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San Francisco Gold Rush Chronology

Related Museum Links

“Ranch and Mission Days in Alta California,” by Guadalupe Vallejo

“Life in California Before the Gold Discovery,” by John Bidwell

California Gold Rush Chronology 1846 - 1849

California Gold Rush Chronology 1850 - 1851

California Gold Rush Chronology 1852 - 1854

California Gold Rush Chronology 1855 - 1856

California Gold Rush Chronology 1857 - 1861

California Gold Rush Chronology 1862 - 1865

An Eyewitness to the Gold Discovery

“Discovery of Gold in California,” by Gen. John A. Sutter

William T. Sherman and the Gold Rush

Military Governor Mason’s Report on the Discovery of Gold

San Francisco During the Gold Rush Era

Steamer Day in the 1850s

Sam Brannan Opens New Bank - 1857

February 4, 1846
The ship “Brooklyn” left New York bound for San Francisco with members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints aboard. They had been instructed to “flee Babylon.” They departed for California the same day other Saints left Navoo, Illinois, following clashes with settlers over polygamy. The party from Navoo was to meet Sam Brannan’s group at Yerba Buena.

March 13, 1846
Col. Castro issued a proclamation that declared John Frémont and his party to be a band of highwaymen.
April 18, 1846
Pio Pico confirmed as governor by the Mexican government, and was sworn in at Los Angeles. Castro was named Commandante General.
May 23, 1846
United States declared war on Mexico after American troops were killed while crossing the Nueces River. Commodore Sloat had been instructed, upon hearing of any war with Mexico, to establish American authority in California.
June 14, 1846
John Frémont launched the Bear Flag Revolution, and established the California Republic. William. B. Ide served as President of the Republic of California until July 9. Governor Vallejo was also taken prisoner during the skirmish and was moved to Sutter’s Fort. Bear flag raised at Sonoma.
June 15, 1846
U.S. Treaty with Great Britian set the Oregon boundary at the 49th parallel. Expansionists in Congress disagreed, and used the slogan “54-40 or Fight.”
June 24, 1846
Col. Castro’s forces from Monterey, under the command of Joaquín de la Torre, fought the “Battle of Olompali” north of San Rafael with Frémont’s troops from Sonoma. Two Americans and five or six Californios were killed.
July 1, 1846
John Frémont crossed to the Presidio with his Republic of California forces and spiked 10 Spanish guns. He also gave the name “Chrysoplylae” or “Golden Gate” to the entrance of the Bay.
July 2, 1846
Commodore Sloat anchored at Monterey aboard the “Savannah.” He hesitated to follow his secret orders lest he commit the same grave error as Commodore Jones in 1842. Thomas Larkin advised the Commodore to move cautiously.
July 5, 1846
Frémont returned to Sonoma and organized the “California Battalion” to carry on the revolution. Marine Lt. Archibald H. Gillespie was appointed adjutant.
July 7, 1846
American flag raised at Monterey by Commodore John Drake Sloat, U.S.N. Sloat decided to take possession of California because he feared the British might occupy Monterey, and he was concerned about the reported revolution in Sonoma. The Commodore told the people of Monterey that he came to bring greater political freedom and stability, and henceforth California would be a part of the United States.

Population the pueblo of Yerba Buena estimated at about 1000 non-natives. There were about 50 buildings in the pueblo.

July 8, 1846
Capt. Montgomery took formal possession of Yerba Buena and appointed Lt. Washington Allen Bartlett the first American Alcalde because he spoke fluent Spanish. This appointment was later ratified by a vote of the people.
July 9, 1846
Captain James B. Montgomery of the “U.S.S. Portsmouth” and 70 marines and sailors marched to the Plaza, hauled down the Mexican flag and raised the Stars and Stripes.
July 11, 1846
The American flag replaced the California Republic flag at Sutter’s Fort today.
July 12, 1846
First public Protestant worship was conducted by Capt. Montgomery.
July 23, 1846
Commodore Sloat turned command over to Robert F. Stockton at Monterey because of ill health. Commodore Stockton’s grandfather was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
July 31, 1846
The “Brooklyn” arrived in port with 230 Mormons under the leadership of 26-year-old Samuel Brannan. He was to meet other Mormons who were crossing the country from Illinois.
August 2, 1846
General Vallejo was released from Fort Sutter.
August 10, 1846
Commodore Stockton’s frigate Congress arrived in San Francisco Bay.
August 14, 1846
Mormon Elder Sam Brannan preached a sermon in front of Richardson’s Casa Grande.

