Confluence is excavating Sacramento’s hidden history, through archival research and walking tours. On this website and on the streets, you can learn about discoveries about the city’s dramatic origins, as well as the subtle topography that had profound impacts on our development.
Sacramento’s Grid, which we all know today as the orderly streetscape between the waterfront and Alhambra Boulevard, was actually created as a speculative land scheme, which caused many years of turmoil over titles and ownership rights. These struggles climaxed in a deadly outbreak of violence in 1850, which led to decades of lawsuits that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and continued for years after that supposed resolution!
Confluence’s walking tours can help the residents and visitors alike access Sacramento’s fascinating hidden history of corrupt land deals, as well as community organizing in response to that corruption.
“Older Sac” explores the hidden history of one of Sacramento’s oldest neighborhoods, which predated the Grid but disappeared about a century ago – weakened by exclusion from the city’s protective levees, then destroyed by expansion of the Railyards. Commonly known as “Slater’s Addition,” this small neighborhood sat on relatively dry ground at the old confluence site, which was most likely an important site for the indigenous Nisenan people. This tour also visits Sacramento’s lost twin, Boston, a land scheme that died in infancy.
“Squatterville” tells the tale of community resistance to speculators, starting in Old Sacramento and ending at 4th and J, where the Squatters’ Riot had its bloody climax. It looks at community organizing in early Sacramento, including the People’s Market and Mechanics’ Exchange, as well as the Pullman Strike, the Chinese family associations that helped that community maintain a toehold through 20th-century urban renewal and the remarkable Fruit Building created by farmer cooperatives.
“Homesteading the Grid” visits some of the old claims that were eventually overwhelmed by the dominant land regime that we all know today. Believe it or not, there were farms in what is now downtown, including that of Thomas Selby, who raised cotton and vegetables along the waterfront between Old Sacramento and the freeway bridge.
Please register for scheduled tours (or request one at a time that works for you!) through the link in the right column, or email tours (at) sactoconfluence.com.
This website will provide the latest discoveries about Sacramento land grabs, lawsuits and resistance against speculation, as well as tour information to provide opportunities to see where it all happened. To learn more, just follow the thematic links at the top, which lead to more detailed blog posts including recent ones listed at right above the tour schedule.
From Johann Augustus Sutter’s invented claim to the land, to the U.S. Supreme Court’s deeply flawed ruling endorsing Sutter’s supposed grant, this city’s land ownership is built on misinformation. Our history has been rewritten – sometimes obviously – and those who provided a glimmer of light in the tumultuous early days of our city are generally forgotten despite their sometimes major historic importance.
The website will present materials dredged up from the archives. For example, there’s an astonishing string of lawsuits and other legal shenanigans, rooted in the same corrupt speculation that first provoked 1,000+ people to join the Settlers’ Association in 1850. The legal mess stretched at least until April of 1868, when an astonishing wave of litigation overwhelmed the courts. In just a few days, roughly 720 “ejectment suits” were filed by 140 landowners against nearly 3,000 “squatters!”
These legal troubles are just part of a history of resistance that is mostly unknown, buried under generations of mythology, disinformation and neglect. In the same way that the original confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers now lies buried under the vast wasteland of the old railyards, our community originally took a different course than we’ve been led to believe.