History | Congressman Ami Bera


Folsom’s first dam – the prison dam – which was built in the late 1800s.
Folsom’s first dam – the prison dam – which was built in the late 1800s.

Before Spanish explorers came to the region in the 1800s, the Sacramento valley area was inhabited by the Ninsenan branch of the Maidu tribe of Native Americans, who were primarily hunter-gatherers. In 1839, Captain John Sutter received a land grant to establish a colony named New Helvetia, and later built Sutter’s Fort in 1841.

The County was incorporated in 1850 after rapid population growth due to the 1849 California Gold Rush.  The Daily Bee, now the Sacramento Bee, published its first issue later in 1857. The area served as a major thoroughfare for wagons, stagecoaches, and steamboats until 1869, when the Trans-Continental railroad changed the face of transportation.  The local economy began to change again later in the 1800s when new techniques made agriculture easier.

The Trans-Continental railroad and its impact on Sacramento County would later be surpassed by the Lincoln highway after the popularity of automobiles.  During World War I, the county became notorious for its military aviation, which later led to civilian use. 

Like most of the country, the Sacramento region had thousands of jobless workers during the Great Depression. Public work projects began under the Roosevelt administration to respond to the economic emergency, including Tower Bridge, which was constructed in 1935. Other major local construction projects such as McClellan Air Force base were built during this period.  California State University, Sacramento, opened after World War II in 1947.

For more on our region’s history, you can visit the Sacramento Bee’s history section, Sacramento History Online, and the Sacramento County Historical Society.