Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

March 31, 2011
Miwok Indian exhibit graces Elk Grove museum

Miwok.JPGThe Ione Band of Miwok Indians and the Elk Grove Historical Society have collaborated on a special exhibit currently running at the Elk Grove Hotel and Stage Stop Museum. The history of these Native Americans is told with photographs, baskets, arrowheads, necklaces, native plants and other artifacts. Visitors will get an intimate view of how the Miwok lived and how they coped with American western expansion.

In addition to the indoor exhibit, there are also ambitious plans to build in nearby Regional Park a replica of a Miwok village, complete with "a roundhouse, an acorn storage, a fire pit, a barkhouse, and a grinding rock used to grind acorns and other seeds for food," according to an Elk Grove Citizen story.

In response to the new exhibit, Citizen columnist Elizabeth Pinkerton began a series of articles on the history and legacy of the Miwok. In Part 1 she describes the geography, customs, culture and lifestyle of the Cosumnes River Indians before they encountered Europeans. In Part 2 Pinkerton explains what happened when settlers first came to the area that would become Elk Grove.

What: Miwok Exhibit
Where: Elk Grove Hotel and Stage Stop Museum, 9941 East Stockton Blvd.
When: Museum is open the first Saturday of the month from 12 to 4 p.m. (runs through October)
For more info: call (916) 685-8115 or e-mail

PHOTO CREDIT: Francisco Ruiz performs a traditional dance with members of the Miwok Dance and Culture Group at Pavilions in Elk Grove Regional Park in 2007. Sacramento Bee photo by Kevin German

March 31, 2011
Artists wanted for plein air day in a historic setting

California State Parks and the California State Indian Museum today issued a call for artists to participate in the second annual Plein Air Day on May 14.

The open-air painting event will take place on the shared grounds of Sutter's Fort State Historic Park and the Indian Museum.

Artists can register by calling (916) 324-0971 by May 6. The first 25 who sign up will receive a gift from the Indian Museum.

The general public is welcome to watch the artists at work outdoors between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The California State Indian Museum is at 2618 K St., Sacramento. For more information on museum exhibits and events: (916) 324-0971,

-- Dixie Reid

News release

March 31, 2011
Cesar Chavez: some online resources

Chavez.jpgLast Sunday some 400 union members, friends and family braved the wind and rain to commemorate the birthday of Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers. The actual state holiday is March 31, which would have been the 84th birthday of the civil rights leader.

The Internet has an abundance of valuable historical information on Chavez and the farmworkers. Here are some highlights:

Cesar E. Chavez Research Center. The California Education Department's repository of essays, interviews, documents, photographs and letters related to Chavez and the UFW.

Resources for the Public. A California Education Department collection that includes a biography, speeches, interviews, newspaper articles, documents, tributes and scholarly articles.

Calisphere Cesar Chavez materials. More than 1,600 photos, posters, letters, interviews and other documents.

Center for Sacramento History. Online catalog of images, many from The Sacramento Bee.

FBI Records. FOIA documents on Chavez and the farm labor movement.

Fight in the Fields. Timeline, quotations and historical articles that supplement the PBS documentary film on Chavez and the farmworkers' struggle.

PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Kennedy joins Cesar Chavez at the end of his 1968 fast in Delano. Photo by the San Jose Mercury News.

March 30, 2011
The Sacramento Public Library joins the Online Archive of California

Appleton coll.JPGThis week the Sacramento Public Library joined the Online Archive of California (OAC), an online searchable database of finding aids to archival collections from around 200 California repositories. 

The Sacramento Room at the Public Library has a few dozen small archival collections from local individuals and organizations, the bulk dating from 1880-1920. In addition, the Sacramento Room maintains the Sacramento Public Library records: blueprints, clippings, reports, minutes, scrapbooks, newsletters, photographs, and more - about 150 linear ft. of material covering past and present library branches and dating back to the founding of the Sacramento Library Association in 1857.  Finding aids to the small collections will be made available through the OAC over the next few months.  A guide to the records of the library will be online this summer.

To view finding aids for Sacramento Room collections, visit the Sacramento Public Library OAC page.  Visit to search collections from other California repositories.

PHOTO CREDIT: A box and its contents from the Appleton Family Papers (MC 7).  The finding aid to this collection is currently available through the OAC. Photo by Amanda Graham.

March 29, 2011
Secrets of Sacramento's Vault

Have you ever wondered what sort of unusual or mysterious items might be held at the City's archives? If so, here's an opportunity for you to find out. By "liking" the Center for Sacramento History's Facebook page, you will receive a fun and informative weekly update called, "Secrets of the Vault."1978-x-04-003.jpg

Each and every Tuesday, Center staffers post an image of a recently-discovered object or photograph to the Archive's Facebook page. The "discoveries" include lesser known images or artifacts from the City's collections.  

