Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

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

January 8, 2013
Using wikis for genealogy

RootCellarLogo.gifThe next meeting of the Sacramento Genealogical Society (Root Cellar) will feature a webinar on using wikis in genealogy.

What's a wiki? Generally speaking it's a online, collaborative encyclopedia that can be added to and edited by its users. But according to professional genealogist Thomas MacEntee, wikis can be used specifically by family historians to document their research and share it with other family members.

In this webinar (recorded in August), MacEntee will survey the various types of wikis and explain the basics for setting one up. Handouts accompanying the webinar will be available at the meeting.

What: Root Cellar Membership Meeting, "Wikis for Genealogists"
Where: Christ Community Church, 5025 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael
When: Jan. 10, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Cost: free, visitors welcome
For more info: email or website

January 7, 2013
California and the Civil War subject of multimedia presentation

Starr King.jpgThere were no major Civil War battles in California, but the state played a significant role as a source of gold and volunteer troops for the Union. It was also a state where pro-slavery sympathy was strong in some sections -- particularly in southern California where there were attempts at secession by splitting the state.

Two Grass Valley authors will survey the political and military history of California from the Mexican-American War through the Civil War in a multimedia lecture at the next meeting of the Sacramento Civil War Roundtable. Richard Hurley and TJ Meekins draw upon research gathered for their historical novel Queen of the Northern Mines. They'll relate stories of heroism and daring in the struggle to secure the state for the Union.

Space is limited, so please call 916-726-4432 to reserve a seat.

What: "California and the Civil War" at the Sacramento Civil War Roundtable
Where: Sam's Hofbrau, 2500 Watt Ave., Sacramento
When: Jan. 9, 7 p.m.
Cost: free and open to the public
For more info: contact Dennis at 916-726-4432 or email

PHOTO CREDIT: The Reverend Thomas Starr King, a San Francisco Unitarian minister who spoke out eloquently in support of the Union during the Civil War.

December 4, 2012
Preservation meeting features panel on Sacramento's "urban pioneers"

Real Food.jpgThe next Preservation Roundtable will focus on the "urban pioneers" who revitalized Sacramento's central city in the 1970s with their own brand of art, craft, local business and home restoration. Susan Ballew, former Sacramento County Historical Society president, will present a photos of the period, followed by a panel discussion with stained glass artist Mickey Abbey, Suttertown News publisher Tim Holt, and home restorers Bob and Roberta Rakela.

Two new local history books will also be featured: Friends of the McClatchy Library's Memories of McClatchy Library and SCHS's Daisy's Legacy, A Tale of the Progressive era in Sacramento.

Lastly, Roberta Deering, City of Sacramento Preservation Director, will update the group on current preservation projects.

Sacramento's Preservation Roundtable is "a quarterly gathering of local history and historic preservation organizations, intended to share current information on local preservation topics, public policy, events, and plans in progress."

What: Preservation Roundtable: Sacramento's Urban Pioneers, New People in Old Homes
Where: Midtown Village Cafe, 1827 I St., Sacramento
When: Dec. 8, 9 to 12 noon
Cost: free and open to the public
For more info: (916) 202-4815 or Sacramento Old City Association

Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: Sacramento Real Food Company, 1500 Q Street, circa 1970. Photograph by Mickey Abbey

November 26, 2012
Early Sacramento women featured in talk
Thumbnail image for Disaster and Triumph.jpg

Local author Cheryl Anne Sapp will discuss her book, Disaster and Triumph: Sacramento Women, Gold Rush through the Civil War, tomorrow at the next Sacramento County Historical Society meeting.

Although women constituted a small percentage of early Sacramento's population, they influenced the development of the city in many ways, according to Sapp. In biographical sketches she shows how six very different women displayed skill and tenacity in meeting the challenges of flood, fire and hardship.

Lorraine Dias Herbon will also give a brief talk based on her Golden Notes profile of her great aunt, "Daisy's Legacy, A Tale of the Progressive era in Sacramento."

What: Women Authors' Night: Presentations and Signings
Where: Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society, 5380 Elvas., Sacramento
When: Nov. 27, 7 p.m.
Cost: free, open to the pubic
For more info: website

November 25, 2012
Archiving basics for beginners

RP STATE ARCHIVE CONSTITUT.JPGAre you someone who is responsible for taking care of historical materials but lacks formal training in archival work? The State Archives is offering a one-day crash course in the art of collecting, organizing, protecting and displaying precious artifacts.

