"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
January 3, 1850|
434 water lots were auctioned by town officials today.
January 4, 1850
The Celestial Jon-Ling opened a Chinese restaurant on Jackson St.
January 5, 1850
California Exchange opened.
January 11, 1850
Volunteer Mezeppa Engine Company organized. It may have been named
for a ship that sailed from Sydney on June 8, 1849.
January 13, 1850
52 men enrolled in the volunteer San Francisco Fire Company. Most were
from Baltimore, and met at the offices of William McLane at the corner of
Clay and Montgomery.
January 14, 1850
Peter Paul Francis Degrand and others petitioned the U.S. Senate
Committee on Roads and Canals praying a charter for the purpose of
constructing a railroad and establishing telegraph line from St. Louis to
January 16, 1850
First dramatic entertainment in San Francisco when "The Wife" was
presented at Washington Hall, Washington St., between Kearny and
Several earthquake shocks felt in San Francisco.
January 21, 1850
French newspaper "Le Californien" established.
January 22, 1850
Musical entertainment given at the California Exchange.
January 23, 1850
San Francisco's second daily journal, "The Journal of Commerce,"
established by Washington Bartlett.
January 28, 1850
Town Council elected Frederick D. Kohler as the first Chief Engineer of
the San Francisco Volunteer Fire Department. David C. Broderick was on
the committee that recommended Kohler.
February 5, 1850
Protection Engine Company No. 2 organized. Town Council also passed an
ordinance that required the Chief Engineer of the Fire Department to
superintend the organization of all fire companies.
February 9, 1850
Virginia Serenaders opened at Washington Hall.
February 17, 1850
26 square-rigger ships arrived in port today.
February 18, 1850
Legislature at San José created the bay region counties: San
Francisco, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Solano, and Napa.
February 19, 1850
National Theatre opened on the north side of Washington Street between
Montgomery and Kearny.
February 28, 1850
The Army removed Australian squatters from the military reserve on
Rincon Hill today. Squatterism was a problem in San Francisco.
March 1, 1850
All Baltimore men withdrew from the San Francisco Fire Company
because they did not like the way it was managed.
March 2, 1850
First masquerade ball in San Francisco held at the National Theatre.
March 13, 1850
Dr. Colyer's Athenaeum opened on Commercial St. between Montgomery
March 18, 1850
Town Council ruled that all titles to land made by grants or sales in any
form, by any person or persons whatever, other than the legally elected
Alcalde or Town Council, were illegal.
March 23, 1850
Phoenix Theatre opened on Pacific St.
April 1, 1850
Baltimore men met to form another fire company called Monumental
Company. It would join the fire department and become engine companies
6,7 and 8 in September 1850.
San Francisco County government established.
Town Council purchased Graham House at Pacific and Kearny streets for
$150,000 for use as a City Hall.
April 2, 1850
Henri Herz, celebrated pianist, opened at the National Theatre on
April 5, 1850
Legislature passed act for the incorporation of San Francisco.
April 11, 1850
Mygatt, Bryant and Co. opened first bath house on Maiden Lane near
April 13, 1850
Legislature passed the Foreign Miners Tax that required non-American
born miners to pay a monthly $20 tax. This was the first anti-Chinese
legislation in California.
April 15, 1850
First City Charter went into effect as San Francisco was incorporated as a
During the year ended today 60,244 men and 1979 women arrived in San
April 16, 1850
Gen. Vallejo reported on the derivation and definition of the names of the
several counties to the first California state senate meeting.
April 22, 1850
State Legislature at San José adjourned.
April 24, 1850
Orphean Vocalists opened at the National Theatre.
May 1, 1850
Alcalde John White Geary sworn in as first mayor of San Francisco.
The "Panama" sailed from San Francisco with $1,500,156 in gold dust
destined for the East.
May 4, 1850
A second Great Fire broke out in the United States Exchange, a saloon and
gambling house that had been built on the site of Dennison's Exchange
which burned in December. This fire soon engulfed the entire block
bounded by Kearny, Clay, Montgomery and Washington Street. The fire
jumped Washington Street across from the Plaza. There was one death in
the fire and several persons injured by firearms that discharged from the
heat. The fire burned 300 buildings and caused $4,000,000 damage.
May 11, 1850
Construction began on first brick structure, The Naglee Building, at corner
of Montgomery and Merchant streets following the great fire.
Malachi Fallon sworn in as Town Marshal.
May 12, 1850
Earthquake shocks felt in San Francisco.
May 13, 1850
More earthquake shocks felt today.
