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California: The Golden State

Eureka! Gold was found in this state.

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California was the 31st state to be added to the Union. It is the third-largest state, after Alaska and Texas. It has a history of Native American life, Spanish settlers, and gold mining.

Because of the different terrains, many Native American tribes lived here but rarely saw each other. There around 135 dialects spoken here, and the tribes included the Karok, Maidu, Cahuilleno, Mojave, Yokuts, Pomo, Paiute, and Madoc.

European settlers thought the state was an island, and early mapmakers began calling it “California.” This was the name of a mythical island in the book Las Sergas de Esplandian (The Adventures of Esplandian). The story was about Queen Califa, who ruled California. In the tale, female warriors lived on the island and used gold weapons. So, when Spanish conquistador (explorer and conqueror) Herman Cortez arrived in the area in 1536, he thought he had found the legendary island – and that is how the state got its name.

California later became part of Mexico, but Americans began moving into the area. Due to arguments over land, the United States declared war on Mexico. The U.S. won the war, and in January 1847 California became part of the U.S.

Over the next few years, gold seekers arrived to try their luck mining during the California Gold Rush. The region became a state on September 9, 1850. During the Civil War, the state sided with the North.

Interesting Facts

  • The world’s largest tree, General Sherman, is in Sequoia National Park.
  • More turkeys are farmed here than in any other state in the U.S.
  • The state’s motto is “Eureka!” which means “I have found it!” It is an old saying miners used when they discovered gold.
Kelli Ballard

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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