Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

February 28, 2013
African American genealogy seminar

Thumbnail image for Family History.JPGBeginning, intermediate and advanced classes on African American family genealogy will be offered at a day-long seminar next Saturday. Under the theme "Celebrating 150 Years of Emancipation," workshops will cover everything from using basic research tools to writing your family's history.

Keynote speaker is Regina E. Mason, author of  Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave, a book about her formerly enslaved ancestor turned fugitive slave.

Preregistration is encouraged to insure a spot in desired classes, but it is possible to to register on the day of the conference.

What: Eighth Annual African American Family History Seminar
Where: LDS Family History Center, 2745 Eastern Ave., Sacramento
When: March 9, 8 to 4 p.m. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.
Cost: $20 (includes materials and workshop; optional lunch is $6.50).
For more info: 916-487-2090 or website

PHOTO CREDIT: Elizabeth W. Stephens, left, 73, of Elk Grove and Hester McCoy Snider, 82, of Rocklin attends the 4th Annual Family History Seminar at the Sacramento Family History Center. 2009 Sacramento Bee photography by Michael Allen Jones

February 27, 2013
Pioneer women the focus of historic cemetery tour

Sac women.jpgThe next Historic Cemetery tour pays homage to California's pioneer women who held their migrant families together and helped settle the state amidst severe challenges. The played many roles in the early days of the city, including entrepreneurs, activists, reformers, politicians, teachers and medical pioneers.

As usual, knowledgeable cemetery docents will illustrate the topic with stories and references to grave markers.

What: "Pioneer Women: How the West was Really Won"
Where: Historic City Cemetery, 1000 Broadway, Sacramento
When: March 3, 10 a.m.
Cost: free, but donations appreciated that will help with cemetery preservation
For more info: call 916-264-7839 or 916-448-0811

Event flyer

IMAGE CREDIT: Advertisement from the 1861 Sacramento City Directory. Courtesy of the Center for Sacramento History

February 26, 2013
Placer County opens new archives and collections facility

Thumbnail image for Placer logo.JPGAfter much preparation, Placer County will unveil its new archives this week. The facility, which is actually two resources in one, should prove of great value to researchers and genealogists. It consists of the:

Archives: a repository of public records, some dating to the beginning of the county in 1851. These include court case, probate, school, property, voting, naturalization and other documents. There are also 15,000-plus photographs and bound copies of The Placer Herald.

Collections: thousands of carefully preserved artifacts that document centuries of Placer County history. These include baskets, textiles, artwork and many other items.

What: Placer County Archives & Collections Facility Grand Opening
Where: Placer County Government Center, 11526 C Ave., Auburn
When: Feb. 28, 3 to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: 530-889-6500 or website

February 25, 2013
Author to speak on a new history of Sacramento

sac-chronicles.jpgSacramento's evolution from Gold Rush trading post to sprawling state capital was a tortuous road marked by fires, floods, disease, wars and riots. (No wonder its motto is Urbs Indomita -- Indomitable City.) But Sacramento also enjoyed success and growth as an agricultural, transportation, governmental (and later) military hub.

The story of the city's triumphs and tragedies is told in a new general history penned by local writer and historian Cheryl Anne Stapp. In addition to the historical high points Sacramento Chronicles: A Golden Past covers the creation and preservation of key historic sites, such as Sutter's Fort, Governor's Mansion, Folsom Powerhouse, etc.

Stapp is also author of Disaster and Triumph: Sacramento Women, Gold Rush through the Civil War. She will read and sign her new book this Thursday at Time Tested Books. Stapp was interviewed about Sacramento Chronicles in a recent episode of Capital Public Radio's Insight program.

What: Sacramento Chronicles with Cheryl Anne Stapp
Where: Time Tested Books, 1114 21st St., Sacramento
When: Feb. 28, 7 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: 916-447-5696 or website

February 22, 2013
State Capitol celebrated in new Arcadia book

Sac Capitol Park.jpgFor five years the Golden State's capital floated from city to city before it landed permanently in Sacramento in 1854. Work on the Capitol began in 1860 and Sacramento's iconic domed building was finally completed in 1873. At the time it was the largest structure west of the Mississippi River.