Past posts have featured images of an acrobatic squirrel performing at the State Fair, local boxing champion Pete Ranzany, Sacramento High School's 1935 Glee Club, and Iselton's turn-of-the-century one-room schoolhouse.

This week's post is of a 1950s era advertisement for the Sacramento Bee's bygone feature "California Country Life." It provides a glimpse into the past- a time when the newspaper cost just ten cents.

IMAGE CREDIT: Center for Sacramento History, City of Sacramento Collection, 1978-x-04-003.

March 29, 2011
Archaeologists to converge on Sacramento

More than 3,000 archaeologists from around the world will meet in Sacramento tomorrow for the 76th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. The sessions will consider a wide range of subjects and time periods, including several of interest to California scholars. In his walk-up to the conference, The Bee's Matt Weiser describes research on the close relationship of Central Valley Indians and their dogs.

Among the other state-related papers, symposiums and forums to be offered:

Symposium: California I & II. These sessions "will highlight recent research on pre-contact, contact-era, and post-contact California emphasizing aspects of the region's past that are mirrored in its present."

Symposium: Ishi, Repatriating the Story. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the last Yahi, "we provide a venue for addressing the meaning of Ishi and his entrance into civilization, as well as his importance academic history, Native Americans, California, local historical societies, and the general public."

Symposium: Small Islands, Big Implications: The California Channel Islands and their Archaeological Contributions. "Through inter-island comparisons, this session will highlight the tremendous importance of the Channel Islands and their contributions to archaeology as a whole."

Symposium: Prehistoric Occupation of in the Ballona Lagoon, West Los Angeles. "This session details human behavioral responses to a changing physical and cultural world over 8,000 years of native occupation in the Ballona, in west Los Angeles."

Symposium: Bioarchaeological and Archaeological Perspectives on Migration and Health in Prehistoric Central California. "This symposium offers an array of papers drawing upon new archaeological and osteological data from numerous sites around San Francisco Bay and the Central Valley."

Symposium: The Sacramento River and Its Mounds, A Fresh Look at Its Prehistory. "Looking at the fields of paleobotany, faunal remains, and geoarchaeology; analyzing artifacts from old collections and ongoing excavations, and applying a variety of theoretical backgrounds provides a more thorough look at the prehistoric lifeway of the Sacramento River watershed."

Paper: California, A Land of Violence. "There is evidence for a wide range of violence and war throughout California's pre-European past."

Paper: The Last Meals of the Yahi, Contact Period Faunal Remains from Kingsley Cave. "Comparison of these remains with the underlying prehistoric materials may provide a window into the refuge survival strategies employed by Ishi and his fellow Yahi in the decades preceding 1911."

What: Society for American Archaeology, annual meeting, open to the public
When: March 30 to April 3, 2011
Where: Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St.
Registration (on-site, nonmember): $205; $165 students
More info: or (202) 789-8200

March 28, 2011
Margaret Crocker remembered in online series

Sacramento philanthropist Margaret Crocker is the subject of a 2-part series recently penned by local historian Lance Armstrong for Valley Community Newspapers. Armstrong's focus is the May 6, 1885 grand celebration honoring Crocker for her many contributions to the city that included the donation of land and Bell Conservatory to the city cemetery, the Marguerite Home for "aged gentlewomen," and most notably, the E.B. Crocker Art Galley (now known as the Crocker Museum). The event took the form of an elaborate flower festival held at the then-new Pavilion of the California State Agricultural Society (15th and N Streets). The affair drew thousands of well-wishers and was described as "the most magnificent floral fete in the world's history."

To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Crocker Art Gallery in 1985, The Bee published a lengthy profile of Margaret Crocker written by freelance author Lillieanne Chase.

March 27, 2011
In History's Spotlight: Phil Isenberg

Phil Isenberg.jpgBorn: Feb. 25, 1939

Known for: Phil Isenberg served for seven years as Sacramento mayor (1975-82) and 14 years in the state Assembly.

Background: Isenberg, the son of a state parole hearing officer and a school administrator, graduated from El Camino High School and went to California State University, Sacramento. In 1967, he earned his law degree at the University of California, Berkeley's Boalt Hall and went immediately to work as a lawyer in Willie Brown's San Francisco law office. In 1969, he came back to Sacramento to open a law office. Two years later, he began serving two years as a member of the Sacramento City Council before becoming mayor. During his tenure in the Legislature, he specialized in a variety of governmental activities, including the state budget and state-local government financial relations. He serves on a variety of boards of directors, including WEAVE (Women Escaping a Violent Environment) in Sacramento.

