A little bit of country in the midst of a little bit of controversy

This bit of natural beauty surrounds the old railroad tracks, owned by Regional Transit, between Sutterville Road and Fruitridge Road/Seamas Avenue. Many people enjoy walking in the serenity of this greenbelt, which has been saved from the once-proposed notion that trains would run from Old Sacramento to Hood. State Parks had to ditch the section shown here because they don't own the land, RT does. RT has no current plans to sell it either. Photo by Monica Stark

This bit of natural beauty surrounds the old railroad tracks, owned by Regional Transit, between Sutterville Road and Fruitridge Road/Seamas Avenue. Many people enjoy walking in the serenity of this greenbelt, which has been saved from the once-proposed notion that trains would run from Old Sacramento to Hood. State Parks had to ditch the section shown here because they don't own the land, RT does. RT has no current plans to sell it either. Photo by Monica Stark

Habitat to local fauna Regional Transit’s tracks between Sutterville and Pocket roads are overgrown with lush greenery and natural beauty. It’s just a little bit of country in our backyard. The South Land Park refuge attracts neighbors who enjoy taking walks with friends and family, and, of course, the family dog. With signs like – “You forgot to pick up your dog’s poop? Oh, my gosh, really?” – or landscaping with plants like golden poppies, and cacti, the greenbelt is a beacon of neighborly do-goodery – one that has been saved, at least for the time being, from having trains run on the tracks again.

At an Old Sacramento State Historic Park General Plan meeting, which was held Tuesday, April 15, inside the Stanford Gallery, 111 I St., representatives from the department clarified an important piece of information. The part of the proposal to use the RT tracks has been cut from the plan, which will be voted on by the California State Park and Recreation Commission on Friday, May 2 at 10 a.m. at the State Natural Resources Building auditorium, 1416 9th St. What remains in the plan now is the potential use of the rail line right-of-way from Old Sacramento to the Sacramento Zoo and from Pocket/Meadowview roads to the town of Hood, with views along the way of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

In an interview with this publication hours before the April 15 community meeting, project manager Steve Musillami said the plan will include improvements to the railroad museum, depots, as well as the rail yards and “some property state parks owns around the Sacramento River. It’s a visionary plan for next 20-plus years, but all proposals are based on funding issues. As far as between The Zoo and Pocket Road – we don’t own (the railway). That’s up to Regional Transit. It could be reintroduced as another rail line again. It could be paved a trail line. It could be a rail trail.”

According to RT spokesperson Elaine Masui, RT acquired said property in the 1980s from Southern Pacific and there have been no recent discussions about selling the land, though RT is open to the idea because of ongoing maintenance costs. “It was purchased at the time because RT didn’t know where the lines were going to go, but we expanded the lines (south to Meadowview) running on Union Pacific tracks.”

Councilmember Steve Hansen told Valley Community Newspapers removing the RT right-of-way from the Old Sacramento State Historic Park General Plan “seems to be an appropriate response to neighborhood concerns.” Hansen said the project still needs to be studied in detail, which would happen when, and if, the General Plan is adopted. “We are following the process closely and will continue to do so,” he said.

Hansen said that since this issue was initially brought to his attention, he has advocated for better outreach to the community and appropriate opportunity for public input.

But, during the interview before the meeting, Musillami expressed some frustration about the public’s confusion regarding the proposed plan.

“A lot of people are commenting on things without reading the plan, without gathering information from State Parks. We’ve had three public workshops, three commission meetings. We sent out mailings to about 2,000 people in the area. Unfortunately, people are still confused. We have tried to do the best we can. We have met with neighborhood organizations, including The Land Park Community Association in 2010. At the time, we did not meet with South Land Park organization. We thought they were all working together, but we found out they were not. (The April 15) meeting (was to give) the public another opportunity to voice concerns,” Musillami said.

However, prior to the meeting, neighbors were rightfully concerned about that land they feel so strongly about, especially since the State Parks website still as of Friday, April 18 hadn’t been updated to inform them that wasn’t part of the plan anymore.

So, while the meeting’s purpose was to inform the public about the scope of the entire general plan for the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, the South Land Park community has been focused on the section of the rail line owned by RT.

During the public comment period, which followed Musillami’s presentation, Julie Morengo, a resident of South Land Park Terrace, said she was appreciative of the promise by State Parks to remove the RT property from the language written in the General Plan proposal, however, she expressed her dissatisfaction of the process of how neighbors were notified, as well as the environmental impact it could have in the neighborhood, including the uses of pesticides, asphalt, and other potentially hazardous materials. “I was disturbed by the secretive and exclusive nature (of the process. Don’t confuse history with the current condition. You could achieve the same things with other options,” Morengo said.

Terry Oehler, a homeowner in Park Village, an upscale 2000s subdivision located south of 35 Avenue near the tracks, described the nature of his neighborhood in juxtaposition to the images shown during Musillami’s presentation. “This is a beautiful, pristine neighborhood. Your pictures don’t show houses. The track is 46 feet from my master bedroom. This proposal is not a situation of a compelling government need; it’s just for leisure. When we bought our homes, we did not think they’d pave over the tracks and have trains on them.”

Neighbor Adele Ose agreed, adding that the lien benefits tourists and not any of the neighbors. “Many ecosystems have developed into an urban woodland enjoyed by many. Additional rail crossings would further impact local intersections, and there’s no demonstrated financial benefit.”

Summing up how many South Land Park neighbors felt about the idea of trains running on those tracks again, Janet Gaithre said: “My father is a veteran and deserves peace and quiet. He is 89 years old and deserves to have peace in his old days. This is different from when trains ran on the levees and (conductors) threw candy; no more trains behind our homes, please.”

Upon discussing the speed of the excursion trains that are part of the proposal, Musillami told the Land Park News, “If you go up on the levee in Old Sacramento, the trains run so slow. These aren’t big freights. They’ve only got four or five cars and they’ll be historically designed. They’re only going to go 15 miles an hour. This would be better than having a light rail go through here because they have to run at the posted speed limit. Because it’s a historic train line, the intent is to link a real significant time in history. It was called a Walnut Grove Branch line and we’d like to link the line with Railroad Museum, which is the most popular (railroad museum) in the country. A lot of people come to Sacramento to come to the Railroad Museum. The Polar Express gets sold out in hours and the ones in the spring, summer, and fall are very popular also. They fill up very quickly.”

During the interview and at the meeting itself, Musillami explained the importance this plan has for the furthering of the State Parks’ mission to reenact the history of the Gold Rush era. “The Gold Rush era and interpretation is very important to this plan as well, but, all elements and proposals are based on funding. The grassy area in Old Town – we have a proposal to reconstruct 1849 buildings in that area. New structures will be historic replications of what was there at the time. It was a city block and there were different buildings (over the course of the) different eras. In 1849, the city was 8 feet lower than it was today. There were buildings at one level and higher levels in 1860s and 1870s, which varies with the era. But there were stables, and a hotel. As funding comes available, we’ll do more detailed studies.”


