Known for: William Alexander Liedesdorff was a debonair seafarer who became a business and civic leader in San Francisco before acquiring 35,000 acres in what is now Rancho Cordova and Folsom.
Background: The son of a white Danish planter and a black woman, Leidesdorf was born on the island of St. Croix. He earned a fortune through cotton speculation. In 1841, he sailed to San Francisco, where he owned a general store and opened the city's first hotel. Called "the first black millionaire," he also captained the first steamship in California. In 1844, he acquired a massive land grant from Mexico, which started at about the point where Bradshaw Road connects with the river. He operated it as a wheat farm and cattle ranch. After his death, his mother sold the land rights to Joseph Folsom for $75,000. A few months later, pioneers discovered gold in the region, raising the land's value to $1.5 million.
A highlight: In 2004, a stretch of Highway 50 from Bradshaw Road to the eastern Sacramento County line was named for Leidesdorff. In Folsom, the Sutter Street plaza and a residential road are named for him.
In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.