A highlight: During the 63-day delay in passing a state budget in 1992, Isenberg and Republican Sen. Frank Hill proposed an alternative budget that helped lead to an eventual settlement of the deadlock.

In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were compiled by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.

March 25, 2011
Old Sacramento train rides and underground tours to resume

A new season is beginning in Old Sacramento the weekend of April 2-3.  The ever-popular Sacramento Southern Railroad will begin its 28th season with excursion train rides departing every hour on the hour from 11-5 on weekends. In addition, the Old Sacramento Underground Tours will start their second year with weekend tours. In the 1-hour walking tours, guides explore excavated foundations of historic buildings and enclosed walkways in Old Sacramento.

Tickets for the Sacramento Southern Railroad excursion train rides can be purchased online or in-person at the Southern Railroad ticket office (Front Street between J and K) on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10:30 a.m. For more information, visit the California State Railroad Museum website.

Tickets for the Old Sacramento Underground tours can be purchased online, in-person at the Sacramento History Museum, or by calling (916) 808-7059. For more information, visit the Old Sacramento Foundation website.

Museum press releases

March 24, 2011
Sacramento Spring Antiquarian Book Fair

Anyone interested in Sacramento and Northern California history will want to brave the wind and rain to attend this Saturday's Sacramento Spring Antiquarian Book Fair, which will be held at the Scottish Rite Temple, 6151 H Street in Sacramento, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Printed material will be available on almost any category one can imagine, and most dealers tend to emphasize locally oriented books and ephemera. General admission is $5.00, but free passes to this event can be found at numerous libraries and bookstores. Further information is available at, by contacting, or by calling 916-849-9248.

March 24, 2011
The Remarkable Women Trail

Amy Tan.JPGBefore Women's History Month ends, we ought to spotlight a slick web exhibit profiling some of the notable women who helped shaped modern California.

With photos, videos, timelines and biographical sketches, The Remarkable Women Trail celebrates 15 individuals who contributed in a variety of ways -- not only to the state -- but to the nation as a whole. Featured are writers Joan Didion and Amy Tan, artists Mabel McKay and Ruth Asawa, and philanthropists Concepcion Arguello and Bridget Mason. Astronaut Sally Ride, labor activist Dolores Huerta, pioneering chef Alice Waters and tennis great Billie Jean King are also included.

Remarkable Women Trail is hosted on the California Museum web site. This online resource complements California's Remarkable Women, one of the museum's current exhibitions that chronicles the lives of some 200 people.

California Museum
1020 O Street, Sacramento
Hours: Mon-Sat 10-5 pm, Sun 12-5 pm
Contact: (916) 653-7524 or email 

PHOTO CREDIT: Internationally acclaimed author Amy Tan. Photo by Robert Foothorap.

March 23, 2011
Doolittle Raiders spent time in both Sacramento and Willows

Hornet CV8 - DR B-25 launch 80-G-330672.jpgAs every WWII history buff knows, the USS Hornet aircraft carrier (CV-8) is famous for its role in a daring bombing raid on Tokyo lead by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle early in the war. But did you know that 22 of the B-25 "Mitchell" bombers spent time at the Sacramento Air Depot being modified for the April 1942 mission? Now there's recently uncovered evidence that some of the planes were flown to Willows for further practice after their overhaul in Sacramento.

According to Bob Fish, a Trustee at the USS Hornet Museum, a May 1942 report by Navy Lt. Henry L. Miller clearly states that he trained Army flight crews in "short-field take-off technique" at the airfield in Willows. Attached is a copy of Miller's declassified report and Fish's background memo.

Thumbnail image for Hornet - DR carrier launch practice Stork.jpgThis year is the 69th anniversary of the Doolittle raid. There are only five Raiders still alive. The annual Doolittle Raider's reunion will be held in Omaha, April 14-17. The USS Hornet Museum in Alameda will commemorate the Doolittle Raid on April 16 (press release).

Incidentally, the USS Hornet (CV-12) berthed in Alameda is the successor to the carrier that launched the Tokyo bombing run. The latter warship was sunk at the Battle of Santa Cruz in Oct. 1942. The former is famous not only for distinguished service during WWII, but also for recovering the Apollo 11 space crew that made the first landing on the Moon in 1969.

This Hornet now serves as a museum at the former naval station in Alameda. The ship is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Visitors are welcome to explore parts of the ship on their own or with a guided tour.

PHOTO CREDIT: USS Hornet (CV-8) launches a B-25 bomber (top). A B-25 practices a short-field takeoff (bottom). Photos courtesy of Bob Fish.