Portuguese family reunion draws 100-plus people

Mary Nevis (1878-1959), lower center, with a present in her hand, is shown in this 1957 photograph at the age of 80 with more than 80 members of her family. Mary was the wife of Manuel Nevis, Sr. Photo courtesy of PHCS

Mary Nevis (1878-1959), lower center, with a present in her hand, is shown in this 1957 photograph at the age of 80 with more than 80 members of her family. Mary was the wife of Manuel Nevis, Sr. Photo courtesy of PHCS

Members of the Correa family of Clarksburg recently hosted a large reunion that drew more than 100 farming ancestors of the Pocket.
Among the attendees of the event were Nevis, Dutra and Silva family members, who traveled from various parts of the country, including the East Coast and Hawaii.
The gathering was held on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the home of Bill and Louisa (Dutra) Correa.
Louisa grew up in the Pocket area’s well-known Dutra House and was the daughter of Lorrene Helen (Nevis) Dutra, who was one of the 15 children of Manuel and Mary Nevis.
Beverly Espinosa, who is Louisa’s cousin, explained how the reunion was arranged.
“We talked about it about a year ago at (The Old) Spaghetti Factory (at 1910 J St.) when we had a small (family) reunion (with about 40 people),” Beverly said. “Louisa decided that we would have (a large family reunion) at her house, and so we all got together about three months ago and tried to find relatives. We sent fliers, we sent out e-mails to let them know we decided on this reunion. A lot of it was (announced by) word (of) mouth.”
Eventually through much planning and preparation, the large reunion in Clarksburg finally occurred.
Certainly, part of the motivation to arrange a larger reunion was based on the advanced ages of some of the family’s senior members.
Planning for the reunion also provided motivation toward gathering additional family history and old photographs.
In the process of planning for the reunion, a group photograph from the family’s last large reunion in 1957 was reviewed.
About 25 of the more than 80 people who are pictured in that old photograph attended the recent reunion.
Using many historic family photographs, Beverly’s daughter, Mary Anne, created various posters to represent the reunion’s families. The posters were hung up to be viewed during the event.
Mary Anne, who helped organize the large reunion with Louisa and her cousins, said that the reunion presented opportunities to meet some of her cousins for the first time.
And Mary Anne added that she was pleased by the number of people who were in attendance at the event.
“The turnout was more than we expected,” Mary Anne said. “We had thought that we might reach 100. So, we were well over 100. I think I counted about 110 people. This is fantastic. It turned out much better than we anticipated, and we’re hoping to get more (family) stories. There was an interview questionnaire that went out to everyone as they signed in, so I’m hoping that they’ll turn that back in and we’ll get other stories.”
During the gathering, three of the most senior attendees of the event shared their memories with The Pocket News.
Two of these people were Irene Williams and Dolores Tippett, whose parents were Daniel and Mary (Nevis) Rose. Mary was one of the aforementioned 15 children of Manuel and Mary Nevis.
Irene Williams, right, and Dolores Tippett were among the more senior attendees of the reunion. Their parents were Daniel and Mary (Nevis) Rose. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Irene Williams, right, and Dolores Tippett were among the more senior attendees of the reunion. Their parents were Daniel and Mary (Nevis) Rose. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The Nevis family’s history in the Pocket dates back to 1868, when Manuel’s parents, Joseph and Mary Silva (later Nevis), moved to the area.
During their interviews with this paper, Irene and Doris spoke about various events in their lives.
Irene, who was the most senior family member at the event, was born on Jan. 29, 1922 and married George Williams on Dec. 28, 1940.
In recalling her youth, Irene said that she was once crowned the Riverside Portuguese Holy Ghost Festa queen.
“We had a big chamarrita – a big dance,” Irene said. “So, we danced all night and talked all day. And then we danced on Saturday. On Sunday, we went to church and showed my outfit. I had a long, white dress, so they wanted to see the queen’s dress.”
After being asked how she felt to have been honored as the queen, “Irene said, ‘Oh, I thought I was smart.”
Irene added, “My uncle (Frank Rose) was one of the big shots of the town and he chose me to be the queen. So, that’s how I got to be elected to be queen.”
And when asked if she was the prettiest gal in town, Irene responded, “Sure, why not?”
Dolores, 82, recalled that both her father and mother worked until her father became ill.
“They both worked and then my dad got sick and didn’t work anymore, so my mother was the bread winner,” Dolores said. “When I turned 17, after I graduated from Sacramento High School, I went to work with my mother. We worked at Sutter Laundry (at 1714 28th St.). We worked at another laundry. And then I got a job at Capital National Bank at 7th and J (streets), and then it was Crocker-Anglo (National Bank) and then Wells Fargo bought it. After that, I quit working (for) eight years and I had two children, one deceased.”
Dolores added that her work experience began much earlier than she had previously mentioned.
“As soon as I walked, I think I was out in the field picking almonds,” she said.
In further speaking about her father, Dolores said, “Every day of the week, he went to the Colonial (Theater at 3522 Stockton Blvd.). He would go every day and see the same movies, two and three or four times, and he would sit there all the time. I lived on 10th Avenue, 14th Avenue, 16th Avenue and Stockton Boulevard. We moved. We never stayed in one spot.”
And after being asked to speak about her own entertainment activities around that time, Dolores said, “I used to go catch the bus with the Red Cross and go to the different Air Force bases and dance. I did that for about eight years and then I got married (to Kenwood Tippett, who was the nephew of Carmichael Fire Chief Dan Donovan) and I lived in Carmichael. I’ve been there (for) 55 years.”
In describing a more local story about herself and Irene, Dolores said, “We didn’t know how to swim, so (her uncle Clarence Nevis) threw us in the Sacramento River (near today’s Garcia Bend Park), and to this day, she doesn’t swim and I don’t swim. It scared us. I was crying and crying and my uncle said, ‘What are you crying for?’ And I said, ‘You threw me in the river.’ He said, ‘I wanted you to swim.’ And I said, ‘That’s no way to teach anybody to swim.’ I was about 6.”
Edward Mauricio, who turned 91 on Oct. 2, was also among the more senior family members at the reunion.
A sign directs guests to the Nevis family reunion. Photo by Lance Armstrong

A sign directs guests to the Nevis family reunion. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Edward’s father was Manuel Mauricio and his mother was Carrie (Nevis) Mauricio, who was a daughter of Manuel and Mary Nevis.
During his interview for this article, Edward said, “I (grew up about a half-mile from the Pocket) in the (Riverside) area right next to the river, until I was 5 years old,” Edward said. “My father passed and then my mother got rid of the ranch and we lived in the house across the street. The ranch was 33 acres, and was (on Riverside Road), about a mile south of William Land Park. (The ranch) had wheat, some grapes, alfalfa, some orchards, peaches. That’s all I can remember.”
Edward said that following his father’s death, his uncle, Manuel Cabral, operated the ranch for about one or two years.
A Japanese man named Shig Masuhara, and his family, operated the ranch up until World War II and then returned to run the ranch again, since the Machado family had ranched the property for them during their internment.
Edward said that during the summers of his high school years, he worked on a hay press to earn money, and that his first car was a 1926 Model T.
“I had promised the gentleman that I bought (the car) from that I would take good care of it,” recalled Edward, who had a sister named Isabel Matranga. “I said, Yes, I will.’ And the first thing I did was take the fenders off, cut the top off and then we would go out there on 24th Street and Fruitridge (Road) and race around the open field there.”
Although no plans for another reunion have been set, there are nonetheless family members who would like to see more reunions for their family in the future.
One such family member is 19-year-old Eric Espinosa, who said, “As someone else was saying, when older generations of the cousins were growing up, they all knew each other, because they were neighbors who lived next to each other. So, like my generation, and my siblings and such, we don’t like really know all of our cousins, and even like our extended cousins. So, it’s really nice to get to come together and meet all of these people that we’re actually related to. And so then, the reason I want to see this continue is because it’s only going to get bigger.”


