Genealogy Trails History Group

Fanning's Illustrated Gazetteer of the United States

State, Territories, Counties, Cities, Towns & Post Offices


Transcribed by Jeana Gallagher and Sandy Stutzman
for the exclusive use of Genealogy Trails

PT is post town; PV is post village; PO is post office, PB is post borough, CH is court house, T is town


State is bound north by Oregon, east by Utah & New Mexico, from which it is separated in part by the Rio Colorado, south by Sonora and Lower California in Mexico and west by the Pacific. Its superficial area is 190,000 sq miles.

Physical aspects--The general features of this state are mountainous and hilly, with the exception of the great valley of the Sacramento and San Joaquin, which covers an area of 500 miles in length, and 50 or 60 miles in width.  Here the surface is level, and the soil fertile along the borders of streams; but further back it is either arid and unproductive, or consists of extensive, low, alluvial marshes (tulares), thickly covered with rushes, which are traversed by numerous navigable creeks and streams.  The valley is bounded on the east by the Sierra Nevada, the most prominent range in the state, which runs nearly parallel with the coast, at a distance of 100 to 200 miles.  On the west of the valley lies another range of lesser mountains called the Coast range, some of them rising to the height of 3,000 feet, which also runs parallel with the coast, at a distance of 30 to 60 miles.  Among these hills are numerous valleys, some of which are highly fertile, and are surrounded by scenery of great beauty and picturesque effect.  The soil which appears to be best adapted to the purposes of tillage, is that embrace within the above named valleys, and those adjacent to Eel river, Humboldt harbor and San Francisco bay.

Mountains--The most prominent range of mountains in this state is the Sierra Nevada, along the western slope of which lie the far framed gold regions, extending over an area 400 or 500 miles in length and 30 to 60 miles in breadth.  This slope is intersected by numerous gorges or ravines, which afford egress to the tributaries of the Sacramento and San Joaquin, and presents to the landscape an aspect extremely picturesque, ragged, and rough.  In the coast range the most prominent are Carnero, Diablo and Santa Cruz mountains 

Rivers, Bays, Harbors and Lakes--The principal streams are, the Sacramento, San Joaquin, Klamath, Trinity, Feather, Yuba, Eel, Nappa, Calavera, Salinos, Guadalupe, Tuolumne, Moquelumne, Pajaro, Merced, Mariposa, Stanislaus, Fall and American rivers.  The bays worthy of note are, San Francisco, San Paublo, and the Suisun, all entered through the Golden Gate, which together form a harbor sufficient for the collected fleets of the whole world. They Afford good anchorage, and are completely land locked, and consequently are safe at all seasons.  Humboldt and St Diego harbors, and Trinidad bay are well protected from the ocean winds, and afford a safe anchorage.  The harbor of Monterey is good, but is subject to the swell of the Pacific at all times.  The country has some lakes, the most noted of which are the Tularosa, Owen's, Clear and Rhett.

Climate--The climate of California, which the exception of that in the valley of Sacramento, and San Joaquin from June to October, may be regarded as salubrious.  The dry season, in which little or no rain falls, lasts generally from April to November.  The rainy months occur from November to May, during which period it is estimated that nearly one third of the days are stormy.  In the region near the coast, snow rarely falls to remain in the valley's, but occasionally caps the mountains and larger hills; but further inland it is more frequent, and the Sierra Nevada is often capped with snow till snow falls again.  The annual inundations of the valley of Sacramento and San Joaquin occur in winter and spring, and the streams are frequently at great height in April and May, in consequence of the mountain snows.  The temperature of the coast, particularly in the northwestern part of the state, is mild during the year: but the climate of the coast at the south is much warmer, and in summer is often exceedingly hot.  The nights, however, are usually cool. The winter temperature in the valley of Sacramento and San Joaquin, and on the coast, is usually remarkably mild, ice seldom forming over an eighth of an inch thick, and morning frosts commonly disappear under the midday sun.

