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San Francisco, California


History of San Francisco, California


Due to the fact that there are no large Indian Reservations in the Bay Area, many are not aware that they lived here at all. Sadly, many local Native American settlements, burial grounds, and remains were never studied or documented. However, some sites and artifacts survived and proof can be found in museums across the region. Very few people know that the Bay Area had settlements going back as far as 10,000 years ago who came from all over North America. Native Americans migrated from area to area, because of seasonal weather changes and availability of food. They did not farm and relied on a wide variety of gathered plants and animals.

The world of the Bay Area’s Native Americans changed with the arrival of the Spanish. Initially, it was a friendly co-existence with each loving the others culture such as music, dance, food and trade goods. However, within 100 years of the Spanish contact, most of the Indians were gone. The Native Americans lands were taken from them and their villages destroyed. Those that stayed intermarried with European settlers and assumed their cultures. This is why there are no Indian Reservations in the Bay Area.

California was the furthest outpost of the Spanish Empire. Northern Cal was the extreme fringe of settlement so growth was light and sporadic. Even though the Spainards first explored the coast in the 1500’s, they did not begin settlement until the 1700’s.

Most of the permanent buildings that remain from that era are missions and a few adobe houses belonging to prominent families who were given large tracts of land. The cattle industry attracted the attention of New England merchants and they purchased from the missions. Even though California had a large amount of gold the Spanish were not aware of it.

Things changed when Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. The Mexican government encouraged foreign settlers in order to populate the area in the meantime, a generation of Americans and Europeans began to settle around the Bay Area. They soon intermarried with Spanish landowners. As the population increased, they began to call for the annexation of California and in 1848 after the Mexican American war, this was accomplished.

The Mexicans were also unlucky in their quest for gold. Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill one year after Mexico lost control of California. Many think they would have fought harder if they had known how much gold was there. However, the discovery of gold changed California drastically. People from all over the world came to search. The flood of immigrants drowned out the early inhabitants and they lost their land quickly. The small little village of Yerba Buena suddenly transformed into San Francisco. Because of access to waterways and central location, it became the largest in California at the time

The various cultures clashed and claims over gold were seldom settled amicably. The Americans felt that the land was theirs through Manifest Destiny and they resented the immigrants searching for gold. Americans fared well with the Gold Rush in development of businesses too.

Many people would probably assume that the majority of activity in the Civil War took place on the East Coast. They would be surprised to learn how many links it had to the war. In fact, it is said that California’s admission to the Union in 1851 started the Civil War. When California was admitted as a free state from slavery, the slave states resented this and it was another reason for the disagreement between the states.

By the time the war broke out, most residents had settled firmly on the side of the Union and meant went east to fight for the Union. 17,000 volunteered which was the highest per capital of any state. Lincoln also understood the importance of gold to bankroll the Union forces. Forts, including Alcatraz, were built to protect the state from Confederate attack.

Likewise, California sent many soldiers to World War 1. The Palace of the Legion of Honor is one of the many memorials. At one time, it was discovered that Mexico and Germany were conspiring to attack California but they never created the means to accomplish it. The largest contribution California made to World War 1 was in the area of aviation. The state and the Bay Area was attractive to aviation pioneers because of the weather. As a result of the war, many war refugees immigrated to California.

After the Great Depression began in 1929, many refugees from the Dust Bowl, the East, and the South sought California as a place to rebuild their lives and seek their fortunes.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the nation was drawn into war. Caifornia became an immediate part of the war effort. Many of the ships sent to Hawaii had been part of the fleets in San Diego and the Bay Area. After that, the Bay Area would soon become the staging ground for the war in the Pacific. It should be pointed out that the atomic bomb was developed in the Bay Area to defeat Hitler but later to induce Japan to surrender in 1945. After the war, attracted by high wages, people flooded into the Bay Area from all over the country to get jobs.

The most lasting social revoultion that started in the Bay Area was the tech revolution which grew out of the aerospace and electronics industries. In recent years, the Bay Area has also been a leader in solar, biotech, and medical research as well.

Next time you’re walking around San Francisco, CA, take a tour with the Historic Walking Tour app!