It was a glorious day and the well-groomed valley showed a wonderful
display of color, the prevailing green being dashed with the brilliant
hues of wild flowers. The low hills on either hand were covered with
lawnlike verdure and dotted with ancient oaks, while an occasional
cultivated field redeemed them from monotony. Beyond Livermore we
came into the San Joaquin Valley, which at this time was reveling in
the promise of an unprecedented harvest. The wide level plain was an
expanse of waving green varied with an occasional fringe of trees, and
a low-lying, dark-blue haze quite obscured the distant mountains.
Beyond Stockton the characteristics of the country were much the same,
though it seemed to us as if the valley of the Sacramento were even
greener and more prosperous. The vast wheatfields were showing the
slightest tinge of yellow and the great vineyards were in bloom. Some
of the latter covered hundreds of acres and must have been planted many
years ago. The luxuriant, flower-spangled meadows were dotted with
herds of sleek cattle and it would be hard to imagine a more ideal
agricultural paradise than the Sacramento Valley at this particular
time. On either hand the rich plain stretched away to blue mountains,
so distant that only their dim outlines were discernible, and at times
they were entirely obscured by low-hung clouds or sudden summer showers.
The road between the two cities is a recently completed link of the
state highway and the smooth asphalted surface offers unlimited speed
possibilities if one cares to take the chances. In the spring and early
summer Sacramento is surrounded by vast swamps and we crossed over a
long stretch of wooden bridges before entering the city. Our original
plan was to come from Napa, but we learned that the roads north and
west of the city were usually impassable until late in the summer. The
entire city lies below high-water level of the Sacramento and American
Rivers and in its early days suffered from disastrous floods. It is
now protected by an extensive system of dikes, which have successfully
withstood the freshets for half a century.
A handsome city greeted us as we coursed down the wide shady street
leading past the capitol to the Hotel Sacramento. Palms and flowers were
much in evidence in the outskirts and many imposing modern buildings
ornamented the business section. There were, however, many indications
of the city's age, for Sacramento is the oldest settlement of white men
in the interior of California and was a town of ten thousand people in
1849, though probably there were many transient gold-seekers among them.
It was the objective of the early "Argonauts" who crossed the plains
long before the discovery of gold. Here in 1839 Colonel John H. Sutter
established a colony of Swiss settlers which he called New Helvetia, and
the old adobe fort which he built still stands, having being converted
into a museum of pioneer relics. Sutter employed Marshall, who was sent
into the mountains to build a mill at Coloma, and who picked up in the
mill race the original nugget that turned the tide towards California
in the forties. The first railroad in the state ran from Sacramento to
Folsom, and the experimental section of the state highway system was
built between these two towns.
There were many productive gold mines about the town in an early day,
and though these are largely worked out, Sacramento has to-day a greater
and more permanent source of wealth in the rich country surrounding it.
It was made the capital of the state in 1854 and the handsome capitol
building was erected a few years later. This is of pure classic design
in white stone and though small as compared with most other state
capitols, it is surpassed architecturally by none of them. It stands in
a forty-acre park intersected by winding drives and beautified with the
semi-tropical trees and plants which flourish in this almost frostless
climate. Among these is the Memorial Grove, composed of trees collected
from the battlefields of the Civil War. The state insectary, which
breeds and distributes millions of fruit-protecting insects every year,
may also be seen on the capitol grounds.
Our hotel, the Sacramento, a modern concrete structure, proved fairly
satisfactory, but so far as we could judge, the hotels of Sacramento
were hardly up to the California standard for a city of sixty thousand.
The city is visited by comparatively few tourists at present, though
the motor car and the new state highway are likely to change things in
this regard. The fine old town has much of real interest and the run
through the prosperous valley is an experience worth while to any one
who wishes to know the beauties and resources of the Golden State.