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Sacramento: Capital of California

The city of Sacramento today is built on top of the old city that was destroyed by flooding.

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Sacramento is the capital city of California, but it wasn’t the first. There were a few other capitals before the “River City” became the chosen one.

John Augusta Sutter was born in Germany but he grew up in Switzerland. The governor of Alta California, Juan Bautista Alvarado, let Sutter settle in what is now known as Sacramento as long as he became a citizen of Mexico, which he did. From 1840 to 1841, he built Sutter’s Fort, which is still standing today and was the start of the city.

In 1839, he called the colony Nueva Helvetia, meaning “New Switzerland.” Later, the Gold Rush filled the settlement with people hoping to become rich. It wasn’t easy trying to grow crops in the area. In 1843, heavy rains ruined the crops at Sutter’s Fort, and the next year there wasn’t enough rain. In 1845, the crops failed again, this time because Sutter was away fighting in one of Alta California’s civil wars.

Sam Brannan, a local merchant, decided to open a store near the Sacramento River. The waterfront property did well as the Gold Rush brought business to the area.

Success continued until disaster struck. The townspeople realized the area flooded a lot. In 1850, the first recorded flood destroyed the city. In 1852, high waters again wiped out the new area. Not ready to give up on such a great location, they began a huge project in 1853. The idea was to raise the entire city above the flood level. Obviously, the idea was met with criticism. It took another terrible flood in 1862 before people agreed to take on the project.

The result is a historical underground city that can still be seen today in Old Town Sacramento.

Interesting Facts

  • The only city in the world with more trees than Sacramento is Paris, France.
  • Sacramento is home to the original Pony Express; the mail delivery system that used a buggy and horses to transport mail all the way to Missouri.
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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