The State Capitol's history is documented in a new illustrated volume containing some 200 black-and-white images borrowed from the California State Library, State Legislature, State Archives, State Capitol Museum, Center for Sacramento History and other local sources including author John Allen's own collection.

Professor Allen teaches history at American River College. He has guest curated exhibits at the Crocker Art Museum, California State Capitol Museum and the Folsom History Museum.

Sacramento's Capitol Park (Images of America series)
by John E. Allen
Arcadia Publishing
128 pages

Arcadia Publishing is known for producing small, richly illustrated books on local and regional history. It typically partners with local historians and organizations in developing its publications, which now number nearly 7,500 titles that celebrate communities all across the country.

February 21, 2013
Ski pioneer to share memories of Donner Summit

Ski resort pioneer and historian Norm Sayler will share his memories of life in the Sierra at the next meeting of the Sacramento County Historical Society.

SAYLER DONNER 3.JPGBorn in 1933, Sayler left Sacramento for the mountains in 1954 to serve as manager (and later president) of Donner Ski Ranch. In addition to his 46 years with the ski area, he devoted himself to preserving the history of Donner Summit. Sayler helped to designate old Highway 40 as a historic byway and helped to found the Donner Summit Historical Society.

The Bee published an article about Norm Sayler in 2001 when he sold Donner Ski Ranch to a Las Vegas development company.

What: "From Sacramento to Donner Summit" with Norm Sayler
Where: Sacramento Valley Medical Society Building, 5380 Elvas Blvd., Sacramento
When: Feb. 26, social time: 6:30 p.m., presentation: 7 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: (916) 443-6265 or website

PHOTO CREDIT: Norm Sayler shown on the slopes of Donner Ski Ranch. 2001 photograph by Robin Scarton

February 20, 2013
Black History Tour at the Old City Cemetery
cemetery civil war.JPG

As part of Black History Month in Sacramento, the city's African American pioneers will be honored at the next Historic Cemetery tour this Saturday. Knowledgeable docents from the Old City Cemetery Committee will explain the contributions of a several fascinating people, including runaway slaves, Buffalo Soldiers, restaurant owners, deacons and gamblers.

Established in 1849, the Sacramento Historic City Cemetery is the oldest existing cemetery in the region. It is the final resting place of many notable Californians including governors, mayors, Civil War veterans, volunteer fireman and countless early settlers.

What: Black History Tour
Where: Old City Cemetery, 1000 Broadway, Sacramento
When: Feb. 23, 10 a.m.
Cost: free, donations appreciated.
For more info: 916-264-7839, 916-448-0811 or website

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Clad in vintage uniform, Graylan Carso takes part in the Civil War at the Historic City Cemetery. 2008 Sacramento Bee photograph by Carl Costas

February 19, 2013
Legendary designer Ray Eames subject of new exhibit

CharlesRayEames_1948.jpgRay Eames: A Century of Modern Design, a new exhibit opening at the The California Museum on February 23, will explore the life and work of Sacramento-born design icon Ray Eames.

The display has been developed in partnership with Eames Office and includes rarely-seen artifacts from the Eames family archives - over 100 original works produced by Ray and Charles Eames. Curators are incorporating new research into Ray's early life in Sacramento and her work before meeting Charles in 1941. RayKaiserEames_1920s_paperdoll.jpgArtifacts, photographs, sketches, furniture, paintings and more representing 60 years of her professional work will present her as a pioneer for female artists in the field.

The Ray Eames exhibit builds on work done for the 2006 Sactown Magazine article, "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman," and the 2011 PBS American Masters documentary, Eames: The Architect and the Painter, with new research conducted by Carla Hartman, Education Director at Eames Office.