Three nights of trick-or-treating and family fun at Fairytale Town’s annual Safe & Super Halloween

Congrats to Fairytale Town Troupers and Mr. Lee for winning an award for original work for “Sindbad & Aladdin: The Arabian Knights!” at Sunday, Sept. 22’s Elly Awards!

Congrats to Fairytale Town Troupers and Mr. Lee for winning an award for original work for “Sindbad & Aladdin: The Arabian Knights!” at Sunday, Sept. 22’s Elly Awards!

Fairytale Town will be transformed into Middle Earth for this year’s Safe and Super Halloween event at the storybook park. The magical world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” will come to life for three nights of family fun on October 25, 26 and 27 from 5 to 9 p.m.

Families will enjoy exploring Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole, peeking into the elven kingdom of Rivendell and journeying to the Lonely Mountain. Seventeen candy stations will be scattered throughout the park for trick-or-treaters to visit. The evening also features hands-on activities and a costume parade.

Puppet Art Theater Company will perform “Winnie the Witch” in the Children’s Theater at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. In this blacklight puppet show, Winnie the witch loves Halloween, especially the candy. On her way to pick up sweets on Candy Island she discovers Willard the wizard trying to ruin Halloween by making the world’s candy supply taste like brussels sprouts. With the help of the audience and her trusty broomstick, Winnie must dodge dancing ghosts, batty bats and silly skeletons to save Halloween. Tickets for the puppet show are $1 for Fairytale Town members and $2 for nonmembers.

This year marks the 27th anniversary of Fairytale Town’s Safe and Super Halloween, which provides children and families with a safe place to trick or treat, have quality family time, and enjoy a great evening of Halloween-themed, family-friendly fun.

Advance tickets are $7 members and $10 nonmembers. Beginning October 25, tickets are $9 members and $12 nonmembers. Children ages 1 and under are free. Tickets are available for purchase online at www.fairytaletown.org, by phone at (916) 808-7462 or in person at the Fairytale Town box office.

Safe and Super Halloween: A Hobbit Adventure is sponsored by Smile Business Products, ScholarShare College Savings Plan, PeopleFinders.com, Make A Smile Dentistry, SAFE Credit Union and Arista Preschool.

For more information, visit www.fairytaletown.org or call (916) 808-7462.

Event Details
What:  27th Annual Safe & Super Halloween: A Hobbit Adventure
When:  Friday, Saturday & Sunday, Oct. 25, 26 & 27
Time:  5 – 9 p.m.
Cost:  Advance tickets are $7 members and $10 nonmembers.
Beginning October 25, tickets are $9 members and $12 nonmembers.
Children ages 1 and under are free.
Where:  Fairytale Town, 3901 Land Park Drive, Sacramento CA 95822
Phone:  (916) 808-7462
Email:  mail@fairytaletown.org
Website:  www.fairytaletown.org

Dead men tell no tales, but these pirates are much alive in Sacramento

Ay matey. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “dead men tell no tales,” but here’s one from the locals you may not know.

After a long seafaring voyage up the Sacramento River, The Pirates of Sacramento were intent on pillaging and burning the city to the ground until all of a sudden the Navy came along and kidnapped most of the crew.

So what was the rest of the pirates to do? Recruit some new blood, of course, and one of their stops – Fairytale Town on Sept. 19. Were they successful? Well that all depends on how you define success. They got children of all ages talkin’ like pirates, throwing (toy) skulls and shooting a (toy) monkey named Seymour out of a cannon.

“There, you go! The second or third time – you know how it works!” Captain Zachary Morgan (whose “mundane name” is Pete Zaniewski) told a wee lad after a successful monkey launch. Kids started lining up.

After an announcement was made that Pirate “Skool” was starting at the main outdoor stage, children and their willing parents learned the basics of pirate speak to the former’s benefit most definitely. Moms let out a loud sigh when the pirates told the young ones that when they are hungry they tout: “Where’s me grub, you wench?” One of the pirates honestly told the kids, they won’t be popular at dinner with that talk and they won’t get dessert.

As part of learning to talk like a pirate, volunteers were called up to choose from a board of “arrjetives” and another of nouns to create swear phrases.

But it was a tough crowd at about 11:30 a.m. as many of the children hadn’t learned how to read yet.

One girl named Kate volunteered first. When asked if she knew how to read, she said: “Sort of” but that was good enough for Captain Morgan, as she looked like a “trustworthy” gal.

After she chose her words, she came up with “Why you, smelly, filthy, dog!” A few other volunteers were chosen and then it was time for a good ol’ Q and A session.

Q: Why do pirates have green teeth?
A: Easy answer was that they don’t brush their teeth. But the more complicated came to light – to get green teeth brush them with a mixture of egg whites, wood ash, honey and to use beer or wine as mouthwash.

Q: “Are pirates real?” one child asked.
A: “Pirates are real” one of them said, adding: “I work for the California state government — they are real.”

The Pirates of Sacramento are a fun group of 12 actors (and 127 on the list) that brings their talents and knowledge to many festivals and events in Northern California, notably the Cameron Park and Fair Oaks Renaissance fairs. Doc Potions (whose “mundane name” is Stephen Bergdahl) said they got to perform at Fairytale Town because “Charlene called and said they needed more crazy people at Fairytale Town and I said I could help.”

“And that’s when he called me,” said Jax (whose “mundane name” is Jacqueline Langworthy Smith).

Asked why she’s a pirate, Jax said: “because it’s fun, and it’s been repeated in history … There’s a little bit of pirate in everybody.”


Photos by Monica Stark
Members of the Pirates of Sacramento were at Fairytale Town on Thursday, Sept. 19 recruiting its newest crew members.

Sacramento River has long history of flood control efforts

This map shows the coordinated regional flood control system with weirs and bypasses.

This map shows the coordinated regional flood control system with weirs and bypasses.

Editor’s Note: This is part 18 in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

