Some early history: A Spaniard by the name of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed along the California coast in 1542 and claimed it for Spain. But settlement of the area was not started until about 200 years later. A group of Franciscan monks, led by one Junipero Serra, built a series of missions beginning at San Diego in the south and finally reaching San Francisco.
Junipero Serra, the head of this missionary enterprise, was a man of rare ability and untiring zeal. He established nine missions in 15 years. He taught Indians the homely arts of farming, cattle raising and the planting of orchards. He instilled into the natives and colonists the rudiments of government in a frontier society. He brought to them the civilizing message of religion. For his labors, the State of California selected the name of Junipero Serra to represent this great state in the Hall of Fame and his statue stands in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.
Early history shows California as being discovered and settled and owned by Spain. So how did it finally end up an American State? That story is a little involved. I have to go back to Texas, when Texas won its independence from Mexico and became an independent republic.
Texas asked to join the United States, but Mexico did not recognize the independence of Texas and warned the U.S. that if Texas was accepted as a state, Mexico would consider it an unfriendly and most serious act. So the U.S. decided to think things over and delayed action.
For 10 years, Texas remained an independent republic. President James K. Polk was elected on an “expansion” platform and immediately Texas was accepted as a state and the Mexican War followed. The Mexican armies were defeated in every battle and General Winfield Scott captured Mexico City. Mexico agreed to release her claims to Texas and also agreed to cede the California territory to the U.S. This territory was later to become the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
There were some Americans in high places that wanted President Polk to take over all of Mexico, but evidently the President felt that we had done enough damage to the Mexicans. When the treaty of peace was written, the U.S. agreed to pay Mexico 15 million dollars for the territory they turned over to the United States.
Just 9 days before the California Territory was ceded to the United States, James Marshall of Sutter’s Mill near Sacramento, California, saw a bright pebble in the millstream. He picked it up and saw at once that it was pure gold. He reported his find to his partner, John A. Sutter. They tried to keep the find secret, but the news leaked out and within a few days men swarmed like bees around Sutter’s Mill and began to tear up the ground at and near the site of the mill.
This was the advance guard of a great army of gold seekers known as the 49ers who came from all over the world to dig for that precious metal called gold. Most of the 49ers traveled across the country in mule trains or ox carts, and old time Californians say that these 49ers brought strength and courage and enthusiasm to that state. The saying was that “the cowards never started, the weak died on the way, only the strong survived.”
California had not been a state very long before the Civil War broke out and a grave question faced this new state—whether to join with the South and secede from the Union or stick with the Union. There was pressure from the southern states and from the Union states.
A young man by the name of Thomas Starr King, who was a devoted follower of Abraham Lincoln, became the spokesman and leader of those who wanted to remain in the Federal Union. This young orator and patriot rode day and night from town to town, from the mountains to the sea, pleading to preserve the United States and boldly attacking the slavery issue that had divided the country. To Thomas Starr King goes the credit for saving the State of California to the Union and his statue stands in Statuary Hall along side of Junipero Serra.
Now here is the unusual twist to this lesson. Both of these men were men of the cloth—ministers of the Gospel. Junipero Serra, a Spaniard, was a Franciscan priest. Thomas Starr King, an American, was a Unitarian minister. No other State has this unusual distinction.

Post a Comment