March 22, 2011
California Indians subject of new exhibit

capt jack.jpgCalifornia Indians: Making a Difference is a new permanent exhibit at the California Museum. It celebrates the history and contributions of the more than 150 tribes which populated the state before the arrival of Europeans. Through display of art, photographs, documents and interactive presentations, the story of Indian cultural adaption and survival will be told.

Notable among the items to be exhibited are examples of the finest Indian baskets crafted in California; a buckskin jacket worn by Captain Jack, last of the Modoc warrior chiefs; and a Channel Islands pygmy mammoth reproduction. According to a recent Sacramento Press story, a private collector is loaning the museum a cloak worn by Ishi, the last of the Yahi clan who lived isolated from American society until 1911.

The exhibit officially opens on March 31. Museum members will get a sneak peek at the evening opening reception on March 30.

The California Museum
1020 O St., Sacramento
Hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Saturday and noon - 5 p.m. Sundays.
Admission: $8.50 for adults, $6 for youths and free for children 5 and under.

PHOTO CREDIT: Captain Jack, aka Keiutpoos, who lead the Modoc in the California-Oregon Indian war of 1872-73. 1873 photograph by Louis Heller, National Archives.

March 21, 2011
Jim Henley's "Small Bites of Sacramento History"

In the early 1960s, a Sacramento State graduate student by the name of Jim Henley had two choices. He could either earn midterm credit in his public history course by taking a written examination or he could participate in the difficult cleanup of a burned-out building in Old Sacramento. Surprisingly, the young man opted to do the grueling hands-on work. 

The less conventional approach to coursework not only introduced Henley to the profession of historic preservation, it gave him his first taste of the seedier side of Sacramento's then "skid row". Only moments after arriving at the field site for the first time, Henley witnessed a horrific altercation between two men that eventually led to murder. Despite the fact that Old Sacramento was quite rough in those days, Henley recognized its positive potential.

Over a period of forty years, Henley grew from an inspired graduate student to the primary advocate for Sacramento history, eventually becoming official City Historian. He played an active role in the establishment of Old Sacramento as an historic district, helped build the Sacramento History Museum, and oversaw the development of the City's archives, currently known as the Center for Sacramento History

In the accompanying video, James E. Henley, who retired from the role as City Historian in 2007, discusses one of fifty-five "Small Bites of Sacramento History." In this installation, he provides the background story to Sacramento's central city gridded street pattern.


Over time, Sac History Happenings will feature additional segments from "Small Bites of Sacramento History." Henley's "bites" may also be accessed through the Center for Sacramento History's YouTube channel. 

March 20, 2011
In History's Spotlight: Dale Brown

Dale Brown.JPGBorn: Nov. 2, 1956

Known for: Dale Brown, a former Folsom resident and U.S. Air Force captain, is the author of a string of best-selling military-action-aviation adventure novels.

Background: A Buffalo, N.Y., native, Brown graduated from Penn State University with a degree in western European history and received a U.S. Air Force commission in 1978. In 1986, Brown left the Air Force, where he worked as a navigator, to write books. While stationed in Sacramento, he and his wife "fell in love" with the area and stayed after his retirement. His wife, Diane Brown, retired from the Sacramento Police Department, where she worked as a lieutenant. They now live in Incline Village, near Lake Tahoe. Brown's latest novel, "Strike Force," went on sale earlier this month. Other recent best-sellers include "Edge of Battle," "Act of War," "Plan of Attack" and "Air Battle Force."

A highlight: Brown is a director and volunteer pilot for AirLifeLine, a nonprofit national charitable medical transportation organization that flies needy patients free of charge to receive treatment.

In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were compiled by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.

March 18, 2011
Visit the National Archives at San Francisco for regional history

sf-regional-archives.jpgThe National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is headquartered in Washington, D.C., but in addition to its facilities in the Capital area, the agency operates presidential libraries and records centers across the country. San Francisco (San Bruno) is home to one of the Pacific Region records centers and is a worthwhile destination for anyone researching genealogy or looking for historical records from Federal agencies and courts in Northern California.

The National Archives at San Francisco has archival holdings dating from the year California joined the Union (1850). These holdings include documents, photographs and maps, and cover a range of topics of particular interest to our region, including Asian immigration, migrant labor camps, public land use, WWII employment, agriculture, aviation and mining. The records center also receives copies of many significant National Archives publications on microfilm, which include records that support the study of U.S. history, political science, genealogy and more since the Revolutionary War. In addition, the Archives provides access to extensive genealogical holdings such as census, naturalization and military service records.

For more information and to begin your research at the National Archives at San Francisco visit or call (650) 238-3501.

PHOTO CREDIT: National Archives at San Francisco facility in San Bruno, California. Courtesy of

March 18, 2011
A family history writing contest

Here's motivation for finishing that family chronicle you've been meaning to write. Enter Root Cellar's Family History Writing Contest.