June 1, 1850
"San Francisco Daily Herald" began publication.
June 4, 1850
Empire Engine Co. No. 1 organized. It was later known as the Broderick
June 14, 1850
Howard Engine Co. No. 13 and Sansome Hook and Ladder Co. No. 3
organized. The Sansome company carried fifty-foot ladders, the largest in
the state. The company also had charge of the powder magazine at its
Montgomery St. quarters for use during conflagrations.
Third Great Fire destroyed the area between Clay, California and Kearny
all the way down to the Bay. 300 more buildings were lost, and the
damages were $5,000,000. The fire started in the Sacramento Bakery at the
rear of the Merchants Hotel at Clay and Kearny streets.
June 15, 1850
Mass meeting at Merchants' Exchange presided over by the Mayor to raise
money for a water supply for fire protection. $7000 was raised. Capt.
Folsom and W.D.M. Howard were among those appointed to a committee
to acquire a water supply.
June 22, 1850
500-pound grizzly bear was caught today near the Mission Dolores.
San Francisco Medical Society organized.
June 24, 1850
Town Council passed an ordinance for the proper organization of the Fire
Department. Rules and regulations were adopted for the first time.
July 1, 1850
At this time there were some 626 vessels lying in the Bay of San Francisco
and contiguous harbors.
Census Bureau reported the population of San Francisco at 94,766.
Independent Volunteer Unpaid Axe fire company disbanded.
Mayor Geary signed the Fire Department Organization ordinance.
The "California Courier" newspaper established by James M. Crane and F.
July 3, 1850
Sixty women attended a grand ball at the St. Francis Hotel on Dupont Street.
July 4, 1850
Protection Fire Co. No. 2 raised a Liberty Pole 111 feet [34 metres] tall for 4th of July
celebrations at the Plaza. Rev. William Taylor delivered the oration.
Firemen wore uniforms for the first time.
Dramatic Museum opened on California St. by James Evrard, whose
specialty was playing female roles on the stage. He later became a
July 5, 1850
H.H. Davis, San Francisco attorney and counsellor, may practice before the
State Supreme Court. He is one of the few so far in the city.
July 23, 1850
Congregation Emanu-el founded.
July 25, 1850
Former Governor Richard Barnes Mason died. He was born at Lexington, Virginia, in 1797.
August 1, 1850
New wharf at the foot of Battery St. opened.
August 3, 1850
"Evening Picayune" established by Dr. J. H. Gihon.
August 5, 1850
Famed puglist Tom Hyer fined $50 for riding his horse into a barroom
August 13, 1850
Second great sale of valuable city property, sold by Kendig, Wainwright &
Co. comprising the largest and most valuable amount of property ever
offered in San Francisco. Most of the property was owned by John W.
August 14, 1850
J.A. Rose opened the New Olympic Amphiteatre on Montgomery between
Sacramento and California streets.
August 15, 1850
Fifty firemen from the Protection Engine Co. went to Sacramento to put
down squatter rioting on Capt. Sutters' property, under the direction
Mayor Geary and Capt. McCormick of the California Guards.
August 20, 1850
Society of California Pioneers organized.
August 28, 1850
Mayor Geary welcomed new Chinese residents to San Francisco in a
ceremony in Portsmouth Square.
September 7, 1850
Bank runs occurred. Bank of Henry M. Naglee and Richard H. Sinton
September 8, 1850
Death of President Taylor memorialized by the Rev. Timothy Dwight Hunt
in sermon preached in the First Congregational Church tonight.
September 9, 1850
California admitted to the Union as the 31st state.
September 12, 1850
First issue of Octavian Hoogs' paper "La Gazette Republicaine" appeared.
September 14, 1850
Smart shock of earthquake felt in San Francisco.
September 17, 1850
Fourth Great Fire destroyed 150 buildings in the area bounded by Dupont,
Montgomery, Washington and Pacific streets. Loss set at $500,000. The
fire broke out in the Philadelphia House on the north side of Jackson
between Grant and Kearny. The San Francisco, Empire and Protection fire
companies fought the blaze but had no water.
September 23, 1850
Firemen elected Andrew J. McCarty as chief engineer. The position,
however, was already held by Chief Engineer Kohler. The election of
McCarty was set aside during the week.
September 25, 1850
San Francisco Baptist Association organized.
September 26, 1850
California Artillery, 1st California Guard, held a court of appeal at the
new armory of this corps on the corner of Dupont Street and Broadway.
