History in California

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The Beginning

Long before California was home to Disneyland, Hollywood and Tahoe it was home to Native Americans. Most of these people were descendants from nomads from Asia, who were following herds of bison, caribou and mammoth across the Bering Strait. More than 300,000 Native Americans made up the tribal population in California before Europeans started to explore the land.

Russians and Spaniards were the next people to settle in California. Russians had many small settlements for whaling and fur trading in the northern part of the state. Russia used the land for what they needed, but they made no attempt to colonize. Spain was the first of the European countries to explore California and Joao Rodriques Cabrilho was the first European to set foot on California soil, in the mid-1500s. Many Californian cities still bear the Spanish name given to them during this time of exploration. Spanish priests were sent to convert Native Americans into Catholics. As the English began to notice California, Spain became alarmed that others were trying to take land that was claimed by them.

England sent Francis Drake to explore California. In the years that followed, Spain and England had their own set of issues. The last of these problems was California. American conflicts with England had expelled most English influence from the New World. Spain was free to rule over California. Missions and the spread of Catholicism was Spain's main focus for much of the 1600 and 1700s.

Changes in Power

In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain and Alta, California was the first state in the Mexican empire. To encourage settlers to come to California, Mexico gave land grants to start ranchos . Many of these lasted long after the end of Mexican rule, which came in 1848 when the United States won possession of California in the Treaty of Guadalupe. The same year, gold was discovered and the word of fortune to be found in California spread across the US. Those eager to be rich flocked to the state within the next year. California officially became the 31st state in 1850.

Growing State

Travel to the 31st state was hazardous and involved month-long sea voyages or dangerous cross-country journeys. This all changed in the 1860s with the establishment of the transcontinental railway. Before this, California had been mostly isolated from the rest of the country for nearly two decades. The state's social and economic possibilities were greatly expanded with the railroad. Flourishing agriculture, gold, lumber and other natural resources were now easily accessible.

By 1870, San Fransisco was the tenth largest city in the country and California just kept growing. The decades that followed were filled with railroad expansion, telephone line construction and a growing population. The warm climate and mostly ideal weather conditions made California the perfect place to film movies. Vacationers also began to flock to the state to soak up the sun while on picturesque California beaches. Attractions such as Disneyland were constructed to bring in even more tourists. Today California holds some of the same natural charm that first attracted explorers many, many years ago.

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