The Sacramento Genealogical Society is looking for "factual articles about family or local history, character sketches, or memoirs. Submissions should relate the experiences of a family or individuals, revealing their character and personality. The best entries will display the human drama and historical or social situation of the subjects."

Entries should be 500 to 2,000 words in length and may include images or documents, though the judges consider only writing for this contest. See complete description of prizes and contest rules. The deadline for submissions is April 30. Winners will be announced by May 25. For more information, contact Ron Setzer,

To help get you started, here are Ten Easy Steps to Writing Your Family History from Ancestry Magazine.

UPDATE: Winning essays announced (May 24, 2011)

*  *  *
Root Cellar is also sponsoring a 1-day class in which participants will learn a variety of online tools for researching ancestors. Guest instructor is Geoff Rasmussen, genealogist with Legacy Millennia Corp.

Root Cellar Spring Seminar
April 9, 2011. 9:00-3:45 p.m.
Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church
11427 Fair Oaks Blvd.
Pre-registration required (use this online form)
$22 - Root Cellar Members
$27 - Non-Members (application on website)
$32 - After March 31st
Lunch optional - pre-order only - with registration
For more information:
Sammie Hudgens (916) 481-4930
Billie Helms (916) 991-5971

March 17, 2011
Guide to online death indexes

Local genealogists will want to know about an online guide to searchable death indexes and records, which can be accessed at This site provides links to indexes for every state, including California, as well as some for selected major urban areas in the United States, among them Los Angeles, New York, and St. Louis.

While we're on the subject, remember that you can browse current Sacramento area news obituaries and paid funeral notices on The Bee's web site.

March 16, 2011
Everyone's a winner at History Day competition

SCHD.JPGSacramento County History Day is history. I really enjoyed helping to judge the competition last Saturday. The sophistication of entries varied to be sure. But given the hard work that went into each project (not to mention the courage to face a panel of judges), in my mind every student was a winner. Check out The Bee's coverage of the live performance category.

The county event was the first tier in the 2011 National History Day contest. Those who qualified will go to the state competition to be held in San Jose starting April 28. From there, an elite group of California students will attend the national finals at the University of Maryland, June 12-16. See the attached list of Sacramento County winners.

This year's contest theme is Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences. It's a broad concept which invites students to think deeply about great issues and diplomatic turning points. Local entries covered a range of topics: Native American boarding schools, Cuban Missile Crisis, Salem witch trials, nuclear nonproliferation, integration in baseball, Hetch-Hetchy dam and much more. Students explored these subjects in six categories: 2-dimensional display, documentary, exhibit, paper, performance and web site.

PHOTO CREDIT: Beth Self portrays Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American feminist and social reformer during the 2001 Sacramento County History Day at CSUS. Sacramento Bee / Hector Amezcua

March 16, 2011
News from the California State Military Museum

The California State Military Museum has recently acquired a German Mauser Gewer 1871/84 11mm rifle, a collection of several hundred unit insignia, and a Vietnam-era RT-10 rescue transmitter-receiver. On Saturday, March 19 at 1PM the museum will be hosting a lecture and booksigning for Expendable Warriors: The Battle of Khe Sanh and the Vietnam War by Bruce B. G. Clark. On April 10 at 1PM will be a similar event for Final Flight: The Mystery of a WW II Plane Crash and the Frozen Airmen in the High Sierra by Peter Stekel.

Below, from the California State Military Museum's collection, is a section of fuselage of a Japanese aircraft that crashed into the U.S.S. California during the American landings at Lingayen Gulf in the Phillipines on January 6, 1945.



March 15, 2011
Calisphere remembers Rosie the Riveter

rosies.JPGThe Allies were able to win World War II partly because the United States transformed its industrial capacity to produce the massive amount of weapons, ammunition and equipment needed by the troops. With so many men in uniform, women stepped up to fill the labor shortage in war industries. Richmond was the center of west coast ship building. By the end of the war one-third of the 90,000 workers there were women.

Calisphere, the University of California's catalog of digitized historical resources, celebrates Women's History Month with a collection of photos from the Richmond Shipyards. A few of these were taken by famed photographer Dorothea Lange. The most amusing image is a dress code poster that advises female workers not to come to work in high heels, jewelry and nylon stockings.

The contributions of "Rosie the Riveter" (or "Wendy the Welder," as she was known in California) are memorialized at the WWII Home Front National Historic Park in Richmond. The park has a terrific online exhibit filled with articles, photos, artifacts and oral histories of women shipyard workers. In 2000 The Bee published a story about the planning of the Rosie the Riveter memorial which later opened in 2003. The article includes an interview with Ollie M. Hawkins, an African American woman who started working in the shipyards at age 18.

