4. County Pioneers and Their Many Migration Steps
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

43  County Pioneers and Their Many Migration Steps From the previous analysis, it is clear that the 1850s and 1860s were times of great population volatility in the Sierra foothills. What was the lot of those who worked the mines and rivers for a short time and then went elsewhere in California? As a complement to the census searching of the previous chapter, another data source proved very helpful in answering this question. County histories published in California during the late 1800s often included lengthy biography sections highlighting various community members. These “prominent citizens,” who paid to have their personal particulars in the histories, left a very important data source (Fraser 1879). The biographies often include birth locations, migration paths, and occupations during the life course of the featured people. The men were mobile, much more so than one might suspect in an era of horse and wagon, sailing vessel, and later, the railroad. Total miles traversed in a lifetime spoke to the attraction of California as a destination and the remarkable efforts that went into getting there and finding a place to settle down after the gold fever wore off. In terms of the migration model, functionally, migration rates continued to be rapid, even after the initial boom period in the mines (fig. 1.2). The rich geographic base that was much more than metal-bearing rock explains why the functional rate of migration was so high. Besides mining, new migrants found other economic endeavors, especially logging, agriculture, and basic services . Access from sea and land only increased over time, and the climate also facilitated the continuing migratory influx. The spatial scale for these migrations was at the individual level, but family connections are evident in the biographies. The lives of these migrants span the first four stages of settlement development from wilderness to a noticeable urban hierarchy within counties. While migrants came from around the world, the bulk who appear in the histories of Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake counties around 1880, for example, were from the U.S. Midwest and Northeast, followed by Germany, Canada, Figure 4.1. Birthplaces of migrants to Lake, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties (in county history biographies). Data sources: MunroFraser 1880b; Palmer 1880, 1995. Jeffrey Stark, ThinkSpatial, BYU Geography. County Pioneers and Their Many Migration Steps 45 Ireland, and Great Britain (fig. 4.1). Interestingly, the southern United States is barely represented, which highlights a significant swath of the country that was not part of this great migration. The migratory tendencies of these men are worth exploration in and of themselves. Very few experienced a sedentary life, before or after they made their way to settle the “new” land of California. Censuses can only give a partial picture of these movements, because they were only conducted every tenth year. But in these cases, by having their comings and goings recorded by the biographer’s pen, the men left a record that when reconstructed en masse illustrates a degree of mobility that rivals adults today in the United States. Although they do not constitute a random sample of people in the community , the biographies do give detailed personal historical geographies of the lives of a certain set of men. These highlighted men represent only a small portion of county households. For example, just seven men from Denverton Township, Solano County, have biographies in the 1879 Solano County History , while there are some 56 Denverton households in the 1880 census. Additionally , Asians are rarely listed, so even with all the many Chinese laborers in Solano County in 1880, none are in the biography section. There are a few biographies of Hispanic residents — ​especially some who were in California several years before the gold rush. I selected counties that were not in the Sierra gold fields to determine how the mining period directly involved men who later settled in other parts of the state. The analysis comes from Colusa, Marin, Napa, Mendocino, Sonoma, Lake, and Solano counties (Munro-­Fraser 1880a, 1880b, 1994; Palmer 1880, 1881, 1995; Rogers 1891). These seven counties are located from the coast to the central valley, and as such display distinct economic diversity in the late 1800s (fig. 4.2). Initial Attraction to Centers One of Ravenstein’s eleven laws of migration states that migrants going long distances focus on commercial and industrial centers (Grigg 1977; Ravenstein 1976). Or, in other words, “[T]he major direction of migration is from the agricultural areas to the centres of industry and commerce” (Grigg 1977, 43...



Subject Headings

  • California, Northern -- Discovery and exploration.
  • California, Northern -- History -- 19th century.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- California, Northern.
  • Land settlement -- California, Northern -- History -- 19th century.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access