The Sacramento River and its tributaries have played such a significant role in Sacramento’s history that it is often referred to as the “river city.”
This 18th and final article of this series reviews the historic relationship between the city and its river, and will pose the question, What might we expect next?
The same waterways that have delivered life and a strong economy to the region have also brought destruction and even death.
Sacramento’s past and present are united by the vagrancies of the river like the ebb and flow of tide at the I Street Bridge.
While the river has delivered wealth and abundance, it has also carried away human accomplishments as if they were no more than the sediments in its current.
Since the city was founded, the economy and human endeavors have been based upon attempts to mollify the seasonal anger of the river’s waters.
The location of Sacramento was based upon its proximity to the river and the ease with which large sailing and steam vessels could be beached upon its soft sands without the need for docks or piers.
A much more sensible town site, known as Sutterville, on the high ground of today’s William Land Park area was abandoned in favor of the current waterfront in present day Old Sacramento.
Sutterville would have required the digging of a canal to anchor, load and unload ships, and there was no time to excavate such an overwhelming project.
Sacramento was spawned of the Gold Rush, and “rush” was preeminent in how the city grew.
Whether it was by the need to rapidly beach ships or by the simple naming of the city’s streets using the alphabet and numbers, Sacramento’s beginnings were urged on by the need to rush.
After inundations in its first few years, the city rushed to put up levees that proved inadequate.
Following the failure of the early levees, the leaders of what was becoming known as the “indomitable city” decided to take a more comprehensive and all encompassing approach to controlling the waters of the Sacramento that annually threatened the prosperity of the city’s residents and businesses. This approach led to a new paradigm in flood control.
The city combined the enhancement of levees with the previously unheard of idea of raising the entire city above the potential floodwaters.
The great flood of 1861-62, which inundated nearly the entire city and was described by some observers as being a lake that was 300 miles long and 40 miles wide, was the impetus to adopt a never before attempted engineering endeavor.
A decision was made to raise the parts of the city nearest to the waterfront and most subject to periodic flooding.
The raising, or lowering, of the city was accomplished in one of two ways.
Some businesses abandoned their first floors to the sediments of the river, while those who could afford it, took the unprecedented action of using jacks to raise their buildings as much as 12 feet above their original foundation.
This massive undertaking included more than just abandoning first floors or raising buildings. City services, which involved water delivery and the sewer system, had to be modified to accommodate the new elevation.
It was a time of unequaled cooperation between government and citizens.
The project was undertaken without any clearly defined conditions for what would be the responsibility of the city and what would be the responsibility of the property owners.
But despite many setbacks and conflicts, by 1873, the grading, raising and reconstruction of Sacramento was completed.
The lives of the citizenry and businesses had been disrupted for a decade, but the city has not since experienced an inundation like the great flood of 1861-62.
The question still remains, however, have we done enough?
Just as the city was born of the Gold Rush, it was almost destroyed by the Gold Rush.
The search for that elusive metal and its promised wealth became more and more invasive and degrading to the land.
After the easily found gold was picked up and removed, large water canons known as “monitors” were brought in to the gold country to obliterate entire hillsides.
Chemicals such as arsenic and mercury were used to separate the gold from the tailings, and then this debris, loaded with sediment and a high percentage of toxic minerals, was washed into the river.
This action had the dual effect of poisoning the waterways, including the Sacramento, and filling the river channel with sediment, creating sandbars where none had previously existed.
This debris filling the river channel not only hampered navigation, but it enhanced the chance of flooding by reducing the available space for water in the river channel.
Even though the devastation was obvious to everyone, farmers and city folk alike were not able to end it; the mining industry and the mining lobby were just too powerful, and for several years, the monitors continued to wreak havoc on the hills.
Finally, it was the river itself that saved Sacramento.
The federal government was not able to stop the use of the water cannons, but it was able to stop the dumping of sediment in the navigable Sacramento River and all of its tributaries.
And while the destruction of the river by mining was obverted, it became obvious to the newly created flood control agencies that a comprehensive plan of weirs, bypasses, levees and a coordinated system of dams was necessary to provide long-term flood protection.
But in the late 19th century, these alterations were still a dream on paper.
Halting the dumping of mining debris freed the river of the unknown, uncharted and unwanted sandbars.
The Sacramento River once again became a passage for commerce and recreation.
And while it would no longer host the hordes of romantic sailing ships and steamers that once raced between the capital city and San Francisco, Sacramento was again an important port for large ships.
The most notable of the famous steamboats that once plied the river were the Delta King and the Delta Queen. These paddle wheelers presented more than simple transportation, as they were a palatial setting with exquisite staterooms and gourmet dining.
From 1927 until 1940, these vessels were the unabashed royalty of the river.
But like many relics, their time passed and they were replaced by a culture dominated by bridges and automobiles.
Even though the Sacramento area has been periodically threatened, and at times flooded, such as the 1904 flood in the Riverside-Pocket area, this area has been mostly protected.
The paper dream of the coordinated flood control system has become a reality. The Flood Control Act of 1917 created a regional agency to encourage the coordination of the efforts of federal, state and local governments.
Weirs are opened to allow the Sutter and Yolo bypasses to harmlessly flood farmlands whenever a threat to the city seems eminent.
Large dams on the Sacramento and its tributaries control the release of water into the channel to keep it below the level of the levees.
Skilled crews of engineers, landscapers and maintenance personnel keep a vigilant watch on the condition of the levees and meticulously maintain the coordinated flood control system that protects the city and region.
Politicians and prognosticators frequently debate whether we have 100, 200 or 500-year flood control.
But those figures are almost nebulous, because the tides could get higher and the waters in the river system could rise in any particular year.
For instance, 500-year flood control does not mean there would be a devastating flood every 500 years; there could be devastating floods in back-to-back years, but then not another flood for 1,000 years. In this case, this simply means, the city averages a devastating flood every 500 years.
Figures for flood control protection are based on a statistical average rather than actual events.
There is competition on how the river and levees are used.
Some people see them as recreational opportunities for boating, hiking and biking, while others see them as corridors of commerce and walls of protection from inundations.
That is the contentious debate that will guide flood control policies through the 21st century and will determine if sufficient flood protection has been provided for the city.
Sacramento’s best protection from a devastating flood is diligence, maintenance and cooperation.


Major flood washed through Riverside-Pocket area 109 years ago

On Feb. 27, 1904, the river quickly reminded Riverside-Pocket area residents of its great power, as a levee break resulted in a major flood in the area. Shown in this photograph is the flooded home of Pocket resident Manuel Seamas. Photo courtesy of PHCS

On Feb. 27, 1904, the river quickly reminded Riverside-Pocket area residents of its great power, as a levee break resulted in a major flood in the area. Shown in this photograph is the flooded home of Pocket resident Manuel Seamas. Photo courtesy of PHCS

Editor’s Note: This is part 16 in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

