Many formative events in California’s history took place in and around Sacramento.
John Sutter, the Swiss immigrant on whose sawmill the gold rush began, arrived in California in 1839 and built an outpost around the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. It was the only secure fort between San Francisco and the Canadian border and quickly became a rendezvous point for white traders.
When James Marshall discovered gold in the tailrace of Sutter’s lumber mill near Coloma in 1848, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to California, most traveling through Sutter’s Fort. Sutter gave his fort to his son, who christened the newly sprung town ‘Sacramento.’ Though plagued by fires and flood, the riverfront settlement prospered and became the state capital in 1850.
The transcontinental railroad was conceived in Sacramento by a quartet of local merchants known as the ‘Big Four’ - Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Collis P Huntington and Charles Crocker. Together they founded the Central Pacific Railroad, which began construction in Sacramento in 1863 and connected with the Union Pacific in Promontory, Utah in 1869.