All members having excuses to offer for non-payment of fines and
dues had an opportunity of offering them. Per order, John E. Durivage,
September 30, 1850
Fire Chief Engineer McCarty resigned, and Frederick Kohler reëlected.
October 10, 1850
California Engine Co. No. 4 organized in Happy Valley. Their first fire
engine was later destroyed in the big fire of May 1851.
October 17, 1850
Knickerbocker Fire Engine Co. No. 5 organized and adopted a constitution
October 18, 1850
Steamer "Oregon" arrived with news that California had been admitted to
the Union, and entire city burst into spontaneous celebration.
October 26, 1850
Reports from Sacramento City say 57,000 miners are at work in the gold
October 29, 1850
Grand celebration ball given by the citizens of San Francisco in honor of
the admission of California into the Union. Col. Jonathan D. Stevenson was
Grand Marshal. Elizabeth Maria Wills sang an ode written for the
Steamer "Sagamore" exploded during the celebration. Up to 40 are
killed at Central Wharf as the steamer cast off for Stockton.
October 30, 1850
Jenny Lind Theatre opened above Tom Maguire's Parker House on the
October 31, 1850
City Hospital, owned by Dr. Peter Smith, was destroyed by fire. There
were nearly 150 sick and helpless patients there, but they were rescued.
Loss was $40,000. His claims against the city for services to the indigent
later totalled $64,431. He sued and forced the city to sell real estate. It took
years to settle to clouded titles to these lands.
November 6, 1850
The Presidio, Goat Island, Angel Island, Black Point and Point San Jose
reserved by President Fillmore for military purposes.
November 14, 1850
Iron warehouse of four stories was built at Battery and Pacific streets for
the U.S. Government. It was totally fireproof.
November 18, 1850
Col. Charles L. Wilson granted concession to build a planked tollroad from
San Francisco to Mission Dolores.
November 29, 1850
The Grand Jury condemned gambling in this city as "a crying evil," and
urged that something must be done about prize fighting as well as
numerous houses of ill-repute.
November 30, 1850
Day set apart as Thanksgiving Day for the admission of California into the
December 1, 1850
Sermon by Rev. Charles A. Farely at the First Unitarian Church. He said
there was sin in San Francisco, "But here it is unmaskedmakes no
apologies and asks none."
December 5, 1850
New sidewalk was laid along Battery from Sansome to Cunningham's
December 8, 1850
Newspaper "Public Balance" established by Benjamin R. Buckelew and
December 10, 1850
Rt. Reverend Joseph Sadoc Alemany, Bishop of California, arrived in San
Francisco today. He addressed the Catholics of San Francisco in English,
Spanish and French.
December 14, 1850
Capt. Parker H. French's overland expedition to California arrived in San
Francisco. It left New York City May 13th, 1850.
Fire broke out at 8:30 p.m. in Cooke Bros. and Co. at the foot of
Sacramento St. Firemen saved the block, but the loss was $100,000.
Harpies descended on the scene and carried away anything of value.
New "Double-Acting Cam and Lever Locks" installed on jail cell doors
because too many prisoners escape.
December 24, 1850
400-vara square at the Mission Dolores was surveyed for Don Francisco
Guerrero by Milo Hoadley, Deputy County Surveyor in pursuance of an
ordinance of the common council that created a commission to enquire into
city property; Alfred Wheeler, A.A. Selover, Augustus Morris,
January 1, 1851
California Pioneers Society's Grand Festival at the California Guards Hall,
Jackson and Dupont streets. Gen. Vallejo was the featured orator.
January 9, 1851
Gov. Burnett resigned today. Lt. Gov. John McDougal succeeded him.
David C. Broderick was elected president of the state senate to replace
January 12, 1851
William Walker, editor of the "Herald," duelled on Mission Road with
W.H. Graham. Graham was upset with article in newspaper. Walker was
shot twice in the leg but survived.
January 19, 1851
First Presbyterian Church moved into an imported prefabricated building
on Stockton between Broadway and Pacific.
January 29, 1851
Committee appointed at a public meeting of the citizens of San Jose to study
the feasibility and expediency of a railroad to San Francisco.
January 31, 1851
First orphanage in California, the San Francisco Orphan Asylum, founded
by the Protestants at Second and Folsom streets.
February 9, 1851
Two men named Brady and Finly were arrested for smashing street lamps
along Kearny while riding on horseback.
February 19, 1851
Prominent merchant C.J. Jansen was badly beaten today and it has caused
much excitement amongst the populace. Two Australians were arrested.