Productive Resources--Although California is not generally adapted to the purposes of profitable agriculture, yet there is land enough of the finest quality to supply a large population with their ordinary vegetables wants.  The valleys are exceedingly fertile, and will produce all of our common grain crops, without irrigation, with the exception of Indian corn.  Most of the ordinary vegetables require irrigation, and when properly cultivated, their yield and size are truly enormous.  The lands, however, in the vicinity of Humboldt harbor, are represented to be highly fertile, and in consequence of occasional showers, which occur in the course of the dry season, they need no artificial watering to produce the finest crops.  The rich alluvial soil of Tulares, it reclaimed by dikes, so as to afford the requisite inundation, doubtless would prove well adapted to the cultivation of rice.  The vine flourishes in different parts of the state, and wine has land been made at Los Angelos, and in other places.  Many of the recent settlers have commenced the cultivation of our northern fruits.  In the southern counties the orange, castor bean and some other tropical productions are cultivated with success.  Their country seems by nature to be peculiarly well adapted for grazing.  The valleys in spring and summer are covered with luxuriant vegetation, consisting of various wild grasses and the hills generally afford excellent pasturing during a large portion of the year, but less so than the valleys, in consequence of droughts.  The cattle of the country are generally owned by the native Californians, who often have herds of many thousands.  These though quite small, afford excellent flesh, and were formerly slaughtered in immense numbers for their tallow and hides, being the chief source of wealth of the inhabitants.  This state is not well timbers, except on the mountains.  On the range along the coast are extensive forests of cedar, which grow to an immense size, and furnishes a durable material for building.  Toward the north and east, at the base of the Sierra Nevada, are immense forests of gigantic pines, cedars, firs, and other valuable timber trees, some of which are said to exceed 15 feet in diameter, and 200 feet in height.

Mining--Omitting the lead, copper and silver mines, which have been discovered, but not worked, in California, its gold, and cinnabar, or quicksilver mines, may be said to constitute its principle resources.  The latter, though not much worked as yet, are regarded by many as most valuable mining property in the state; That at New Almaden, a few miles south of San Jose, is one of the richest veins in the world, yielding from 40 to 75 per cent, of pure quicksilver.  It is the opinion of the good judges that, if properly worked, this mine would yield full $1,000,000 per annum.  Although the existence of gold in this country had long been known, it never attracted general attention before 1848, when it was discovered near Sutter's Mill, on the south fork of American river.  Since that time it has been found on all of the principle eastern branches of the Sacramento and San Joaquin, as well as among the coast range on the tributaries of the Trinity and Klamath, in the northern part of the state.  In the spring of 1850 a new impulse  was given to the enterprise, from the discovery of numerous veins of auriferous quartz in Mariposa county, since which others, richly impregnated with the precious metal, have been successfully worked in various parts of the gold belt.  The discovery of quartz in Mariposa, led to a more careful examination of other parts of the state, when gold bearing quartz was found in almost every county along the foot hills of the Sierra Nevada, as far north as the northern branch of the Feather river; and the county of Nevada has probably more quartz mills now in operation than all the state besides; while El Dorado county has produced the richest quartz yet discovered, with perhaps the exception of the Carson Creek veins.  The production of the gold mines in 1852 is estimated at $70,000,000.  The gold is found under two general forms--interspersed in irregular veins of quartz in the contain rocks, and in lumps and scales, of all sizes down to "golden pebbles", metallic gravel, and sand, mingled with the aileron, or drift, which occurs in the bottoms of valleys and ravines, and in the beds of streams.  In general, the lose gold, or placers, is found at no great distance from he parents veins, from which it has been disintegrated, and washed down the slopes by mountain torrents or rills.  The scale or lump gold is found in the greatest abundance in the bottoms of the "gulches", or ravines, and in the banks and beds of the streams, particularly in the bars of sand and gravel, formed by the eddies or counter currents.  Most of the gold hitherto dug has been taken from such locations, the river banks and beds yielding the most abundantly at the lowest stage of the water, which usually occurs during the first two months of fall.  Sometimes the courses of the streams are diverted into new channels, by the erection of dams, in order to obtain the gold deposited in their beds.  This is termed "wet digging" and can best be preformed during the summer and fall.  The "gulches" or ravines, are usually free from water in the dry season, and hence the operations carried on in them during the spring and summer, are called "dry diggings", which may be divided into three classes: 1st, the sand or earth in which the gold exists is collected in the dry ravines, or plains, and conveyed to some lake or stream for washing; 2nd, where lumps and scales are obtained, by means of shovels, picks & est.. from the sides of mountains, distant from water; 3rd the old Spanish method, by winnowing, from a large wooden bowl, the fine earthly particles, after the ore has been dried and pulverized, leaving the gold in the bottom.  The modes of washing or separating the gold from the earth, are various.  The simplest method is the use of wooden bowl.  Some employ small wooden cradles, three or four feet long, with cleats or rockers.  Some use the "Long Tom", a structure eight or ten feet long, while others use the "Virginia rocker", amalgamating the gold with quicksilver. A great variety of other apparatus and expensive machines have been invented for separating the gold, some of which answer as admirable purpose: the "Burke" and the "Long Tom" are the general favorites, wherever an abundance of water is at command.  In cases, however, where the gold occurs in fine particles, blended with black sand or alluvion, it can not be separated to advantage without the use of mercury