PHOTO CREDIT: Richmond Shipyard welding crew. Courtesy of the Clem Family and the Rosie the Riveter Project

March 14, 2011
State Library's "Food for Thought"

The California State Library will resume its "Food for Thought" event series on March 16 with a screening of the film The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Florence "Pancho" Barnes was a 1920s aviatrix who went from rebellious tomboy to Mexican revolutionary to barnstormer to Hollywood stunt pilot. 

This event will take place in the library's California History Room located in Room 200 at 900 N Street. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the program starts at 6 with time for discussion afterwards. Due to limited seating, attendees must RSVP to Rebecca Fontaine at 916-653-9942 or

March 13, 2011
In History's Spotlight: Darius Ogden Mills

Darius Ogden Mills.JPGBorn: Sept. 5, 1825
Died: Jan. 3, 1910

Known for: Darius Ogden Mills was a merchant, banker and philanthropist who made his fortune during the Gold Rush. He founded Bank of California.

Background: Mills accompanied his brothers, James and Edgar, to California in 1849. Mills invested his savings in miners' supplies and, working with his brothers, sold enough goods to earn the nucleus of a fortune. He opened his first bank in his brothers' Sacramento store. In 1852, Mills erected a bank building at 226 J St. He became a dominant figure in Pacific Coast banking circles. He was president of the Bank of California, established in 1864 in San Francisco, and later a leading figure in the Bank of New York. Three Mills hotels in New York for homeless men were internationally famous. The D.O. Mills Bank was moved to Seventh and J streets in 1912 and later merged with the California National Bank, which closed in 1930.

A highlight: In 1883, Mills donated to the state of California a marble statue of Christopher Columbus soliciting assistance from Queen Isabella of Spain for his pioneering journeys. It is displayed in the first floor of the state Capitol.

In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were compiled by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.

March 12, 2011
Dredging is focus of Delta history meeting

The reclamation of the Sacramento Delta through dredging and levee construction is a remarkable engineering feat in the history of California.

For more than 100 years the Dutra Group has been working to maintain the levees that protect thousands of aces of Delta farmland. The company operates the Dutra Museum of Dredging in Rio Vista to celebrate their contributions. Exhibits include scale models of dredging equipment used to scour the rivers and sloughs of the Delta over the years.

The Sacramento River Delta Historical Society will hold its next general meeting at the Dutra Museum. March 15, 7 p.m., 345 St. Gertrude's Ave., Rio Vista (across from the high school). For more information contact Tom Herzog at (916) 871-4060 or email

Press release

March 11, 2011
Internet Archive offers wealth of Sacramento history resources

illustratedhisto00davis_0005.jpgPerhaps one of the most useful sites for accessing public domain print resources on early Sacramento history is the Internet Archive. In addition to capturing and preserving Internet sites, the Internet Archive, a non-profit organization founded in 1996, has spent years building an impressive digital library that draws from the collections of numerous repositories and digital libraries. Contributors include Harvard University, the Library of Congress and Project Gutenberg.

The Internet Archive is the home to nearly three million texts, half a million movie recordings and over 800,000 audio recordings, all in the public domain and freely accessible. Items of particular interest to those researching Sacramento history include early county histories, biographies of Sacramento-area pioneers, and transcripts of hundreds of oral histories captured by the Regional Oral History Office at the Bancroft Library. Visitors can conduct full-text searches and view titles using a special in-browser interface, or they can choose to access documents in a variety of other formats including PDF, ePub (for most e-books) and Kindle.

Visit to search the Internet Archive and to learn about other Internet Archive projects.

IMAGE CREDIT: Title page of An Illustrated History of Sacramento County, California by Winfield J. Davis, 1890.

March 10, 2011
New novel depicts Mexican-American experience in early California

Santa Maria.jpgMexican Americans aren't prominent in historical fiction and movie depictions of early California. When they do appear, says writer Fausto Avendaño, they are often treated stereotypically.

Avendaño is a novelist, poet and playwright, who retired last year after teaching Spanish language and literature for 37 years at Sacramento State. His latest book, Santa Maria, is intended to paint a more balanced picture of Mexican-American life in the first decades of the state. It's the story of two families--one Mexican, one Anglo--who are "caught up in the turmoil of the 1850's, a time of upheaval, when Mexican rural society is turned upside down."

"The main thing I want people to understand about the book is that Mexican-Americans have a story to tell during the 1850s and that they were not absent and were here all along and that it was a very difficult time for them," Avendaño said in a Valley Community Newspaper interview.

The struggles and loss of land of Mexican Americans are major themes in Santa Maria, as well as in Avendaño's prior novel, Salazar's Gold.

You can purchase both books at the web site, where you can also download the first chapter of Santa Maria for free.