When it comes to the history of the Sacramento River, in relation to the Riverside-Pocket area, the river received its most concentrated attention from residents of that area on Feb. 27, 1904.
This fact is undeniable, as it was on that day that a break in the levee at the sharp turn in the river, near Sutterville Road, about three miles south of the old Y Street (today’s Broadway) levee, caused floodwaters to inundate an estimated 10,000 acres in the Riverside-Pocket area.
The levee break became known as the Edwards Break due to its location at the ranch of local farmer Eustace Richard Edwards (1849-1931).
Eustace, who was the oldest of the children of Welsh native Thomas C. Edwards (1816-1877) and Massachusetts native Sarah W. (Lincoln) Edwards (1822-1897), was born in Massachusetts.
According to the 1870 U.S. Census, Eustace was then residing with his family in the Sutter Township, which included the area that would become known as Riverside.
Eustace resided in this general area for the remainder of his life, with his final address being 3225 Freeport Blvd.
The Edwards Break occurred shortly after noon, and less than three hours later, the break had grown to about 100 feet wide, and was continuing to expand.
While a reporter for The Sacramento Bee was interviewing county surveyor Joseph C. Boyd, about 10 feet of the levee was washed away, along with a massive oak tree that had been derooted by the floodwaters.
Although Boyd said that it would take two weeks to repair the break in the levee, The Bee then-reported that because of the protection of the Y Street levee, there was “absolutely no danger in the water entering the city (which then had its southern boundary at Y Street).”
A Feb. 29, 1904 report in The Bee, in part, read: “The Sacramento River is steadily falling (from 27.9 feet on the day of the break), registering 25.9 feet at noon to-day (sic). So far, as Sacramento is concerned, this fact is of merely passing interest, for there never has been a time during the present high water that the least fear from flood has been felt. The levees about the city offer absolute protection.”
However, on another page of the same edition of The Bee, it was reported that some city residents feared that the floodwaters from the south might spill over the Y Street levee.
While the city avoided floodwaters from the river, the previously mentioned chaotic flood scene transpired to the south of that area.
With news of the break, rescue crews were quickly organized and efforts were made to bring various south area residents to safety.
Many curious residents of the city set out on excursions to view the changes in landscapes that occurred as a result of the levee break.
Thousands of people visited the city cemetery at the present day address of 1000 Broadway to observe the submerged area south of the city.
Graves on the low ground and the southern and southeastern portions of that cemetery were submerged in water due to the break.
In its Feb. 29, 1904 edition, The Union described the Odd Fellows plat along Riverside Boulevard as a “lake of water,” which, in part of that area, was being used as a thoroughfare for rowboats during the previous afternoon.
Sightseers on foot and in buggies and other types of vehicles made their way along the road atop the Y Street levee from Front Street to 25th Street to view flooded scenes, which included St. Joseph’s Cemetery, which was halfway submerged with floodwaters.
The Union described the scene at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, as follows: “The highest points of the cemetery were not submerged, but in the northern section, not even the gravestones showed above the flood.”
In describing the southward view from the Y Street levee, The Union noted: “Standing on the levee and looking south, the inland sea stretched as far as the eye would carry. Here and there a clump or grove of trees waved in the south breeze; here the tops of a row of fence posts marked a division line: there a house, submerged to the windows, looked the acme of desolation. A big cattle barn, submerged halfway to the eaves, stood sturdily in one direction, in the other, a hop house looked out over the watery waste.”
A line of people could constantly be seen on the bridge connecting Sacramento with Washington in today’s West Sacramento during the daylight hours.
Several hundred of the city’s more courageous residents walked southward down the Front Street levee to obtain a close view of the break in the levee.
In its February 28, 1904 edition, The Union encouraged the public to view the flood from the Capitol, as follows: “As the submerged district is of unusual extent, the sight from the Capitol dome is one well worth seeing. The view from the first and second balconies surrounding the dome is preferable from that obtained from the cupola, as there is plenty of room in which to move about and take in the panorama in all directions. The Capitol cupola will be open for visitors to-day (sic), says Secretary of State (Charles F.) Curry.”
The Bee reported that floodwaters were still rushing through the “great crevasse” with “undiminished force” two days after the levee broke.
The same report noted that “the roar of the rushing torrent could be heard a great distance away.”
Although the loss of human life seems to have been limited to a man who was killed at the site of the levee break, many animals, including livestock, perished in the floodwaters and large amounts of crops were destroyed.
Several weeks passed before the floodwaters finally receded and people were able to return to their homes.
And despite the fact that the levee was eventually repaired and many flood-free years followed, the images of the great flood of 1904 would never leave the memories of Riverside-Pocket area residents of that era.

Delta King, Delta Queen were monarchs of the river

The Delta King, shown in its permanently moored state in Old Sacramento, plied the Sacramento River along with its sister vessel, the Delta Queen, from 1927 to 1940. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The Delta King, shown in its permanently moored state in Old Sacramento, plied the Sacramento River along with its sister vessel, the Delta Queen, from 1927 to 1940. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part 13 in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

When it comes to features of the Sacramento River, many locals are well aware of the Delta King.
This large, now permanently moored riverboat sits along the Old Sacramento riverfront, providing the 28-acre historic area’s only hotel, as well as entertainment venues and unique dining places unlike any throughout the city. But despite these attractions, the history of this riverboat is much richer.
Recognized by many people, this famous jewel of the river had many admirers long before it became a stationary fixture of Old Sacramento.
And the Delta King was certainly not alone, as it made its debut on June 1, 1927 with its sister riverboat, the Delta Queen.
The pair was built and furnished from 1925 to 1927 at the California Transportation Company shipyard, off Harrison Street, in Stockton at a cost of $875,000 each.
The completion of these vessels, which were built with ironwood decks from Spain, shafts and cranks from Germany and hulls from Scotland, was celebrated in Stockton on May 20, 1927 with a luncheon at the Masonic Temple at 12:15 p.m. and a public viewing of the new steamers at the shipyard at 2:30 p.m.
From 1927 to 1940, the King and Queen plied the waters between the Sacramento River waterfront and San Francisco’s Pier 3. Carrying passengers and cargo, the boats departed daily from each city at 6:30 p.m. and arrived at their destinations at about 5:30 a.m.
When the twin floating hotel paddle wheelers with dining service were first launched, single fares sold for $1.80, while a roundtrip fare cost $3. These rates were reduced to $1.50/one way and $1.95/round trip during the Depression.

Photo by Lance Armstrong

Photo by Lance Armstrong

As presented in previous articles of this series, the Delta King and the Delta Queen were far from Sacramento’s first riverboats.
The steamers, Capital City and Fort Sutter preceded these new royal vessels by carrying passengers between Sacramento and San Francisco.
But no riverboats of the Sacramento River achieved greater fame than the Delta King and the Delta Queen.
And although the King and Queen were certainly not always treated like royalty, their post-1940 history is rich and their legacies are strong.
With the onset of World War II and an increase in automobiles, roads and bridges, their glory days of reigning on the Sacramento River ended in the fall of 1940, when these classic riverboats made their last trips between Sacramento and San Francisco.
During the war, the vessels, which were painted gray and renamed YFB 55 (Delta King) and YFB 56 (Delta Queen), provided service to the Navy as troop transports, floating barracks, hospital ships and net tenders in the San Francisco Bay.
Following the war, the Delta Queen was sold for $46,250 in an auction to Green Line Steamers, and made its way via the Panama Canal to the Mississippi River to be used as the company’s premier vessel.
The Delta King, however, had a much more detailed history, as it fell in and out of the possession of different business groups in various places before making its final home in Sacramento.
Although many people take the Delta King’s presence along the Old Sacramento waterfront for granted, the old paddle wheeler’s existence at this site is something that came close to never happening.
After the war, the Delta King was sold for $60,168 to a group of Chinese businessmen of the Southeast Asia Importing and Exporting Co. of Thailand.
The businessmen intended to have the five-story, 1,837-ton, 285-foot long by 54-foot-wide vessel transported to the Yangtze River in China. But the endeavor never transpired, since the riverboat’s highest bidders were not aware that the Delta King was a paddle wheeler.
As a result, by March 1948, news circulated that the Delta King might be sold for scrap.
Eventually, the Delta King was auctioned off four times, only to be rejected each time when the United States Maritime Commission reported that the bids were too low.
The Delta King was eventually moved from its home in Benicia, Calif. to Fulton’s Shipyard in Antioch, Calif. after the commission accepted a fifth auction bid – a $24,000 bid by a group of Seattle businessmen.
The group’s plans to relocate the Delta King to Seattle to be used as a fish cannery ended in May 1950, as the businessmen determined that the project to move the riverboat would be too expensive.
Two years later, the Delta King was sold to Kitimat Constructors, who planned to use the boat as a construction workers dormitory in Kitimat, Canada.
The Delta King was nearly lost forever, shortly after its arrival in Kitimat, when its boiler room caught fire, but was extinguished in time to save the vessel.
A major event in the Delta King’s history occurred on March 2, 1959, when Stockton businessman John Kessel and several others paid $32,000 to have the riverboat returned to its California birthplace in the Stockton Channel.
Although the Delta King’s Stockton reunion lasted only a decade and the sternwheeler was pursued by a variety of potential buyers, its stay was captured in time through its use in the MGM film, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” part of which was filmed in Stockton.
Stuck in legal and financial difficulties that resulted in confusion as to who actually owned the vessel, the Delta King was left abandoned and souvenir-seeking looters stripped away vintage items from the old riverboat.
During the late 1960s, Sacramento Union columnist Tom Horton strongly suggested the need for Sacramento to acquire a riverboat for Old Sacramento.
His wish became a reality in an extremely unusual manner in 1969.
On the same day that Neil Armstrong took his “one small step for man” and “one giant leap for mankind,” the Delta King made national news as it was heisted in the night and brought back to Sacramento by a group led by Geoffrey P. Wong, who felt the boat belonged in Sacramento.