What: Ray Eames: A Century of Modern Design exhibit opening
When: February 23, 2013, 10:00 a.m. (on display through February 2014)
Where: The California Museum, 1020 O Street, Sacramento
Cost: Museum membership required for opening reception
For more info: (916) 653-7524 or

IMAGE CREDITS: (Top) Charles & Ray on a Velocette motorcycle, Venica, CA, 1948; (Middle) Childhood paper dolls, ca. 1920s; (Bottom) "To Hofmann with Love from Buddha," ca. 1941. All images used with permission, ©2013 Eames Office, LLC (

February 18, 2013
KVIE documentary examines the life of civil rights activist Nate Colley

NAT COLLEY.JPGKVIE public television celebrates Black History Month with the broadcast of a documentary on the life of Sacramento civil rights advocate Nathaniel S. Colley.

Colley, one of the city's first African American attorneys, was active with the NAACP for some 40 years. As NAACP legal counsel, he filed lawsuits that helped end racial discrimination in local housing. He also taught for 17 years at the McGeorge School of Law and was a power broker in the Democratic Party.

The Time is Now - The Civic Life of Sacramento's Nathaniel Colley was produced in collaboration with the Center for Sacramento History.

What: The Time is Now - The Civic Life of Sacramento's Nathaniel Colley
Where: KVIE ViewFinder documentary
When: Feb. 20, 7 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: website

Bee profile and obituary of Nathaniel Colley

PHOTO CREDIT: Undated Sacramento Bee photograph of Nathaniel Colley by Leilani Hu.

February 18, 2013
Celebrate Presidents Day with the Lincolniana collection

This month the Library of Congress is featuring the Alfred Withal Stern Collection of Lincolniana, a resource comprised of some 11,100 items. 1,300 of these items, available online, include  It contemporary newspapers, Lincoln's law papers, sheet music, broadsides, prints, cartoons, maps, drawings, letters, campaign tickets and other ephemeral gems.

You can search the online offerings by title, author and subject. A few things relate to California, such as November 1864 campaign tickets for the three congressional districts in the state. When Lincoln and Andrew Johnson ran in 1864, voters of the 2nd District (which covered Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Tuolumne Counties) elected William Higby of Calveras to Congress.

The Republican ticket below shows the party's choice of Electors, as well as nominees for President, Vice President and House of Representatives. (In those years the ballot listed the names of candidates for the Electoral College which picked the President.)

Lincoln ticket.jpg

IMAGE CREDIT: Library of Congress, The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

February 15, 2013
Conservancy leads history walks at Deer Creek Hills

deer creek hills.JPGThe Sacramento Valley Conservancy offers monthly guided history tours of Deer Creek Hills, a nature preserve of rolling grasslands and oak woodland located eight miles south of Folsom, and the next featured outing is coming next Saturday, February 23:

"Both geology and the history of gold mining that took place at Deer Creek Hills will be shared along the trail. Evidence of many different types of mining; sluice box, hydrology and flume ditches will be highlighted as you hike the preserve.

Your guides for this outing will be SVC Lead Geology Docent Robert H. Sydnor, Engineering Geologist & Hydrogeologist and SVC Lead History Docent, David Scharlach will share their knowledge and passion to gold mining history at Deer Creek Hills."

The Conservancy operates the 4,062-acre Deer Creek Hills under a management agreement with Sacramento County. Visitors to the preserve can enjoy free self-led hikes on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings or sign up for special activities including bird-watching, history walks and horseback riding.

What: Geology and Gold History walk
When: Saturday, February 23, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
Where: Deer Creek Hills
Cost: $10; limit 30 people
For more info: (916) 612-3719;

PHOTO CREDIT: Hikers enjoy Deer Creek Hills. 2007 photograph by Randy Smith.

February 14, 2013
Happy Valentine's Day

Published in The Sacramento Bee, Feb. 14, 1913:

February 12, 2013
Dinner to benefit Folsom Chinese museum

Chan House rendering.jpgChan House was once home to Oak Chan, considered the first mayor of Folsom's Chinatown, the second largest Chinese community in California in the 1880s. The Chan family lived in the residence until 1971. Preservationists want to restore the building and transform it into a museum to display local Chinese artifacts and commemorate the role Asian immigrants played in the development of the region and state.