Commodore Sloat appointed Navy Lt. Washington Bartlett as alcalde of Yerba Buena until elections could be held.

August 15, 1846
The weekly “Monterey Californian” was published, half in Spanish and half in English, in Monterey. The idea for the newspaper came from Commodore Stockton. Naval Chaplain Walter Colton, the first American Alcalde of Monterey, and frontiersman Robert Semple, found Augustín V. Zamorano’s old press in a storeroom, and printed their publication on it. Zamorano had published California’s first book in 1834, as well as all proclamations of various Mexican governors.
September 15, 1846
Election held at Yerba Buena at the custom house, known as the "Old Adobe." Ninety-six ballots were cast, and Lt. Bartlett was elected Alcalde.
October 8, 1846
Californios resisted American occupation and routed the forces of Capt. Gillespie of the U.S. Marines in the “Battle of the Old Woman’s Gun” in Southern California. Los Angeles remained in rebel hands for three months.
November 2, 1846
Donner Party crossing the Sierra stopped for the evening and were trapped by a snowstorm. Many of the party survived by eating the flesh of the dead. 40 of the 87 people in the Donner party died. They remained snowbound until February.
November 16, 1846
American and Mexican militia battled at Natividad, near Salinas.
November 18, 1846
First “Thanksgiving Day” celebration observed.
December 6, 1846
Californio rebels killed 22 Americans under Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny during the “Battle of San Pascual” in southern California. Rebels were protesting the Martial Law regime of Capt. Gillespie who had been placed in charge of the ciudad of Los Angeles.
January 9, 1847
Yerba Buena’s first newspaper, “The California Star,” published its first issue on the press Sam Brannan brought with him from New York. Brannan was the publisher and Dr. E.B. Jones, editor.
January 10, 1847
Gen. Kearny and Commodore Stockton recaptured Los Angeles from Californio rebels.
January 13, 1847
“Capitulation of Cahuenga” ended all organized resistance to American rule in California. All rebels were pardoned by Gen. Kearny.
January 16, 1847
Russian brig “Constantine” from Sitka arrived in the harbor.
January 23, 1847
“California Star” printed Alcalde Bartlett’s letter to Commander Joseph B. Hull of the Northern California Naval District asking for an investigation of allegations against him by the paper which said he had misappropriated funds. Also printed was Hull’s reply which exonerated Bartlett.
January 24, 1847
Beginning today, all stray hogs in Yerba Buena must be securely penned or the hogs will be confiscated. The owner would also be fined $5.
January 28, 1847
Army lieutenants William Tecumseh Sherman and Edward Otho Cresap Ord arrived in Monterey. Later it was rumored that Lt. Ord was a cousin of Queen Victoria.
January 30, 1847
Yerba Buena renamed Town of San Francisco by order of Alcalde Bartlett. The order was published in the “California Star.”
February 22, 1847
As one of his last official acts, Alcalde Bartlett certified the accuracy of the new town plan for San Francisco before the County Recorder.

Edwin Bryant was elected and sworn in as Alcalde replacing Lt. Bartlett.

March 1, 1847
W. Brandford Shubrick, Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Naval Forces at Monterey, issued a proclamation today: “To all whom it may concern. Be it known that the President of the United States has invested the undersigned with separate and distinct powers, civil and military,” in the California territory. Brig.-Gen. Kearny was named civil governor.
March 10, 1847
Governor Kearny, at the capital in Monterey, issued a decree authorizing the sale of beach and water lots on the east front of San Francisco.

Jasper O’Farrell surveyed the new city which covered about one and one-half square miles.

March 15, 1847
Company F of Col. Jonathan D. Stevenson’s Seventh Regiment of New York Volunteers arrived aboard the ship Brutus to fight in the Mexican War. Stevenson St. was later named for the colonel.
March 26, 1847
Capt. John L. Folsom arrived as quartermaster of Stevenson’s regiment. Folsom St. was later named for him.