Capital City, Fort Sutter were among river’s most famous steamboats

The four-deck steamer Capital City was mostly built in 1910, two years prior to the construction of the nearly identical steamer Fort Sutter. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

The four-deck steamer Capital City was mostly built in 1910, two years prior to the construction of the nearly identical steamer Fort Sutter. Photo courtesy of the Lance Armstrong Collection

Editor’s Note: This is part 12 in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

The history of steamers of the Sacramento River is an extensive one that covers a romantic period in the city’s past.
And with the Sacramento Valley’s extensive agriculture operations, steamers were also used to transport agricultural products along the river.
During the 19th century, vessels of small steamboat companies stopped at landings, so that the goods of farmers could be loaded onto those steamers.
A major event in the story of the river’s steamers, of which there were many, was the March 31, 1871 transfer of all property of the California Steam Navigation Co. to the California Pacific Railroad Co.
Five months later, the Central Pacific Railroad, en route to becoming a railroad monopoly, acquired the California Pacific. And with that transaction, the Central Pacific continued the operation of steamers that were once run by the California Steam Navigation Co.
As part of this monopoly, the owners of the Central Pacific also acquired the Southern Pacific. And gradually the Southern Pacific name became the dominant name for all of the railroad holdings.
In 1873, 22 steamboats were registered for regular operation on the river, with the largest of these boats being the 864-ton Amador.
River and harbor statistics for 1873 note that 231 sailing vessels arrived in the capital city during the same year, with the greatest number of these arrivals being 30 during the month of June.
A ferry bay and river steamers report that was printed in June 1878 refers to eight steamers that were then running on the Sacramento River.
These vessels were: Amelia, Chin du Wan, Enterprise and Julia of the San Francisco-Sacramento route and Dover, Flora, Gov. Dana and Red Bluff of the upper Sacramento River.
The sister ships, Modoc and Apache, were the main railroad steamers during the 1880s. These vessels made regular trips to and from Sacramento and San Francisco.
As older steamships in 1912 and for several years more, the Modoc and the Apache abandoned the common night travel along the river for morning departures to and from Sacramento and San Francisco.
During the same era, two of the river’s most famous steamboats, the California Transportation Co.’s Capital City and Fort Sutter, began plying the waters of the Sacramento.
These elegant stern-wheelers, which included staterooms and private baths, were both running on the river by 1912.
Capital City
The four-deck Capital City was mostly built in 1910, two years prior to the construction of the nearly identical steamer Fort Sutter. This trivial information is odd in a historical timeline fashion, considering that Sutter’s Fort was built a decade before the founding of Sacramento City, which became California’s capital city for the first time in 1852.
Prior to the maiden voyage of the 1,142-ton, 220-foot-long Capital City, a dilemma was being faced.
Although the city wharf near the foot of M Street (now Capitol Mall) was sufficient for smaller sized vessels, it was not built to accommodate a steamer the size of the Capital City.
The specific problem was that in the event of the Capital City’s use of the wharf’s north elevator, her stern would overlap the elevator at the wharf’s southern end, thus causing delays for other vessels.
Upon the suggestion of Mayor Marshall R. Beard, and following official examinations of the wharf, the wharf’s south elevator was moved further south of its original location, at a cost of about $400.
The Capital City, which was christened in San Francisco in a special Aug. 27, 1910 ceremony that was attended Beard, Lt. Gov. Warren R. Porter and many others, was described in the Aug. 25, 1910 edition of The San Francisco Call.
Included in that description were the following words: “The vessel, built for service between here and Sacramento, will set a new mark in river transportation. Roomy and fast, the Capital City will be provided with all the comforts of a great ocean liner or first-class hotel. Every state room will be served with hot and old running water and there will be a number of private suites with private bathrooms adjoining. The interior woodwork is all mahogany. There are wide stretches of promenade decks and on the top side is a large observation room protected on all sides from inclement weather by large plateglass (sic) windows. The hull is divided into nine watertight compartments, these compartments being separated by cross steel bulkheads. An elaborate fire sprinkling system has been installed. This all means that the Capital City will be practically unsinkable and fireproof.”
The then-new steamer was put in operation between Sacramento and San Francisco in about October 1910.
In 1927, the Capital City was decommissioned due to the introduction of the California Transportation Co.’s (later River Lines’) steamers, Delta King and Delta Queen.
The Capital City was relocated to the San Joaquin River and renamed the Port of Stockton.
The vessel continued to work the river until 1942, when it was purchased by the Army for use as floating barracks.
Following the war, theatrical manager Barney Gould purchased the old riverboat, which he planned to convert into a floating entertainment center with a restaurant and nightclub.
The Capital City, according to the March 15, 1952 edition of The Sacramento Bee, was eventually renamed the City of San Francisco.
On March 14, 1952, the steamer partially sunk during a storm in the San Francisco harbor channel, China Basin.
The old stern-wheeler had recently been painted red, white and blue in preparation for its intended relocation to the San Francisco Maritime Museum.
The Bee reported on Sept. 11, 1958 that the Sherman Crane Service of Oakland had been paid $9,477 for the wrecking and removal of the old vessel from China Basin.
Fort Sutter
As previously mentioned, the four-deck steamer Fort Sutter, which was built by Sacramento Bay Shipbuilders, was constructed two years following the building of the Capital City.
In a well attended event held in San Francisco on Nov. 11, 1912, the Capital City left its shore while Eva Lowry, winner of a Sacramento High School contest for the best essay about John A. Sutter, broke a Sacramento Valley Winery champagne bottle over the steamer’s bow.
Prior to breaking the bottle, Lowry raised it above her head and said, “I christen thee Fort Sutter.”
Since the Fort Sutter would not begin its Sacramento-San Francisco route until the following month, about 60 Sacramentans, who had attended the event, returned home aboard the Capital City.
In an early report about the Fort Sutter, The Bee described the vessel, as follows: “The Fort Sutter will cost approximately a quarter of a million dollars and will be one of the best boats of her type afloat. The (steamer) will have accommodations for 260 passengers in (66) staterooms and suites. There will be four three-room suites on the boats with bathrooms. In every room there will be electric lights, running hot and colt (sic) water an (sic) telephone connection with all parts of the boat.”
The Fort Sutter also included three decks for passengers, a dining room with a capacity of 70, a large social hall, an observation room, a barber shop, a newsstand, a candy store, a barroom/card room, smoking rooms and washstands with hot and cold water in each of the staterooms.
The social room included a dome of colored glass that both lighted and beautified the room. The glass was valued at more than $2,000.
Inside the staterooms was mahogany and birch woodwork and doors of teak.
Fort Sutter’s original officers of the were Capt. G.H. Goodell, chief engineer William L. Ely, pilots Andrew Carlson and A.R. Paul, first mate Albert Johnson and purser F.E. Greenbaum.
It was business as usual for Fort Sutter until 1927, when it was also decommissioned with the introduction of the Delta King and Delta Queen.
During World War II, the Navy acquired Fort Sutter and used the riverboat to house and feed sailors near Mare Island in the Carquinez Straits.
After the war, M.O. Mason, a Sacramento automobile salesman and owner of the Capital City Yacht Club, purchased the vessel from the Navy, and had it returned to the capital city in January 1947.
J.H. McGee of 1712 N St., J.A. Peterson of 1744 Sherwood Ave., and his brother L.A. Peterson of 2430 V St. purchased the boat a year later for the purpose of converting it into a fishing club on the south side of the Three Mile Slough Bridge.
As part of their project, these men planned to open a restaurant on the boat’s second deck, as well as club and cocktail rooms.
Under the old steamer’s new ownership, the San Francisco tugs, Antioch and Paul Martin, pulled it down the river toward Rio Vista on Oct. 10, 1949.
Gould later acquired Fort Sutter, which began to deteriorate in San Francisco Bay under his ownership, and was destroyed by fire in 1959.

