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California in the 1840s


Death valley of California
Death valley of California

Most U.S. citizens who went to California before 1840 were sailors, fur trappers, and adventurers. A number of trappers, including James Ohio Pattie and Jedediah Smith, arrived by overland routes from the East, and in 1840 several hundred settlers from the United States lived in California, in addition to several thousand Hispanic, or Spanish-speaking, settlers. United States settlers sent out exaggerated reports of the easy life in California. In the 1840s emigrant parties in the Midwest began to organize for the overland trip to California and other regions along the Pacific Coast. In 1841 John Bidwell and John Bartleson led the first group of settlers overland, and in the next five years about 800 settlers traveled to California over the western portion of the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the California Trail.

These travelers endured a long, arduous trek across plains, deserts, and mountains, and often faced hostile native peoples and bad weather. One group, the Donner party, became stranded in the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1846 and 1847; some ate dead members of the party to survive.

Most of the new Californians, many of them farmers, settled in the fertile Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, rather than along the coast. The Mexican government regarded the United States settlers with hostility and suspicion, fearing that they would encourage the United States to attempt to annex California, but the Mexican government was too weak and divided to expel them. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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