Railroads--California has no railroads in operation as yet, though one has been projected from San Jose, the recent capital, to San Francisco

Commerce--San Francisco is the principle commercial port of California.  Its commercial resources are at present based upon it metallic wealth.  Gold supplies the medium of domestic exchange, and of foreign commerce.  San Francisco, therefore, is a matt for the competing trade of the whole world.  The number of arrivals and departures of vessels at this port are more numerous than those at any other port in the United States, New York alone excepted.  There are now about twenty ocean steamers traversing the pacific and connecting with ports on the Atlantic, about sixty engaged in the river trade and some four hundred other craft of various kinds navigating the rivers and bay,  It has also considerable direct trade with the South American states, China and the East Indies.

Education--The constitution of California makes the following provision for the support of common schools throughout the state; "the legislature shall encourage, by all suitable means, the promotion if intellectual, scientific, moral and agricultural improvements.  The proceeds of all land that may be granted by the United States to this state for the support of schools, which may be sold or disposed of, and the 500,000 acres of land granted to the new state, under an act of congress distributing the proceeds of public lands among the several states of the Union, approved AD 1841; and all estates of deceased persons who may have died without leaving a will or heir, and also such per cent as may be granted by Congress on the sale of the interest of which, together with all the rents of the may provide, shall be inviolably appropriated t the legislature shall provide for a system of common schools, by which a school shall be kept up and supported in each district at least three months every year."  The legislature is also required to provide for and to take measures for the improvement and permanent security of any funds arising from the sale of lands or from any other source, for the endowment and support of a university.

Government--The legislative power is vested in a senate and assembly.  Senators not less in number than one third, nor more than one half the number of members of the assembly, are elected by the people in districts, for a term of two years, so classified that one half may be chosen annually at the general election, on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  Members of the assembly are elected by the people annually in districts.  There shall never be more than eighty nor less than thirty.  The executive power is vested in a governor, and lieutenant governor, elected by the people for a term of two years.  They must be over 25 years of age, citizen of the United States, and residents of the state two years next before the election.  A secretary of state is appointed by the governor.  A comptroller, treasurer, attorney, and surveyor-general, are to be elected by the people at the same time, and for the same terms as the governor.  In elections by the legislature, the members vote viva voco--by the people by ballot.  The judicial power is vested in a supreme, district and county courts, the judges of al of which are elected by the people.  Every white male citizen of the United States, and every citizen of Mexico under the treaty of Queretaro, 21 years of age, resident of the state six months, and of the district, where he offers to vote 30 days proceeding the election, is entitled to vote.