Topics include the proper handling of photographs, maps and multimedia records, copyright policies, security and environmental concerns, collection promotion and public access, and other essential issues.

The seminar will be led by Laren Metzer, Deputy State Archivist, and Teena Stern, archival and historical consultant. Workshop is limited to 30 participants, and the deadline for registration is Nov. 29.

What: The Basics of Archives workshop
Where: Secretary of State Multipurpose Room, 1500 11th St., Sacramento
When: Dec. 4, 8:30 to 4 p.m.
Cost: $50 per person
For more info and registration: Laren Metzer, 916-653-3844 or email

PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Lamb in the California State Archives vault holds the original copy of California's first state constitution in use from 1849-1879. 2006 Sacramento Bee photograph by Randy Pench

November 1, 2012
Become an Old Sacramento Living History guide

LS MUSIC FESTIVAL12.JPGHave a hankering to help teach local history by portraying an early California character?

Learn what it takes to become a living history volunteer at one of the orientation sessions offered by the Old Sacramento Living History Program this month.

OSLHP was formed in 1995 "to teach, while entertaining, the history of Old Sacramento and to create a living street museum with authentically costumed characters, performing re-enactments, giving tours, participating in events and promoting Old Sacramento."

What: Old Sacramento Living History Training
Where: 101 I St., Sacramento
When: Nov. 3 & 4, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
For more info: Janessa West at (916) 808-4980 or

FAQ about becoming a OSLHP volunteer

PHOTO CREDIT: Participants of the Old Sacramento Living History Museum make their way down the streets of Old Sacramento during the Sacramento Music Festival. 2012 Sacramento Bee photograph by Lezlie Sterling

October 29, 2012
Learn the tools and techniques of genealogy at the Family History Seminar

MAJ AFRICAN HISTORY.JPGGenealogical novices, experts and everybody in between will find useful training at the next Family History Seminar this Saturday. Participants will be able to attend five of 35 classes covering a range of tools and techniques, including DNA testing, document preservation, newspaper research, vital records, maiden names, German and Eastern European ancestry, military records and much more.

On-site registration is available, but space is limited so pre-registration is encouraged.

What: 7th Annual Family History Seminar
Where: Sacramento Regional Family History Center, 2745 Eastern Ave., Sacramento
When: Nov. 3, 8:30 to 3:30 p.m. On-site registration starts at 7:45 a.m.
Cost: pre-registration and electronic syllabus $10; paper syllabus $10; lunch $ 6.50
For more info: (916) 487-2090 or website

Class schedule
Registration form

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

June 25, 2012
1861-62 Sacramento floods provide insight into current risk

1862_FLOOD.JPGThis year's Extreme Precipitation Symposium at UC Davis will look back 150 years to the devastating winter floods of 1861-62 to try to glean lessons for understanding the climate risks this region faces today.

Among the speakers will be Sacramento City Historian Marcia Eymann who will survey the past floods starting in 1850. Geomorphologist Rene Leclerc will describe the hydrology of the Sacramento River Valley before the construction of dams and levees. And meteorologist Larry Schick will consider the implications of the 1861-62 deluge for assessing the current flood potential.

The conference relies in part on the historic work of Leon Hunsaker and Claude Curran, whose 2005 study Lake Sacramento -- Can It Happen Again? is an authoritative estimate of the extreme temperature, rainfall and snowfall conditions that produced the worst floods in recorded history.

Hunsaker, who worked as a local TV weatherman in the 1960s and 70s, now lives near Grants Pass, Ore. According to a recent profile by Cosmo Garvin in the Sacramento News & Review, the 89-year-old retired meteorologist still watches California's climate and still worries the Central Valley won't be prepared for the next Big One.

What: California Extreme Precipitation Symposium: The 1861-1862 Floods: Informing Decisions 150 Years Later
Where: Freeborn Hall, University of California, Davis
When: June 26, 7:45 am - 4:15 p.m.
Cost: $90 registration (students $45). Walk-in registrations will be accepted -- check or cash preferred.
For more info: website

PHOTO CREDIT: A scene from Jan. 10, 1862 shows flooded K St., looking east from 4th St. Center for Sacramento History

June 5, 2012
Alhambra Theatre remembered at preservation meeting

AlhambraDemo126.jpgThis quarter's Sacramento Preservation Roundtable features a photo presentation recalling efforts to save the Alhambra Theatre in 1972 through rock and vaudeville benefit shows. These concert photos, plus images of the movie palace's ultimate demolition in 1973, were shot by CSUS Hornet reporter Doug Taggart. Dennis Newhall, former KZAP music director and curator of Sacramento's Rock & Radio Museum, and SOCA President William Burg will provide historical commentary on the "Save the Alhambra" music and campaign.