12 members of the Russ family arrived overland to join Adolphus G. and Frederick Russ who came to California with Col. Stevenson’s volunteers.

March 27, 1847
12,000 American troops captured Vera Cruz, Mexico.
April 1, 1847
Count of structures in Yerba Buena showed 79 buildings that included 22 shanties, 31 frame houses and 26 adobe dwellings.
April 19, 1847
Mail service between San Francisco and San Diego began twice a week by two soldiers on horseback.
May 2, 1847
First Protestant Episcopal service conducted by Rev. Thaddeus M. Leavenworth, a Connecticut Episcopalian who had been chaplain of Col. Stevenson’s Volunteers.
May 31, 1847
Col. Richard B. Mason, appointed governor of California, replacing Brig. Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny.
June 1, 1847
Alcalde Bryant resigned to return to the East.

“The Californian,” formerly the “Monterey Californian,” is now published in San Francisco.

June 2, 1847
George Hyde was appointed Alcalde. He came to Yerba Buena aboard the “Congress,” and served as a clerk to Commodore Stockton.
June 8, 1847
Brush growing near town caught fire and caused much consternation.
August 19, 1847
Capt. Sutter and John Marhsall entered into an agreement to construct a lumber mill on the American River at a place known to the Indians as “Culloomah”
September 13, 1847
First town council elected. Members were William Glover, William D.M. Harwood, William A. Leidesdorff. E.P. Jones, Robert A. Parker and William S. Clark.
September 14, 1847
American troops captured Mexico City.
November 2, 1847
Court-martial of Lt. Col. John C. Frémont began in Washington, D.C. Gen. Kearny had charged him with mutiny and disobedience for siding with Commodore Stockton in an Army-Navy dispute over authority in California after Los Angeles was captured from the Mexicans.
December 29, 1847
Gov. Mason ordered that all civil cases exceeding $100 be tried by jury.
January 7, 1848
James Lick arrived in San Francisco and purchased the fifty-vara lot on the northeast corner of Jackson and Montgomery streets from S.J. Ellis.
January 11, 1848
Town Council attempted to ban gambling in San Francisco.
January 24, 1848
James Wilson Marshall and Peter L. Wimmer discovered gold at the new lumber mill under construction on the American River.
January 31, 1848
Court-martial of Lt. Col. Frémont ended. He was found guilty, but President Polk offered a full pardon and restoration of Frémont to the Army. Frémont refused, saying acceptance would be an admission of guilt.
February 2, 1848
Brig “Eagle” bought first shipload of Chinese workers to San Francisco.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally ended the Mexican War, and California was ceded to the United States. All persons then living in Alta California were granted U.S. citizenship. Claims were also ceded to lands in Texas, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and part of Colorado.