March 9, 2011
Portrait of the last living WWI vet

Frank Buckles, the last known living veteran of World War I, died on Feb. 27 at age 110. The 16-year-old Buckles enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917 by convincing recruiters he was 21. He served in France as an ambulance driver.

To commemorate his passing, a student at St. Helena High School painted his portrait in watercolor. The artist, Georgia McCain, is a member of the WWI Research Institute at the school. The Institute, which began as an elective class in 2008, is a team of dedicated students who study the Great War under the guidance of a history teacher. The group maintains a permanent exhibit in the school library that includes uniforms, medals, diaries, letters, photos, scrap books and written memoirs. Their web site includes war photos, posters and brief articles related to the conflict.

IMAGE CREDIT: "In Memoriam: Mr. Frank Woodruff Buckles, February 1, 1901-February 27, 2011" by Georgia McCain.

March 8, 2011
Sutter's Fort celebrates pioneer women

women.JPGSutter's Fort continues its popular Hands on History lecture series with "Hearth & Home," a program celebrating the essential role women played in 19th century overland migrations to California. Docents will explain how women fed, clothed and kept families together in the face of great hardships and dangers. And participants will enjoy hands-on demonstrations of sewing weaving and candle making.

Hands on History: Hearth & Home
Sutter's Fort State Historic Park
2701 L Street, Midtown, Sacramento
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Fort hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cannon firing demonstrations: 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m.
6.00 per adult (18 and older), $4.00 per youth (ages 6-17), free for children 5 years and under
Call 916-445-4422 or visit

Press release

PHOTO CREDIT: Judy Prey, who plays the character of Mrs. Townsend at Sutter's Fort, reflects on what is was like to be a pioneer woman during Women's History Month in 2007. Sacramento Bee photo by Lezlie Sterling

March 7, 2011
Robert Louis Stevenson Galleys in State Library Collection

A recent addition to the California History collection at the State Library are printer's galley proofs from the unpublished 1880 edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Amateur Emigrant. These galleys, numbered 17 through 20 and all on one sheet, were hand-corrected by Stevenson himself and also by editors Sidney Colvin and C. Kegan Paul. Stevenson wrote The Amateur Emigrant as the first part of an account of his journey to America in 1879 (along with The Silverado Squatters). Criticism from family and friends postponed its publication until 1895, when The Amateur Emigrant was issued in highly edited form after Stevenson's death (portions of it appeared as "Across the Plains" in Longman's Magazine during 1883).

Galleys of most of the original edition of The Amatuer Emigrant reside in the Beinecke Collection at Yale University, which contains only a photocopy of numbers 17 through 20. This particular piece was long a part of the collection of San Francisco bookseller John Howell.

Below, from the State Library collection, is an early twentieth century photo of the "Stevenson House" in Monterey. Originally owned by Don Rafael Gonzales, this structure, as the French Hotel, was where Robert Louis Stevension stayed during his visit to California in 1879. 

Stevenson house.bmp 


March 7, 2011
Old Sac Underground Tour tickets now available

underground.JPGOld Sacramento's ever-popular Underground Tours resume April 2 and you can reserve a spot now. Tickets may be purchased online, in-person at the Sacramento History Museum or by telephone, (916) 808-7059. Ticket prices: Adults $15; Youth (6-17) $10; Children (5 & Under) Free; Historic Old Sacramento Foundation members $12.

What do you see on these tours? After a brief introduction to the early years of the city, docents take participants below street level to see "excavated building foundations, exposed brick retaining walls, and Sacramento's famous 'hollow sidewalks.'" Back above ground they point out "interesting architectural and landscape features reflecting the street-raising project and the district's Gold Rush origins." See the Tour FAQ for more information.

Sacramento's "underground" was created in the 1860-70s when city leaders raised the streets 10-12 feet to protect them from recurring floods. Some buildings were elevated with jack screws. Others had their first floors transformed into basements.

Check out KCRA's video report shot in the catacombs, as well as past Bee stories on the tour program.

PHOTO CREDIT: Janessa Gonsalves of the HOSF, left, leads a tour beneath the the B.F. Hastings Building in Old Sacramento in 2006. Sacramento Bee photo by Andy Alfaro.

March 4, 2011
WWII casualty lists now online

honorlist.gifGenealogists and military historians will appreciate the online availability of World War II-era casualty lists that have been scanned by the National Archives.

The War Department published these booklets in 1946 with the "intent was to disseminate the information to the general public in a timely manner, for the benefit of next of kin, and even with an eye towards the needs of veterans and patriotic organizations". Each volume covers an individual state and may be retrieved and browsed using the Archival Research Catalog.