In addition, the Roundtable will include an update on citywide historic preservation projects, a look at Old Sacramento's newly revised general plan, and a special presentation about the closure of many California historic post offices, including Sacramento's old post office and federal building.

What: Sacramento Preservation Roundtable: Images of the Alhambra
Where: The Urban Hive, 1931 H St., Sacramento
When: June 9, 9 to 12 p.m.
Cost: $5 donation, includes continental breakfast
For more info: email Sacramento Old City Association or call 916-202-4815

News release
Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: Demolition of the Alhambra Theatre in 1973. Photograph by Doug Taggart

February 10, 2012
Mission studies group to meet in San Rafael

Thumbnail image for San Rafael Mission.JPGCalifornia Mission Studies Association, a group "dedicated to the study and preservation of the California Missions, presidios, pueblos, ranchos and their Native American, Hispanic and Early American past," is holding its annual conference in San Rafael this year.

The three-day program consists of presentation of scholarly papers and tours of nearby historic sites.

The conference site is Mission San Rafael Arcangel, the 20th California Mission founded in 1817 by Father Vicente de Sarria.

What: California Mission Studies Association 29th Annual Conference
Where: Mission San Rafael Arcángel, 1104 Fifth Ave. San Rafael
When: Feb. 17-19
Cost: registration fee $85; students $30.
For more info: conference web site

PHOTO CREDIT: A view of Mission San Rafael in downtown San Rafael from Albert Park. 2008 Sacramento Bee photograph by Michael Allen Jones

January 11, 2012
Sacramento streetcars featured in lecture

K STREET STREETCAR.JPGThe next general meeting of the Elk Grove Historical Society includes a presentation by local historian William Burg speaking on streetcars and electric railroads that served Sacramento, its suburbs and nearby Northern California cities.

Burg will illustrate his lecture with historic photos and postcards documenting the golden age of intraurban and interurban mass transit that lasted from 1870 to 1947.

An expert in the history of urban development and transportation, William Burg is author of Sacramento's Streetcars, Sacramento's Southside Park and Then and Now: Sacramento, and is a staff writer for Midtown Monthly magazine.

What: "Sacramento's Streetcars," a lecture by William Burg
Where: Elk Grove Farm Bureau, 8970 Elk Grove Blvd #A.
When: Jan. 16, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Cost: free
For more info: (916) 686-8336 or Elk Grove Historical Society

Event flyer

PHOTO CREDIT: A streetcar on K St., looking east from 10th St. Sacramento Bee file photograph

June 8, 2011
Muscle car tune up workshop at the California Automobile Museum

If you're the type of person that enjoys wrenching on classic autos, then the California Automobile Museum (CAM) has an upcoming workshop for you! This Saturday, June 11, 2011, CAM is offering a six-hour course is muscle car maintenance.

According to the event calendar, the class "teaches tune up for '60s and '70s era muscle include the cranking system, engine condition, ignition and advance, base timing, fuel system performance tests, and service tests."

untitled.bmpThe course is certain to offer plenty of helpful tips for souping up your vehicle, plus it's a great way to meet like-minded car buffs and to support your local history museum community.

The California Auto Museum is located at 2200 Front Street, Sacramento, 95818. The class takes place on Saturday, June 11, 2011 from 9am to 3pm. Tickets are $85 for non-members, $75 for members. For additional information call: (916) 442-6802 or visit the museum website at:

May 12, 2011
Railroad Museum, Old Sac seeking volunteers for summer

All aboard the Volunteer Express!

Both the California State Railroad Museum and Old Sacramento State Historic Park are looking for folks 18 and older to give of their time this summer sharing tales of California's railroading and Gold Rush past with tourists.

Applications are due May 31, and all volunteer candidates will be screened.

Orientation begins June 25.

Volunteers are expected to spend 84 hours a year "on the job." Hours are flexible.

To learn more about the program, call the Railroad Museum's volunteer training coordinator at (916) 324-7593 or go to

-- Dixie Reid

April 21, 2011
Old Sacramento development plan now online

oldsac.JPGLast night the Old Sacramento State Historic Park unveiled its long-term development plan. As The Bee's Cathy Locke reported today, this "Draft Preferred Alternative" emphasizes the Gold Rush Era when thousands of fortune-seekers descended on the city.

