Born: March 2, 1819
Died: May 14, 1889
Known for: California's first millionaire, Sam Brannan owned a store at Sutter's Fort during the Gold Rush. He was also a real estate magnate who, with John Sutter Jr., subdivided 4 square miles along the Sacramento River, selling parcels for $200-500.
Background: A Maine native, Brannan moved to Ohio and New York before embarking with other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for California via ship around Cape Horn. Brannan established himself in San Francisco before opening the Sutter's Fort store where he stocked gold-panning supplies and profited handsomely. He became a leader of a group of Mormons who staked a claim on what became Mormon Island (now covered by Folsom Lake) but was later excommunicated. During the 1850s and 1860s, he bought land throughout the state and in Hawaii. He lost most of his fortune in a divorce settlement.
A highlight: Brannan's legacy is evident at Brannan Island in the Delta, Sam Brannan Middle School in Sacramento and Brannan Street in San Francisco. He also founded the village of Calistoga.
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.