From Californio Ranchos to Cosmopolitan NeighborhoodThe Californios' tenure was to last less than two decades. Their hold on the land was guaranteed by treaty with the United States government when the area came under American dominion after Mexico lost the Mexican-American was of 1846. But such paper promises meant nothing in the face of the land-grabbing fortune hunters who heard the siren call of the California Gold Rush of 1849. Practically overnight, the population of San Francisco exploded from less than 1,000 to more than 34,000!
The newcomers stayed on after the Gold Rush faded, and turned the area into a bona fide city primarily populated by working people. Real estate speculators bought up the Californios' ranchlands and turned them into residential neighborhoods, dotted with thousands of hastily erected yet sturdy Victorian houses chosen from catalogs. These became the homes of the people who worked the factories, shipyards and restaurants of San Francisco. They hailed from all over the globe - from European countries such as Germany, Scandinavia and Ireland, and from Latin American homelands such as Puerto Rico, Chile, and Colombia. By the early 1900's, the Mission District had become home to a rich diversity of ethnic groups and cultures, from blue collar workers to the city's elite.
What Sparked the Gold Rush?
It began with rumors, but the rumors weren't confirmed until a gentleman by the name of Samuel Brannan visited Coloma and Mormon Bar on the American River in 1848. He returned to San Francisco and walked up and down the streets brandishing glittering particles of gold, shouting "Gold, gold, gold from the American River!"
By the summer of that year, gold fever had struck southern California and northern Mexico. It later spread to Hawaii, Oregon and other parts of the United States. Almost three quarters of California's newcomers were from the continental United States, originally hailing from countries in western Europe. Males outnumbered females 12 to 1.
Later on Chileans, Australians and some Chinese joined the ranks of fortune-hunting prospectors. Still later, thousands of impoverished or persecuted Europeans took to the high seas and braved cholera, thirst and numerous other hardships in the hope of a better life for the distressed and the lure of an easy fortune for the greedy. In the first three years of the Gold Rush, more than 200,000 people came to California, in one of the greatest peaceful mass migrations in human history.
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