Friends of Chan House are hosting a New Year's dinner to raise funds for the project. Seating for this 9-course, family-style banquet is limited, so make your reservation soon.

What: Chinese New Year Banquet
Where: Yummy Kitchen, 199 Blue Ravine Rd. Suite 100, Folsom
When: Feb. 20, 6 p.m.
Cost: $35 per person
For more info and reservations: Email Nancy Percy or call the Folsom History Museum, 916-985-2707

Event flyer

IMAGE CREDIT: Artist rendering of the proposed Howard Sr. and Mabel Chan House Museum. Courtesy Folsom Historical Society

February 11, 2013
Emigrant journeys explored at next Sutter's Fort event

SF HOH Feb. 2011 029.jpgIn the early days of the state, emigrants to California came long distances overland or by ship around the tip of South America. Their adventures will be explored at Sutter's Fort next "Hands on History" program.

Docents in period costumes will explain the special challenges these travelers faced on their journeys. They'll also lead demonstrations in which visitors get to weave rope, learn simple knots, pack wagons, work a nautical compass, create maps and do other fun educational activities.

In addition, the 1840s fife and drum corps will visit the Fort dressed in full military gear, ready to demonstrate marching and perform at a flag-raising ceremony.

What: Hands on History: By Land and By Sea
Where: Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, 2701 L Street, Midtown, Sacramento
When: Feb. 16, 10 to 5 p.m. Cannon firing demonstrations: 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Musket demonstrations periodically throughout the day
Cost: $7 per adult (18 and older), $5 per youth (ages 6-17), free for children 5 years and under.
For more info: 916-445-4422 or visit website

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Mexican-American War fife and drum corps performs at Sutter's Fort. Courtesy Sutter's Fort State Historic Park

February 8, 2013
Benefit dinner for Auburn's Chinese Museum

In the 1880s Chinese immigrants built a flourishing community along Sacramento St. in Auburn. Their buildings included laundries, card rooms, opium dens and a joss house (religious temple). Today, this latter structure serves as the town's Chinese Museum and History Center.

This year's benefit dinner for Joss House Museum will be held at the Happy Wok Restaurant. The featured speaker is artist and writer Rene Yung. Yung is Project Director of Chinese Whispers, an organization dedicated to the collection and sharing of contemporary folk memories of the Chinese who came to California and the West to help build frontier railroads and settlements.

What: Auburn Joss House Annual Fundraising Dinner
Where: Happy Wok Restaurant, Elm Center, 352 Elm Ave., Auburn
When: Feb. 13: 5:30 p.m. social seating, 6:30 p.m. dinner, program follows.
Cost: $28 per person. Make your reservation by sending a check to: Joss House Museum, P.O. Box 9126, Auburn, CA 95604.
For more info: 530-346-7121.

Event poster

February 7, 2013
Tuskegee Airmen honored at Aerospace Museum

Tuskegee Airmen.jpgThe Tuskegee Airmen were the first African Americans to serve as aviators during World War II.  They not only fought heroically in Europe, they also overcame prejudice and discrimination in the Army Air Forces. Their success helped prepare the way for desegregation of the U.S. military in 1948.

During Black History Month, the Aerospace Museum of California celebrates the Tuskegee Airmen with an exhibit featuring artifacts, equipment, uniforms and personal items belonging to Col. George S. "Spanky" Roberts, a local member of this elite group. The PBS documentary They Fought Two Wars will also be shown.