February 21, 1851
Bellini's "La Sonnambula" presented at the Adelphi Theatre by the
Pellegrini Opera Troupe. This was the first grand opera performed in San
February 22, 1851
5000 citizens rallied to demand that James Stuart and a man named
Windred be hanged for robbing the store of C.J. Jansen. Sam Brannan
urged a quick hanging.
Clay Street has been filled all the way to the old "Niantic" warehouse. The
"Niantic" was a sailing ship in the old days.
March 3, 1851
Steamers "Santa Clara" and "Hartford" destroyed by fire at the Central
Wharf. Firemen were called out for the first time by the new fire bell atop
the Monumental's firehouse.
March 14, 1851
Foreign Miners Tax, designed to discourage Chinese gold mining, was
March 19, 1851
Jesuit college established at Santa Clara.
March 24, 1851
Spring racing season opened at Pioneer Race Course near Mission Dolores.
March 26, 1851
Legislature of the State of California enacted a law by which the State
relinquished title to all lots below high-water mark within the city
limits to the City of San Francisco.
April 1, 1851
Town Council today authorized construction of pipes through the streets to
furnish water for the Fire Department and the fountain at Portsmouth
Square. Water will come from a reservoir to be built along Pacific St. two
miles [3 km] west of Stockton St.
Montgomery St. from Telegraph Hill to Rincon Point was lighted by street
April 14, 1851
An act to reincorporate the City of San Francisco passed today.
April 16, 1851
First steam excavator began work along First St. filling in water lots.
April 28, 1851
Robert G. Crozier was appointed City Marshal. He served until replaced by
David W. Thompson in January 1852.
May 1, 1851
A severe earthquake in San Francisco broke windows and severely shook
May 4, 1851
A fifth Great Fire almost destroyed San Francisco. The entire business
district was destroyed as the fire jumped from street to street. In less than
10 hours, 18 blocks, with 2000 buildings, had burned. Fire loss was
estimated $12,000,000. Fire destroyed all but the buried hulk of the ship
"Niantic." There was suspicion that the fire was set by the Hounds and
Sydney Ducks. Loot from the fire was found in Sydney Town. The fire
started at 11 p.m. on May 3 in a paint and upholstery store on the south
side of Portsmouth Square and burned for 10 hours. James Welch of the
Monumental Engine Co. was killed along with four others when they were
trapped in an iron-shuttered building during the fire. The flames were so
bright they were seen in Monterey.
May 6, 1851
Chamber of Commerce organized.
May 9, 1851
Schooner "Betty Bliss" arrived with 100,000 oranges to be sold at
Broadway and Sansome by John McCarthy.
May 13, 1851
Earthquake felt in San Francisco.
May 15, 1851
Windows were broken, building severely shaken, and bottles thrown to the
floor by a severe earthquake. Ships in the harbor felt the shock.
May 17, 1851
Slight shock of earthquake felt today.
May 24, 1851
Shepard & Company began publication of the "Morning Post."
June 1, 1851
Horse-drawn omnibuses began running between California Exchange and
the Mission Dolores.
June 8, 1851
The "Alta" published a proposal for a citizens committee of safety
following an outbreak of lawlessness and arson.
June 9, 1851
First Committee of Vigilance organized at the California Engine
Company's firehouse at the gore of Market and Bush streets. George
Oakes, a volunteer fireman and James Neall, a merchant who lived in
Happy Valley, were the organizers. They asked Sam Brannan, another
volunteer fireman, to help found the group.
June 10, 1851
Constitution of a San Francisco Committee of Vigilance circulated and was
signed by 103 citizens. Sam Brannan became president and Isaac Bluxome
Committee of Vigilance hanged John Jenkins of the Sydney Ducks in the
Plaza at 2:10 a.m. after he was caught stealing a small safe on the wharf.
Sam Brannan announced the sentence. Capt. Edgar Wakeman was the
June 13, 1851
Smart shock of earthquake felt in San Francisco.
Jenny Lind Theatre reopened on the site of the Parker House that burned
during the fire.
June 15, 1851
Rev. Dwight Timothy Hunt delivered a sermon suggested by the execution
of John Jenkins. He said "Actual incapacity, or gross corruption, on the
part of rulers, may sometimes justify, or even require, a people to ... take
power into their own hands... ."
June 18, 1851
The grant or patent of the "Suisun Rancho," was made for military services
of Francisco Solano, Indian chief, and a Mexican citizen.
June 22, 1851
State Capitol moved to Vallejo.
