The New York Volunteers and Joseph Libbey Folsom

In the fall of 1846 Joseph Libbey Folsom left on a six-month voyage to California with the 770 man First Regiment of New York Volunteers under Colonel Jonathon D. Stevenson, a unit organized on the premise that each man would remain in California after mustering out of the army. These men were some of the luckiest men in the world at the time. Many of them, along with the Mormons who sailed west on the Brooklyn with Sam Brannan or those who followed Kearny by land across the American southwest, … [Read more...]

The first African American in San Francisco

The schooner Julia Ann first sailed into San Francisco Bay and dropped anchor at the small village of Yerba Buena in 1841. William Leidsdorff had found a home. Born on what was then Denmark’s St. Croix Island, the illegitimate son of a Danish planter and Anna Maria Spark, a woman of mixed ancestry, he made his way to New Orleans at an early age and became a prosperous trader and the owner of twelve ships. When he found himself unceremoniously banned from the home of the woman he was deeply in … [Read more...]

The man who told the world about California’s gold

Brannan Street, running from Embarcadero below Bryant Street and parallel to the Bay Bridge approach, is in a working class San Francisco south of Market area, not at all fitting for a location named for an elder in the Mormon Church, San Francisco’s first millionaire, and the publisher of it’s first newspaper, the California Star. But Sam Brannan was not always the honorable man he presented himself to be. As one miner noted, 'It seems that he had no sooner won his wealth than he discarded his … [Read more...]

John Sutter arrives in California

John Augustus Sutter, the man most responsible for the 1849 California gold rush, led a life of contrasts much like those that can be seen in the San Francisco street that bears his name. Stretching from the heart of downtown out to Presidio Boulevard, Sutter Street rises across Nob Hill, once the home of gold rush tycoons and railroad barons, before plunging into the fringes of the Tenderloin, one of the city’s more colorful districts. Sutter’s life also rose and fell between great success and … [Read more...]