What: Tuskegee Airmen Exhibit
Where: Aerospace Museum of California, 3200 Freedom Park Drive, McClellan
When: February 2013, 9 to 5 p.m., except Sundays when open 10 to 5 p.m.
Cost: Adult $8, senior (65+) $6, youth (13-17) $6, child (6-12) $5, active military w/ID free, child 5 & under free.
For more info: 916-643-3192 or website

PHOTO CREDIT: Major James A. Ellison, left, inspects the cadets at the Basic and Advanced Flying School at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Ala, in 1942. AP Photo/U.S. Army Signal Corps

February 6, 2013
Museum demonstrations teach the state's agricultural history

Fordson Tractor.JPGThe Heidrick Ag History Center, a 130,000-square foot museum devoted to California's farming past, begins its monthly series of educational programs this weekend. Every second Saturday the museum will focus on a different type of vintage agricultural machinery.

On Feb. 9, museum docents will demonstrate the Monitor Rice Separator, which was used to isolate rice kernels from debris in Yolo County more than 100 years ago. On March 9, they'll show how custom engine bearings and other parts were made for the repair and restoration of antique machinery.

What: Second Saturday Educational Series
When: Feb. 9 and Mar. 9, 12 to 2 p.m.
Where: Heidrick Ag History Center, 1962 Hays Lane, Woodland
Cost: $10 non-members, $7 members, $5 kids 5-18, children under 5 free
For more info: contact Iulia Bodeanu at (530) 666-9700 or

News release

PHOTO CREDIT: Fordson tractor. Courtesy Heidrick Ag History Center

February 5, 2013
Biography explores life of Pomo basket weaver and medicine woman

Mabel McKay.jpgAuthor Greg Sarris has added a new preface to his 1994 biography of Mabel McKay, a respected scholar, basket weaver and medicine woman. Born in Lake County to Pomo parents in 1907, she devoted her years to preserving native culture and spirituality through her remarkable artistry and healing ability. In this volume Sarris recreated her life by weaving together her stories in the traditional manner. His new preface considers McKay's lasting influence.

Sarris is Chairman of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and the Endowed Chair in Native American Studies at Sonoma State University. He is author of Keeping Slug Woman Alive: Essays Toward a Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts, Watermelon Nights, Grand Avenue, and The Sound of Rattles and Clappers: An Anthology of California Indian Writing.

Mabel McKay: Weaving the Dream, with a new preface
by Greg Sarris
UC Press
paperback, 182 pages

February 3, 2013
A little Super Bowl history

It's Super Bowl Sunday! Time for a little 49er history.

The San Francisco football team first appeared in the super match-up on Jan. 24, 1982, beating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 in the Pontiac Silverdome. That was the first Super Bowl played in a cold-weather city. Placekicker Ray Wersching helped win the game with an amazing four successful field goals.

The 49ers would go on to win four more Super Bowls in 1985, 1989, 1990 and 1995.

The previous year the other Northern California team -- the Oakland Raiders -- won the championship game against Philadelphia, 20-10.

Thumbnail image for Super Bowl XVI001.jpg

Super Bowl XVI002.jpg

IMAGE CREDIT: Dennis Renault cartoon published before Super Bowl XVI in The Sacramento Bee on Jan. 23, 1982.

February 2, 2013
Dessert Tour benefits Sacramento Heritage
Sacramento Heritage logo.jpg

Here's a historic tour for people with a sweet tooth.

Next Saturday local historian William Burg will lead an architectural jaunt in Midtown Sacramento's diverse neighborhood. Architectural styles include Italianate, Queen Anne, Craftsman and revival, as well as Mid-Century Modern apartments. Along the way participants will can sample treats at four elegant dessert shops: Midtown Village Cafe, Rick's Dessert Diner, Trey B Cakes and Devine Gelateria.

Reserve a spot on the Dessert Tour at the Brown Paper Tickets website. Space is limited to 30 and the deadline is Feb. 7. Proceeds will benefit Sacramento Heritage, Inc., the local group dedicated to promoting and preserving the city's historic architecture.

What: Sacramento Heritage Dessert Tour
Where: starting at Midtown Village Cafe, 1827 I St., Sacramento
When: Feb. 9, 12 to 2 p.m.
Cost: $30
For more info: website

Event flyer
News release

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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