History--California was first settled by the Spaniards, in 1602, but prior to the year 1697, the colonists were all expelled by the ill-used natives, when Charles II, of Spain, granted the country to the Jesuits, with the view of converting the Indians to Christianity.  Under their guidance, and the protection afforded by military posts in the vicinity of their missions, by the end of the last century, numerous flourishing towns had sprung up, around which gathered thousands of the natives, by whose labor in rearing herds, and cultivating the most fertile parts of the soil, the wealth and prosperity of the Jesuits became immensely great.  In 1824, California, constituted one of the provisions of the new republic of Mexico, by whose acts the missions were virtually broken up, the reclaimed Indians dispersed, many of them joining the wild mountain tribes, and in the course of time, from the superior knowledge and bad habits they had acquired from the whites, they became notorious for their thievish and marauding character.  In this state the country remain until 1846, when it was subjugated by the United States under the joint efforts of Stockton, Kearney and Fremont.  In 1848, it was ceded to our government by Mexico.  In September of the year following its constitution was formed, by a convention of delegates at Monterey, and ratified by the people in November following: and in 1850 it was admitted into the Union as an independent state.  The following is an explanation of the design on the state seal;--Around the bevel of the ring are represented 31 stars, being the number of the states in the Union, on the admission of California.  The foreground figure represents the goddess Minerva, having sprung full-grown from the brain of Jupiter.  She is introduced as a type of the political birth of California, without having gone through the probation of a territory. At her feet crouches a grisly bear, feeding upon clusters from a grape vine, which, with a sheaf of wheat, are emblematic of the peculiar characteristics of the country.  A miner is engaged at work with a rocker and bowl at his side: illustrating the golden wealth of the Sacramento, upon whose waters are seen shipping, typical of commercial greatness; and the snow-clad peaks of the Sierra Nevada make up the background.  Above is the Greek motto, Eureka ( I have found it) applying either to the principle involved in the admission of the state or to the success of the miners at work.  

Population--The population of Upper California in 1802 was estimated at 17,000; in 1831 was 23,025; and in the state of California in 1851, estimated at 165,000.

1850 Counties of  California

County Description Area in sq miles Courts held at Pop in 1850
Butte central part, eastern side of Sacramento river blank Butte 2,016
Calaveras no description blank blank 16,884
Colosi or Colusi not listed   Monroeville  
Contra Costa not listed      
El Dorado no description blank blank 6,842
Los Angelos south eastern boundary, on the Pacific ocean blank Los Angelos 3,530
Marin on the coast, north of San Francisco bay not listed San Rafael 1,036
Mariposa east side of Sierra Nevada Mts, with parallel of 38° for its northern boundary not listed Aqua Fria 8,969
Monterey western part on Pacific ocean blank Monterey 2,728
Napa western part blank Napa 2,116 (in 1852)
Nevada northeastern part, on western slope of Sierra Nevada, center of gold-quartz mining blank Nevada city 21,365
Sacramento central part, Sacramento river on west blank Sacramento 12,589 (in 1852)
San Diego southwest corner, Pacific ocean on west blank San Diego 3,530
San Francisco western boundary, Pacific ocean on west, San Francisco bay on northeast blank San Francisco 36,151
San Joaquin central part, crossed by San Joaquin river blank Stockton 5,929 (in 1852)
San Luis Obispo western boundary, extending from the summit of the coast range of mountains to the Pacific ocean, crossed by Nacimiento & Monterey rivers blank San Luis Obispo 984 (in 1852)
Santa Barbara on southwest boundary, Pacific ocean on west blank Santa Barbara 2,131 (in 1852)
Santa Clara in west part, with San Francisco bay on northwest blank San Jose 6,664 (in 1852)
Santa Cruz no description blank Santa Cruz 1,219 (in 1852)
Shasta in northeast corner, crossed by tributaries of Sacramento river blank Reading's Ranch 4,050
Sierra blank not listed not listed 4,855 (in 1852)
Sisiyou blank not listed not listed 2,242 (in 1852)
Solano in west part, Rio Sacramento river on south & east blank Benicia 2,835 (in 1852)
Sonoma western part, San Pablo bay on south blank Sonoma 2,337 (in 1852)
Sutter in northern part, crossed by Sacramento, American & Feather rivers, Honcut & Bear creeks blank Oro 1,207 (in 1852)
Trinity northwest corner, Pacific ocean western & summit of Coast Range of mountains as its eastern boundaries, crossed by Smith's river blank blank 1,764 (in 1852)
Tulare toward southern part, between Coast Range & Sierra Nevada mountains, crossed by tributaries of San Joaquin river blank blank 8,575 (in 1852)
Tuolumne central part, in valley of San Joaquin, between Coast Range & Sierra Nevada mountains, crossed by San Joaquin river blank Sonora 17,657
Yolo central part, extending from the summit of the Coast Range of mountains to the Sacramento river blank Fremont 1,307 (in 1852)
Yuba northeast part, crossed by Feather, Yuba & American rivers, Honcut & Bear creeks blank Marysville 22,005 (in 1852)