The Army and Navy Departments issued separate and differently organized lists. The Army series is entitled World War II Honor List of Dead and Missing Army and Army Air Forces Personnel. Organized by county, these state booklets lists the names of soldiers and airmen who died (or were missing) during the war along with their serial numbers, ranks and types of casualty (KIA, MIA, DOW, etc.).

The Navy version, entitled State Summary of War Casualties, displays the dead and wounded among the sailors, marines and coast guardsman who served. These state volumes are organized by casualty type, then alphabetically by name. The entries include rank and the name, address and relationship of next-of-kin.

March 3, 2011
Sacramento Public Library shares history through Flickr

1929 Children's Reading Room.jpgThe Sacramento Public Library joined Flickr this week with a fun selection of photographs spanning eight decades of the Library's history. The featured images capture library life from 1908 through 1988, and include views of early reading rooms, card catalogs, librarians, library programs and community events. Visitors to the Library's Flickr photostream can revisit library branches no longer in operation and see a few examples of obsolete library technology.

All of the images featured on the Sacramento Public Library Flickr page were selected from the Sacramento Public Library records, which is comprised blueprints, clippings, reports, minutes, scrapbooks, newsletters, photographs, and more - about 150 linear ft. of material covering past and present library branches and dating back to the founding of the Sacramento Library Association in 1857.Thumbnail image for 1964 Reference Desk.jpg

PHOTO CREDIT: Girls in Japanese dress celebrate the Japanese Feast of Girls in the Children's Room at the Main Library, 1929 (Top right); Irma Grimshaw mans the Information Desk at the Main Library, 1964 (Bottom right).  Both photographs are courtesy of the Sacramento Public Library.

March 2, 2011
Railroad Museum to debut crate art exhibit

The California State Railroad Museum will debut a new exhibit this Friday, March 4, entitled "Pick Me! Fruit Crate Art and the California Dream." More than 80 visually stunning crate labels dating from the 1880s through the 1950s will be on display.  

After the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, colorful labels graced the sides of crates carrying California products destined for the East.  Through their striking design and vibrant colors, the labels communicated images of the California Dream. The "Pick Me!" exhibit will not only feature crate art, but also the mechanics of refrigerated shipping.  Children and adults will also have the opportunity to design their own label art.

"Pick Me! Fruit Crate Art and the California Dream" will be on exhibit March 4, 2011 - March 30, 2012.  For more information, visit the California State Railroad Museum website at or call (916) 445-6645.

Press Release

March 1, 2011
Online exhibit launches for Placer's Bernhard Home

Bernhard.JPGOne of the oldest surviving buildings in Auburn is the main house of what is known as the Bernhard Museum Complex. Built in 1851 as the Traveler's Rest Hotel, it became home to the Bernhard family in 1868, who later added a vineyard and winery on the grounds. The 2.3-acre complex opened to the public in 1982. It now consists of a residence, wine storage building, wine processing building, and a barn.

Bernhard is part of the Placer County Museums Division. To give interested people more access to permanent and temporary collections of the six museums administered by the agency, the Division created a blog for online exhibits. Last month it featured photographs showcasing the five upstairs bedrooms of the Bernhard home. Aside from the rooms themselves, you'll get a closeup look at vintage clothing, furniture, toys and other antique items.

Bernhard Museum Complex
Location: 291 Auburn-Folsom Rd., Auburn                                                                     
Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays, 11:00 am - 4:00 pm; closed Holidays
Admission: Free
To Schedule a group tour: Call (530) 889-6500

PHOTO CREDIT: Kasia Woroniecka, Curator of Collections at the Bernhard Museum Complex in Auburn, looks over a child's bedroom in the House Museum. 2009 Sacramento Bee photo by Lezlie Sterling

About Sac History Happenings

California and Sacramento have a long, rich, vibrant history. And our region is blessed with an abundance of historical resources maintained by museums, libraries, archives and societies. This blog aims to alert readers to the latest developments in local/state historical education and research.

Send tips concerning upcoming exhibits, tours, lectures and meetings, as well as new books, magazine articles and online collections to the blog's contributors.

The Contributors:

Michael Dolgushkin

Michael Dolgushkin is Manuscript Librarian at the California State Library History Section. He is co-author of San Francisco's California Street Cable Cars and is a frequent contributor to the California State Library Foundation Bulletin. Contact him at

Amanda Graham

Amanda Graham is a Certified Archivist working in the Sacramento Room of the Sacramento Public Library. She earned a BS in History from Southern Oregon University and a MS in Information Studies with an emphasis in archives from The University of Texas at Austin. Contact her at

Pete basofin

Pete Basofin is Director of Editorial Research at The Sacramento Bee. He previously worked at The St. Petersburg Times and Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune. Contact him at

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