March 15, 1848
“The Californian” reported gold was discovered along the American River at a sawmill owned by Capt. John A. Sutter. News was not widely believed in San Francisco.
March 18, 1848
“California Star” reported that non-Native population of San Francisco was 575 males, 177 females and 60 children.
March 25, 1848
News item in the “California Star” about the discovery of gold did not stir excitement in San Francisco.
April 1, 1848
Dr. Victor John Fourgeaud wrote about the “Prospects of California” in today’s “California Star,” a special edition for distribution in the East to descibe the wonders of California. 2000 extra copies were printed and carried to the East by muleback.
April 3, 1848
First American public school opened in San Francisco. Thomas Douglas, a Yale graduate, became the first teacher with a salary of $1000. Trustees of the new district, however, soon abandoned it when they ran off to the gold fields.
May 12, 1848
Sam Brannan set off gold fever in San Francisco when he waved a bottle of gold dust and shouted “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” He received the gold as payment for goods he sold in his store at New Helvetica at Sutter’s Fort.
May 27, 1848
Crewmen on ships in San Francisco deserted and rushed to the gold fields. Some coastal cities saw a major drop in population as the citizenry rushed to the Sierra foothills.
May 29, 1848
The “Californian” complained: “The whole country from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and from the sea shore to the base of the Sierra Nevadas, resounds with the sordid cry of gold, GOLD, GOLD! while the field is left half-planted, the house half built, and everything neglected but the manufacture of shovels and pickaxes.” “The Californian” also announced suspension of publication because of staff leaving for the diggings.
May 30, 1848
Col. Mason was brevetted brigadier-general for meritorious conduct.
June 10, 1848
“California Star” writes of whole towns emptied as the inhabitants rush to the gold washings.
June 14, 1848
“California Star” ceased publication because the staff had rushed to the gold fields.
June 18, 1848
Captain Charles Welsh arrived in San Francisco. He was to build the first brick house in North Beach. A street was later named for him.
July 11, 1848
Governor of California, Gen. Richard Barnes Mason, visited gold fields to gather information for a report to the U.S. Government. He was accompanied by his aide, Capt. William T. Sherman.
August 7, 1848
Proclamation announced the ratification of a peace treaty with the Republic of Mexico. Gov. Mason issued it at the capital in Monterey.
August 19, 1848
“New York Herald” printed an item about the discovery of gold in California.
September 10, 1848
Gold dust price set at $16 per ounce; San Francisco citizens demanded that the United States open a branch mint in San Francisco.
October 18, 1848
Commodore Jones of the U.S. Navy Pacific Squadron offered a total of $40,000 reward for sailors who deserted to go to the gold fields.
October 24, 1848
Col. Stevenson’s Volunteers were ordered disbanded.
November 1, 1848
John A. Sutter, Jr., son of the general, announced plans to building a new town, called Sacramento City, along the Sacramento River.

Presbyterian minister Timothy Dwight Hunt began weekly services in the school house on the Plaza.

November 9, 1848
Post office opened at Clay and Pike streets.
November 18, 1848
Edward Cleveland Kemble resumed publishing the combined “California Star” and the “Californian” as the “Star and Californian”; Both closed when employees quit to rush to the gold fields.
November 28, 1848
“U.S.S. Lexington” departed San Francisco with $500,000 in gold destined for the U.S. Mint in the East.
December 5, 1848
In a message to Congress, President Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in California. His message was based on reports from Gen. Mason, the Governor of California. The President wrote, “The accounts of abundance of gold are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service.”
December 7, 1848
Lt. Lucian Loeser arrived in Washington with 230 ounces [6.5 kg] of gold stuffed into a tea caddy. It was placed on display at the War Department and caused much excitement.
December 31, 1848
Cold spell in San Francisco. Temperature dropped to 37 degrees F [3 degrees C] during the week. Snow covered foothills to the east.
January 4, 1849
Robert Semple changed the name of the combined “Star and Californian” to the “Alta California.”
January 9, 1849
Henry M. Naglee and Richard H. Sinton formed a bank called the Exchange and Deposit Office on Kearny St. facing Portsmouth Plaza. Sinton was acting paymaster aboard the “Ohio” and came to San Francisco with Commodore Jones.
January 22, 1849
President Polk appointed John White Geary as Postmaster, with the power to expand postal service through the new territory.

The “Alta California” became the first daily newspaper in California.