City, seat of justice of Sacramento Co, CA, 125 miles from San Francisco, on the east bank of Sacramento river, is the second city, in point of location and importance, in California.  It is the principal depot for the greater part of the northern mining district.  This city is destined to be of great importance, as it is the highest point to which steamers and other vessels can ascend at low water.  A good and substantial levee has been constructed around the city, to protect it from the overflow of the river, during the annual and occasional freshets.  The city is rapidly increasing, and must become a large commercial town, from the fact of its being central point in the northern section of the state.

The population in 1852 was about 8,000.

San Francisco, CA

The "Empire City" of the Pacific, and seat of justice of San Francisco Co, CA, stands on a narrow neck of land between the bay of San Francisco, and the ocean, fronting eastward on the bay, and having the ocean five miles on the west.  The bay is safe and commodious, being capable of holding the combined navies of the world.  It extends southward some fifty miles, parallel with the sea, from which it is separated by a narrow strip of land, varying from five to twenty miles in width.  The city of San Francisco is on the extreme point of this promontory.  Its site is handsome and commanding, being on an inclined plane half a mile in extent from the water's edge to the hills in the rear.  Two points of land--- Clark's point on the north, and Rincon point on the south---one mile apart, project into the bay, forming a crescent between them, which is the water front of the city, and which has already been filled in and covered with buildings to the extent of half a mile.  Those points, and the lofty hills north and west, upon which the city is rapidly climbing, afford a most extensive and picturesque view of the surrounding country.  There are scarcely to be found more charming and diversified prospects than are presented from these heights. 

For growing importance, commercial advantages, and the enterprise of its citizens, San Francisco deserves the rank of one of the great cities of the Union.  Although it has been repeatedly destroyed by fire, it has each time risen, phoenix like, from its own ashes, with new beauty and with greater splendor than before.  It contains a large number of elegant brick fire proof stores and banking houses, and the streets are paved with heavy timbers and planks, which will soon give place to more durable materials.  There are several daily lines of steamers to Sacramento, Marysville, Stockton, San Joaquin City, and other points on the rivers, and in the northern and southern mines; while ocean steamers ply from San Francisco to Panama and San Juan del Sur, the port of Nicaragua.  Vessels from the Atlantic coast, and all parts of the world, constantly arrive or depart.

The population in 1847 was 375 and in 1852 was 34,876.

Back to Index Page of 1850 Gazetteer

Genealogy Trails History Group
©Genealogy Trails