Steamers were plentiful on river during 19th century

A large wooden sign on a structure on the west side of Front Street in Old Sacramento pays tribute to steamboats of the past. Photo by Lance Armstrong

A large wooden sign on a structure on the west side of Front Street in Old Sacramento pays tribute to steamboats of the past. Photo by Lance Armstrong

Editor’s Note: This is part 11 in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

What do the names McKim, Chrysopolis, Senator and Washoe all have in common with each other in regard to Sacramento history? The answer lies in the topic of the Sacramento River.
These names were given to some of the more notable steamboats that plied this waterway during the 19th century.
And there were certainly many other steamers, as well as other vessels, that operated along the river during that era, considering the mass increase in population that came with the Gold Rush and the establishment and growth of Sacramento City.
For instance, the Sacramento Transcript noted in its Sept. 12, 1850 edition that during the previous month “there arrived at this city seventy-four steamers and seventy-four sailing vessels – the latter with a tonnage of seven thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight and one-quarter tons.”
These non-steamers were 58 schooners, three brigs, three barks, two sloops and two launches.
The 1880 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” noted that 25 steamers were making their way to and from Sacramento in 1853.
In memory of some of the earlier-running steamers that transported passengers and cargo along the Sacramento River during the 19th century, summaries of these vessels are presented, as follows:

This 1861 steamer Chrysopolis freight receipt was presented for the reception of 30 boxes, which were arranged to be shipped at a cost of $2.50. The Chrysopolis was among the Sacramento River’s most notable steamers for her beauty, size and speed. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento Room

This 1861 steamer Chrysopolis freight receipt was presented for the reception of 30 boxes, which were arranged to be shipped at a cost of $2.50. The Chrysopolis was among the Sacramento River’s most notable steamers for her beauty, size and speed. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento Room


The 326-ton steam propelled McKim, which was owned by Simmons, Hutchinson & Co., was recognized as the first large class steamboat to come to Sacramento City.
The vessel left San Francisco for Sacramento City on Oct. 26, 1849 and arrived at its destination 17 hours later.
According to the aforementioned 1880 county history book, the McKim received a very positive welcome upon its arrival at Sacramento City.
This description reads: “On her arrival at Sacramento (from San Francisco), the people turned out en masse and joined in an ovation to the first big steamboat, which had arrived in Sacramento.”
The same book notes that while the McKim, which made regular trips between Sacramento City and San Francisco, was then under the command of Capt. Macy, $16,000 in proceeds was collected for one trip on the steamer.
Regular rates for the McKim were presented in the San Francisco newspaper, Daily Alta California, on Dec. 21, 1849. They were $25 for passage, and for freight, $2.50 per 100 pounds and $1 per foot (measurement of goods).
As she was leaving the Carquinez Straits on June 11, 1850, the McKim was involved in a wreck with Simmons, Hutchinson & Co.’s steamer Gold Hunter.
The Gold Hunter suffered little damage, but the McKim nearly sunk.
In reporting on the accident in its June 14, 1850 edition, the Sacramento Transcript noted that there was a question whether the McKim would “be worth anything hereafter.”
However, on July 1, 1850, the Transcript reported the following: “The Herald informs us that the steamer McKim arrived at San Francisco on Thursday night (June 27, 1850) under steam. Her damage is much less than was anticipated, and we understand that in a few days she will be in order to resume her trips to Sacramento.”
Two days later, the Daily Alta California announced that the McKim was once again operating between San Francisco and Sacramento City.

This gravestone at East Lawn Memorial Park in East Sacramento was created in remembrance of a victim of the steamer Washoe tragedy on the Sacramento River in 1864. Photo by Lance Armstrong

This gravestone at East Lawn Memorial Park in East Sacramento was created in remembrance of a victim of the steamer Washoe tragedy on the Sacramento River in 1864. Photo by Lance Armstrong

The McKim continued its regular runs along the Sacramento River under the command of Capt. Chas. J. Brenham until about early November 1850.


The 755-ton Senator first arrived in Sacramento City on Nov. 6, 1849 and ran between there and San Francisco.
The fare for her first trip under the command of Capt. John Van Pelt was $30.
A brief description regarding the Senator was presented in the Nov. 17, 1849 edition of the Placer Times, as follows: “The Senator followed the McKim within a few days after her first trip. The speed and accommodations of the (Senator) are unsurpassed and her officers are gentlemanly and obliging. During the week, trips from this place have been performed every other day.”
The agents of the Senator were Minturn & Co. of San Francisco.
Regular rates aboard the Senator were $25 up river, $30 down river, $2 for meals, $10 for state rooms, and the charge for freight was from $40 to $50 per ton.
The 1890 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” notes that for a long time, the Senator and the steamer New World made alternate trips between Sacramento and Benicia.
The Union reported on Jan. 9, 1869 that the Senator was undergoing extensive repairs prior to running in Holladay & Brenham’s California, Oregon and Mexico line.


Constructed for $200,000 in 1860, the Chrysopolis was among the Sacramento River’s most notable steamers for her beauty, size and speed.
She measured 245 feet in length, had a 40-foot beam, could carry 1,000 passengers and was described in The Union’s June 6, 1860 edition as being “as beautiful, perfect and agreeable as she is large and commodious.”
The Union, on June 4, 1860, reported: “Over eight thousand persons were present at the launch last night of the new steamer Chrysopolis, at Steamboat Point. The steamer Eclipse was beautifully illuminated and in attendance.”
E. C. M. Chadwich, captain of the Chrysopolis, died of heart disease on April 16, 1865, and Albert Foster later became the steamer’s captain.
The Union reported on March 17, 1869 that a keg of powder exploded on the Chrysopolis the previous night while it was crossing the San Francisco Bay en route to a St. Patrick Day celebration.
More than a dozen people, including a child, were injured in the incident, and a fire began in the gentleman’s smoking room, but was quickly extinguished.
The Chrysopolis was later converted into the ferry boat Oakland, which did service on the San Francisco-Oakland run for many years.

The steamer Antelope came to the rescue of survivors of the steamer Washoe tragedy on Sept. 5, 1864. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento Room

The steamer Antelope came to the rescue of survivors of the steamer Washoe tragedy on Sept. 5, 1864. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento Room


The steamer Yosemite, which was constructed in 1862 and was commanded by Capt. E. A. Poole, began operating on the Sacramento River with the Chrysopolis during the following year.
The steamer Yosemite had a boiler explode after she was departing from the Rio Vista wharf on Oct. 12, 1865.
According to the aforementioned 1880 county history book, the disaster resulted in the deaths of two-thirds of the about 150 passengers on board the vessel. Thirty-two of the casualties were Chinese.
The Chrysopolis responded to the scene and carried away the survivors and the deceased to Sacramento.
In recalling the Yosemite, The Union, in its Oct. 14, 1865 edition, noted, “The Yosemite was a first-class steamer, constructed throughout with an eye to regular, permanent service, as well as speed and elegance, and she had consequently gained confidence of the traveling community.”