February 12, 1849
Public meeting at the Plaza formed the Legislative Assembly of the District of San Francisco with 15 elected members.
February 15, 1849
Goat Island, also known as Sea Bird Island and later as Wood Island, sold by Nathan Spear to Harbor Master Edward A. King for $1.
February 28, 1849
First regular steamboat service to California inaugurated by the arrival of the Pacific Mail’s steamer “California.” Gen. Persifer F. Smith, new commander of the military division of California, was aboard. Thomas O. Larkin and Capt. William T. Sherman went into the bay by small boat to greet the vessel.
March 12, 1849
Legislative Assembly of the District of San Francisco met until June 4.
March 15, 1849
Gen. Smith, military commander of California, declared the Yerba Buena harbor to be poor because the seas are too rough and it is located on a peninsula with little water and few food supplies.
March 22, 1849
Chilean ship “Julia” ran aground on the Presidio Shoals.
April 12, 1849
Brevet Brigadier General Bennet Riley, arrived with his brigade aboard the “U.S.S. Iowa” at Monterey.
April 13, 1849
Brevet Gen. Riley replaced Brevet Gen. Mason as Governor of California.
April 19, 1849
“Friends of a Rail-Road to San Francisco” held public meeting at the U.S. Hotel in Boston to present P. P. F. Degrand’s plan, the only one as yet proposed, which will secure promptly and certainly, and by a single act of legislation, the construction of railroad to California.
May 12, 1849
Auction at the “Leidesdorff Rancho.” American Fork, the horses, mares, bullocks, and other live stock, belonging to the estate of W.A. Leidesdorff, deceased, and now on said rancho. For further particulars, enquire of Messrs. S. Brannan & Co., Sacramento City. Authorized by William Davis Merry Howard, administor of the estate of W.A. Leidesdorff who died in 1848.
May 18, 1849
Sailing ship “Grey Eagle” arrived with 34 passengers from the East in 113 days, a record.
May 20, 1849
First Presbyterian Church organized by the Rev. Albert Williams in the school house on the Plaza.
May 31, 1849
Political turmoil as Sheriff John C. Pulis seized records of Alcalde Thaddeus M. Leavenworth.
June 3, 1849
Gen. Riley issued proclamation calling for an election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention to be held at Monterey Sept. 1.
June 4, 1849
The “Panama” arrived in San Francisco Bay. There were already about 200 deserted ships in the harbor because the crews had abandoned them for the gold fields. Dr. Stephen R. Harris arrived on the “Panama.” He was later elected to the posts of mayor, controller and coroner.
June 4, 1849
Hall McAllister arrived aboard the Panama. Gen. Riley would appoint him attorney for the San Francisco District in Sept. 1849.
June 4, 1849
Eighteen men from the “U.S.S. Ohio” deserted to go to the gold diggings.
June 11, 1849
Leaflets appeared all around the town, signed by 59 citizens who most respectfully invited their fellow citizens to a public meeting, in front of the Custom House, Portsmouth Square, on Tuesday, June 12th, at 3 o’clock, p.m. to determine necessity to elect delegates to a state Constitutional Convention.
June 12, 1849
Mass meeting of the citizens of San Francisco agreed on the necessity of electing delegates to a convention to form a government for Upper California.
June 20, 1849
James Jackson Jarves commissioned remapping of the Bay of San Francisco and the gold region to show drainage, roads, ranchos, diggings and distances in miles.
June 22, 1849
Stephen C. Massett performed at city’s first concert in the old Police Court on the southwest corner of Portsmouth Square.
June 28, 1849
The ship “Philadelphia,” preparing to leave for the Sandwich Islands, was destroyed by big fire that broke out at 5 a.m.
July 4, 1849
“Daily Alta California” steam press, the first in the West, went into operation.
July 5, 1849
Charles Main arrived in San Francisco. Main St. would later be named for him.
July 15, 1849
Members of the Hounds attacked tents in the Chilean district near Jackson and Dupont. The Hounds were ex-soldiers of Col. Stevenson’s California Volunteers who lived in a tent called “Tammany Hall” on Montgomery St.
July 16, 1849
Sam Brannan spoke from the roof of the Alcalde’s office on the Plaza and demanded that the Hounds be arrested. 230 volunteer policemen were deputized by the newly-formed Law and Order Party and put on patrol. Lt. Sam Roberts of the Hounds and 18 others were arrested. A fund was taken up to help the Chileans victimized by the Hounds.
July 17, 1849
Grand Jury indicted members of the Hounds for the attack on the 15th.
July 23, 1849
24 members of the Hounds were convicted of conspiracy, riot, robbery and assault with intent to kill in a trial before the Alcalde.
July 29, 1849
Mass meeting at Rose’s Bar on the Yuba River about Col. Thomas Jefferson Green’s slaves working in the gold fields. A resolution was passed that said “that no slave or negro should own claims or even work in the mines.” The meeting demanded that the slaves be gone by the next morning.
August 5, 1849
First Congregational Church of San Francisco was organized by Rev. T. Dwight Hunt.
August 7, 1849
Wright and Co. of San Francisco asked Gov. Riley for permission to mint $5 and $10 gold coins to relieve money famine.
August 14, 1849
Thomas Tennent began weather observations from roof of the building at the northeast corner of Union and Dupont. He also recorded earthquakes.
August 23, 1849
Mail service established to the Interior of California. Stops included Benecia, Sacramento City and San José.
August 27, 1849
Town Council voted to buy two fire engines, 33 feet [10 metres] of hose, and other equipment to make the engines useful.
September 1, 1849
California Constitutional Convention at Colton Hall, Monterey. Legislative session continued to the 15th. Eight of the delegates were from San Francisco. Gen. Maríano Guadalupe Vallejo represented Sonoma.
September 10, 1849
Two-story building was to be erected as an improved station for signalling by telegraph the arrival of ships into the harbor.
September 20, 1849
Mutiny aboard the U.S. Survey schooner “Ewing” at San Francisco.
October 13, 1849
State Constitution approved by convention in Monterey. The motto of California is to be “Eureka.”
October 21, 1849
Pioneer Nathan Spear died at age 47. He had heart disease. Spear Street was later named for him.