This ambitious proposal includes a two-tiered exhibit displaying buried buildings of the 1840s-50s below ground, as well as structures of the 1870s at street level. In addition it envisions an excursion train running 17 miles to Hood.

A copy of the Draft Preferred Alternative -- PowerPoint Presentation and Graphics -- has just been posted on the OSSHP website. The public may submit comments about the plan in writing by May 6. These may be mailed to California State Parks, Capital District, 111 I St., Sacramento, CA 95814, or emailed to Please use the online Comment Card form.

A draft general plan and environmental impact report will be prepared and released next spring for a 45-day comment period. The general plan and environmental report will then be submitted to the California Park and Recreation Commission for approval.

PHOTO CREDIT: The open space next to the California State Railroad Museum would be the site of the two-tiered historic street display. 2011 Sacramento Bee photo by Randy Pench.

April 20, 2011
Sacramento's SP shops featured at next SCHS meeting

SactoB.gifThe Southern Pacific shops at Sacramento, the oldest and largest of the railroad, are the focus of this month's general membership meeting of the Sacramento County Historical Society.

Historian Bob Pecotich, author of Southern Pacific's Sacramento Shops: Incubator of Innovation, will lecture on the enormously productive facility which "built or rebuilt hundreds of steam and diesel locomotives, and thousands of freight and passenger cars, along with extensive work on passenger and official cars, in its history from 1868 to 1990."

Pecotich is also co-author of Southern Pacific Steam Pictorial, Vols. 1 & 2, which are heavily illustrated with photographs and statistics on dozens of vintage steam locomotives.

What: Sacramento's SP Railroad Shops
When: Tuesday, April 26, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society Building, 5380 Elvas Ave., Sacramento.
Cost: Free for SCHS members and the general public.
For more information: 916-443-6265 or

January 14, 2011
Flood model looks back to Sacramento's 1861-62 deluge

flood.JPGHere's a compelling example of when scientists look to history for insights on a present problem.

The U.S. Geological Survey just released the results of a two-year study which assesses the impact of a "worst-case" storm on California. To build their disaster scenario, researchers examined the largest storms of the past, including the 1861-62 deluge that dumped 30 inches of rain over a 45 day period. It transformed the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys into an inland sea some 250-300 miles in length. Flood waters inundated much of Sacramento, trapping citizens in their homes and destroying much of the commercial area. People used rowboats to navigate the city,

Bee environment writer Matt Weiser has been covering the USGS effort. His latest story is accompanied by four dramatic photos of Sacramento taken during the the great flood of 1861-62.

IMAGE CREDIT: Illustrated leaf from newspaper; depicts effect of flood on J Street, Sacramento, numerous individuals in boats. Exact source and date of clipping unknown. Center for Sacramento History.

January 14, 2011
CCHS offers first workshop in Sacramento

stockton.jpgThe Conference of California Historical Societies will host its first-ever workshop in Sacramento. It will focus on best practices for operating a local history groups, including fund-raising, board management and preservation. Representatives of the California Office of Historical Preservation will be presenting.

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Wed., Feb. 2, 2011.
Place: Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical History Museum, 5380 Elvas Ave., Sacramento.
Cost: is $30 for CCHS members and $45 for nonmembers (includes lunch).
Register by: Jan. 28.

CCHS (based in Claremont, Calif.) was founded in 1954 as a "federation of historical societies, museums, libraries, and other history-oriented groups and individuals.helps historians, and others who are interested in history, to connect and share information -- joining efforts to preserve records, artifacts, sites, and buildings." It also consults with local societies and small museums on management, acquisition, preservation and restoration.

Incidentally, the CCHS web site contains some important online resources, including articles, PDF copies of the California Historian Magazine and some beautiful vintage photo collections from places around the state.

PHOTO CREDIT: Early Main St. in Stockton. (Alice van Ommeren, author of Stockton in Vintage Postcards.)

January 6, 2011
Florin Historical Society to install officers, honor members

The Florin Historical Society will install new officers and present merit awards at a midday event on Saturday, Jan. 15, at The Promised Lodge, 7145 McComber St.

Social Hour begins at 11:30, lunch at 12 noon. Lunch costs $15 per person. There will be a raffle with some great prizes.

Mail your reservation by Jan. 8 to: Florin Historical Society, 7145 McComber St., Florin, CA 95828. Call Cindy Russell, 916-230-2360, or Ellen Tannehill, 916-947-9268, for more information.

Event flyer

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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