about 45 minutes east of Sacramento up in the hills in what is the town of Coloma.   Coloma is not a Spanish name but was named after a southern Maidu village.   The Maidu were one of California's earliest inhabitants.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


You can not talk about the Gold Rush without talking about the impact on California's Indians.  When the Spanish arrived in 1542, California was home to about 300,000 California Indians living very differently from each other.  California is divided into four regions:  Coastal, Central Valley, Mountain and Desert Regions.  Based on the region, California's Native Americans lived off the land and its resources.  California's Indians were for the most part hunters and gatherers, except for the desert tribes who were also farmers. 

California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


When the Spanish began building the missions, they used Indian labor.  It was very much slave labor. The Spanish Mission Era and the Mexican Rancho Era (the time in which México owned California) contributed to the demise of 100,000 California Native Americans.  However, it was the Gold Rush that triggered a genocide of California's Tribes.  

In the first two years of the Gold Rush, over 100,000 California Indians were killed.  The survivors fought back and tried to hang on but with over 100,000 settlers and gold seekers, there was little chance of surviving.  


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


"A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct." - California Governor Peter H. Burnett, January 1851.

If these are the official words of our elected officials, I believe that we teachers who teach about California History must present these historical facts to our students.  The Gold Rush always invokes a feeling of excitement, but it must also be presented as something more serious for the original inhabitants of California. 

California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


In Coloma is located California's Marshall Gold Discovery Site State Park. There you will see a replica of the sawmill James Marshall was building for John Sutter.  There are lots of other buildings and artifacts that show who came to find the gold:  there's a Chinese Store, the Chilean Mill, and the Mexican arrastre.  Most people think the mining was done with panning.  Not true.  Hydraulic mining was used in which a high-pressure hose literally tore off mountain tops (can you say strip mining). 



California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.


If you ever go to see this site, don't forget to see the Blacksmith. He will show you his skills and explain how blacksmithing was done back in the Gold Rush days.


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.

California's Symbols


Finally, one of the most important details I pointed out to my soon to be fourth grader was California's symbols.  From the Golden Poppy to the Roman goddess Minerva, symbols of the state were all over the State Capitol building.  The symbols on the state seal represent all of the histories of California.  Fourth graders learn all about California's symbols as they learn about its history.  


California History is an amazing and sad story all at once.  Read about my road trip to Northern California to explore California's History from the original inhabitants to the Gold Rush.



Check out this Digital Interactive Notebook for Google Slides that helps students research the most iconic of California's symbols.  



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/California-State-Symbols-Interactive-Digital-Notebook-for-Google-Slides-2937163?utm_source=www.twoboysandadad.com&utm_campaign=BlogCAHistory



The Digital Interactive Notebook for Google Slides is composed of 20 slides.  Students research using the web and video links embedded on the slides.  Students learn when the symbol was adopted, what it symbolizes and interesting facts about the symbols.  They also have an opportunity to write an opinion piece of which symbol best represents California.


If you're interested in more California History, follow my Pinterest Board,



Post a Comment
/>https://twoboysandadadteacher.blogspot.com/2016/09/how-i-present-back-to-school-night-with.html type='text/javascript'/>