Rev. O. C. Wheeler baptized Col. Thomas Kellam by immersion in the waters of San Francisco Bay.

October 22, 1849
Philadelphia Minstrels opened at the Bella Union Hall on Washington St. just above Kearny.
October 25, 1849
Meeting held in Portsmouth Square for the purpose of organizing the Democratic Party in California.
October 29, 1849
Rowe’s Olympic Circus and the Ethiopian Serenaders opened today. The circus was situated in the block bounded by Kearny, Clay, Montgomery and Sacramento streets. Admission $3.
November 6, 1849
More than 12 inches [305 mm] of rain fell tonight. Streets were in a terrible mess.
November 7, 1849
Steamer “Senator” arrived from Sacramento City in 9 hours and set a record.
November 10, 1849
Collector of the Port said 697 ships arrived in port since April 1 of which 401 were American and 296 were foreign.
November 13, 1849
In preparation for statehood, voters approved a State Constitution. Peter H. Burnett was elected governor.
November 18, 1849
John and Amanda Pelton open first tuition-free public school in San Francisco.
November 19, 1849
Public sale of pueblo land held.
November 29, 1849
Gov. Riley issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation.
November 29, 1849
Merchants’ Exchange and Reading Room opened by E.E. Dunbar today.
December 1, 1849
Six steamers sailed the Sacramento River between San Francisco and Sacramento City; fare $30.
December 9, 1849
San Francisco’s first fire engine arrived from the East. It was known as the Martin Van Buren engine because it has been used to water the lawn of the President’s estate in New York. It was not intended for fire use, but had been purchased to pump water from mines.
December 10, 1849
First meeting of Chinese to discuss mutual problems and goals.

Sale of lots in the city of San Francisco today at 10 o’clock a.m. George E. Tyler, auctioneer.

December 15, 1849
New legislature and governmental officers met at the state capital at San José.
December 20, 1849
25 women arrived on different vessels today.
December 22, 1849
Gov. Burnett was inaugurated, and Military Governor Riley immediately resigned. Legislature selected Col. John C. Frémont and William M. Gwin as U.S. senators to take their seats when California wins statehood.
December 24, 1849
“California as it is and as it May be, or a Guide to the Gold Region,” published by F.P. Wierzbicki.

Fire destroyed most of the city. It broke out at Dennison’s Exchange on the east side of Kearny between Clay and Jackson sts. Fire spread to surrounding buildings before the bucket brigade could be formed. Fifty buildings were destroyed, and the fire caused $1,500,000 damage. This was known as the first Great Fire. Mayor-elect Geary organized the crowd which pulled down buildings with ropes to stop the fire. Edward Edgerton was killed while fighting the conflagration.

Performance of the Pacific Minstrels at Washington Hall canceled because of the fire.

December 25, 1849
Frederick D. Kohler and David C. Broderick called a meeting Christmas Day of citizens who had been firemen in the East, and organized a fire department for San Francisco.
December 28, 1849
As a result of the Great Fire, Edward Otis organized the Independent Unpaid Axe Volunteer Fire Company.
December 31, 1849
Population of San Francisco was estimated at 100,000 including 35,000 people who came by sea, 3000 sailors who deserted ships and 42,000 who came overland.

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