The first trip of the steamer Washoe was made on May 8, 1864.
The Washoe, which was under the command of Capt. G. W. Kidd, left the Pacific Street wharf in San Francisco for Sacramento on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4 p.m.
On July 1, 1864, the Washoe and the steamer Yosemite collided near the Benicia wharf, and although the Yosemite was not damaged, the Washoe was in a sinking condition before she was saved.
About a week later, the grand jury of Solano County indicted Poole and the pilot of the Yosemite for assault with the intent to commit murder on the basis that the collision was an intentional act.
A dispatch to The Sacramento Bee from San Francisco, dated July 9, 1864, read: “The man injured by the collision of the Yosemite and the Washoe is dead. Captain Poole has just been arrested on a charge of manslaughter in connection with the above.”
In a commentary about the collision, the California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences, in its July 15, 1864 edition, noted that “the event was one likely to occur at some time from the very (unpleasant) nature of the relation held by these lines of steamers.”
While the Washoe was traveling about 35 miles below Sacramento on Sept. 5, 1864, about half of its 175 passengers were killed as a result of a boiler explosion on this steamer, and about half of the survivors were severely injured.
Capt. Albert Foster with the steamer Antelope picked up survivors and delivered them to the foot of R Street.

Steam navigation company

As a tribute to steamers of the past, a large wooden sign on a structure on the west side of Front Street in Old Sacramento reads: “California Steam Navigation Co.’s steamers for San Francisco.”
The company was formed in 1854 by leading steamboat owners with the intention of controlling river traffic and earnings.

‘Sacramento,’ ‘Sitka’ among early river vessels

Note: This is part 10 in a series about the history of the Sacramento River.

The topic of riverboats on the Sacramento River is undoubtedly a rich part of the river’s history.
These vessels played an important role in transporting freight and passengers.
In the January 1920 edition of the Southern Pacific Bulletin, it was noted that “long before the railroad came, the Sacramento River was the ‘roadway’ along which commerce first traveled.”
Among the earlier vessels to ply the Sacramento River was a schooner known as the “Sacramento.”
In an article in the May 27, 1858 edition of The Sacramento Union, this schooner was described as having been purchased by Capt. John A. Sutter in 1841.
A July 7, 1860 letter written to The Union by a newspaper correspondent known as St. George refers to this vessel, as follows: “The only regular packet running between the embarcadero of New Helvetia (now the beautiful city of Sacramento, capital of the state of California), and Yerba Buena (now the great city of San Francisco, the New York of the Pacific) was Captain Sutter’s launch, ‘Sacramento,’ a schooner of seventeen tons. She was built by the Russian American Company, I think, at Sitka, for the sea otter service at Bodega and Presidio Ross, and sold to Capt. Sutter in 1839. I last saw her laying (sic) at Washington (now part of West Sacramento), opposite our city, in 1858, roofed over and used as a house for salmon fishers.”
In being that the 1858 Union article and 1860 St. George letter differ as to when Sutter acquired the Sacramento, it should be recognized that this event occurred in 1841.
The 1858 Union article noted that the Sacramento remained in operation until as late as 1848-49, and “after performing a number of important offices during the (Mexican) War, was, in the spring of 1848, the first to take down to San Francisco the tidings of the gold discovery.”
It was also mentioned in the same article that the Sacramento continued to be the largest schooner on the Sacramento River “up to the period when the commerce with the mines began.”
According to St. George’s letter, Sutter also had another line, which ran from New Helvetia to his Hock Farm agricultural settlement along the Feather River. The riverboat of this line was referred to as the “‘White Pinnace’ – an open boat, rowed and poled by six nude (Indians).”
The aforementioned 1920 edition Southern Pacific Bulletin article referred to the first steamer to travel on the Sacramento River.
That vessel, which was known as the Sitka, made its way from San Francisco to today’s city of Sacramento in 1847.
Nearly four decades later, The Union received a letter, dated Feb. 6, 1885, from a Mrs. James Greyson of Sebastopol, Calif., who claimed to have been a passenger aboard the Sitka.
The letter included the following words: “In the San Francisco Call of January 24th, I see the request for the name of the first steamer that plied on the Sacramento River, and being a passenger on the occasion of the first trip, I feel myself competent to give the information desired. She was a beautiful steam yacht, bearing the name of Sitka. She was, I believe, presented by the Russian government to Captain (William Alexander) Leadsdolph (Leidesdorff, Jr.). She left San Francisco on the 15th of December 1847 and arrived at the embarcadero on the Sacramento (River) on the 24th of the same month.”
Different dates for this voyage were presented in another account of the Sitka in the St. George’s aforementioned 1860 letter.
The 1860 letter noted that the vessel left San Francisco on Nov. 28, 1847 and “arrived at New Helvetia December 4th – six days and seven hours out.”
Also included in St. George’s account were the following words: “I made the first and only trip on Captain William A. Leidesdorff’s little Russian steamer from San Francisco to New Helvetia (today’s Sacramento). She had no name, but has since been called the ‘Sitka.’
“I have the notes I took at the time to be published in (the San Francisco newspaper) The California Star. I was the Sacramento correspondent for the paper, but did not publish them, as my friend, Captain Leidesdorff, was very sensitive at that time on the subject of steamboats.
“The day after her arrival from the Sacramento (River), she was sunk by a south-easter in what is now Battery Street (in San Francisco). She was raised and hauled up with an ox team in Bush Street, above Montgomery (Street), the engine taken out, and she was made a schooner yacht, christened the ‘Rainbow,’ and ran as a packet on the Sacramento River after the discovery of gold.”
The 1890 book, “History of Sacramento County, California,” also describes the Sitka, which is referred to in some 19th century and early 20th century references as the “Little Sitka.”
It was mentioned in that book that the steamboat arrived at the Port of San Francisco aboard a Russian bark from Sitka on Oct. 14, 1847.
Leidesdorff, who had been in business with the Russians at their American settlement for seven years, purchased the steamer from the Russians for his hide and tallow commerce.
The Sitka was described in the 1890 book as being “long, low and what the sailors termed very ‘crank.’”
It was also noted in the book that the weight of a person on her guards would throw one of her wheels out of service.
Various historic accounts refer to the Sitka as having made two trips in California.
According to the 1890 county history book, on Nov. 15, 1847, the Sitka left Yerba Buena Island – in the San Francisco Bay – where she had been reassembled, and took a voyage to Santa Clara, “with indifferent success.”
The book also notes that during its second trip, the Sitka, after making its way up the Sacramento River in the latter part of 1847 and arriving safely, took a long time to return to San Francisco.
This portion of the book reads: “Nearly a month elapsed, however, before her return; and in the meantime, various were the jokes and jibes ‘launch’-ed at her and on the proprietor, who nevertheless persisted that he would yet ‘make the smoke fly on the bay,’ and hand the name of his first steamboat ‘down to dexterity,’ as he pronounced the word.”
But, as previously noted, the Sitka made two trips in California before being dismantled.