The sixth Great Fire destroyed 14 blocks within four hours. Fire broke out
in a frame home on the north side of Pacific near Powell and destroyed
City Hall at Kearny and Pacific and the Jenny Lind Theatre. All day the
fire spread from street to street, and the newly constructed reservoirs were
nearly empty. Ten entire blocks were destroyed. This incendiary fire
caused $3,000,000 damage. Police arrested Benjamin Lewis for arson, but
he later got off on a technicality.
July 4, 1851
Horses pulled a fire engine for the first time in the 4th of July parade. The
engine belonged to the St. Francis Hook and Ladder Co. The horse was
used to spare the firemen from pulling the heavy engine during the parade.
July 5, 1851
A woman named Juanita was hanged by a mob of miners at Downieville.
July 7, 1851
San Francisco's population estimated at 30,000.
July 11, 1851
Committee of Vigilance hanged James Stuart at the end of the Market St.
Wharf. The decision to hang the Australian was announced by Col.
Jonathan D. Stevenson.
July 24, 1851
Today there were 465 vessels lying in port.
July 25, 1851
New Mission Toll Road opened. First toll station at Third and Stevenson.
The planked roadway ran from Clay and Kearny, out Third to Mission,
and then along Mission to Corbett Road. It bridged the marsh between
Sixth and Eighth St. Tolls were 25 cents for riders on horseback, 75 cents
for two-horse wagons an one dollar for a four-horse team.
August 14, 1851
Mountain Lake Water Company of San Francisco organized.
August 22, 1851
Sam Brannan of the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance called the the
resignation of the governor during a visit to Sacramento City because of
his pardon of a criminal named Robinson, who was hanged today by
August 23, 1851
The Governor, along with the Mayor and the Sheriff, raided the
Committee of Vigilance rooms and rescued the condemned Sam Whittaker
and Robert McKenzie.
August 24, 1851
Committee of Vigilance broke down the jailhouse doors, kidnapped the
prisoners, and hanged Whittaker and McKenzie from the second story of
the Committee's rooms. Sam Brannan addressed the crowd after the
August 25, 1851
Chief Engineer Kohler resigned as head of the volunteer Fire Department.
August 31, 1851
Clipper "Flying Cloud" set new record by sailing from New York to San
Francisco in 89 days.
September 1, 1851
Several members of the Committee of Vigilance were elected to state and
September 15, 1851
Committee of Vigilance voted to disband. There were 700 members when
September 19, 1851
John Bigler elected governor over the Whig candidate Pearson B. Reading.
September 25, 1851
Town was divided into seven districts, each to have its own school house.
Council ordered free education for all children from 4 to 18.
September 30, 1851
The bark "Mount Washington" arrived in port with cargo which included
macaroni and other foods, candles, soap, fishing nets, books and mail. Mail
was delivered to the post master by Capt. Ebenezer G. Libby.
October 3, 1851
Wells & Co., the bank owned by Thomas Wells, failed.
October 4, 1851
Third Jenny Lind Theatre to occupy the same site on Kearny was opened.
The other two theaters burned during fires this year.
October 20, 1851
American Theatre opened on Sansome between California and Sacramento.
It was the first brick structure built on the filled-in ground.
November 3, 1851
Firemen elected F.E.R. Whitney as chief engineer of the volunteer
department. He resigned two weeks later because of ill health. He was
replaced by Second Assistant Chief Thomas K. Battelle who served as chief
engineer until the election of George H. Hossefross.
November 11, 1851
Robert T. Ridley died at age 32. He built the adobe on the southwest corner
of California and Montgomery which he sold to William Liedesdorff, and
then opened the Mansion House in part of the Mission Dolores buildings.
He also owned the Visitacion Rancho. He was buried at Mission Dolores.
November 12, 1851
Severe earthquake shock felt today.
November 13, 1851
Motion of the waters in the bay, possibly from an earthquake.
November 15, 1851
An earthquake was felt at 2 a.m. Tennent, the weather observer, recorded
another light shock of earthquake that was felt at 10 p.m.
Sam Brannan and party landed in the Kingdom of Hawaii and asked King
Kamehameha III to give them land for a colony. Brannan was forced by
the king to return to San Francisco.
December 1, 1851
Jacks and Woodruff Company opened Pacific Observatory, No. 274
Montgomery St., next door to Merchant St., to repair and correct transit
instruments and to rate and repair chronometers.
December 6, 1851
George H. Hossefross elected Chief Engineer of the fire department. He
was the founder of the Fireman's Charitable Fund.
December 26, 1851
There were three distinct shocks of an earthquake. The first was quite
severe and was noticed at 3 a.m., waking up many of our citizens.
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