California History Celebration

In February of 1848, Mexico and the United States signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican-American War. A vast swath of the southwest, including present day California, was ceded to the United States. In an incredible coincidence of history, gold was discovered a few days earlier, on January 24, 1848, at Sutter’s Mill on the American River near Sacramento. This event was to have significant impact on the growth and standing of the territory and accelerated California’s admission to the Union.


In late 1849 a constitutional convention was held in the town of Monterey with the objective of writing a constitution that would lead to statehood. The constitution was written in both English and Spanish with items debated including the location of the eastern boundary of the state, whether the state should be a free state or a slave state, and the location of the capital. Delegates unanimously voted for a free state and when California applied for statehood with a constitution preventing slavery, a crisis was provoked in Congress between proponents of slavery and abolitionists. It took a year for the U.S. congress to deliberate, but finally, with the Compromise of 1850, California entered the union as the 31st state on September 9, 1850.


California’s first capital was located in San Jose. The capital moved two more times - to Vallejo, then to Benicia, before finally settling in Sacramento.


The Greek word “Eureka” has appeared on the State Seal since 1849, when California sought statehood. It translates as “I have found it”, no doubt echoing the optimistic cries of the  fortune seekers that flooded our state