Pony Express to Mark Twain: Historic Sacramento Trivia

Pony Express Sacramento

The Pony Express began in 1860 in Sacramento.

DealChicken spends a lot of time hunting and pecking around the Sacramento area in search of the best daily deals. So it’s no surprise he’s come across more than a few interesting facts about the history of Sacramento, birth place of the Pony Express. Here’s a bit of local Sacramento trivia that even your favorite fine-feathered know-it-all didn’t know until recently.

Sacramento goes by many monikers. Its nicknames include “River City,” “The Camellia Capital of the World” (pretty pink flowers everywhere!), “City of Trees” (it claims to have more trees per capita than any other city) and the most amusing—“The Big Tomato” (tomatoes are big industry here). Locals who feel the need to come up with something less than four syllables call it Sac or Sac Town.

The Pony Express originated in California’s capital city. The 1,980-mile mail delivery service began in 1860, and traveled from Sacramento to St. Joseph, Missouri. The operation required 200 relay stations, 80 riders and 500 horses to complete the 10-day ride.

Mark Twain was hired as a special news correspondent with the now-defunct Sacramento Union newspaper in 1866, chronicling some of the raucous early days of the region. The Missouri-born Twain started his writing career with the paper penning travel articles, and the Union published his musings about the far-off lands of Hawaii, Europe and the Holy Land.

The Blue Diamond almond company planted roots in Sacramento in 1914. Costing just $5,500 to build, the plant was located downtown right in front of the railroad tracks so sacks of nuts could be delivered, and then loaded easily on to the trains after processing. Sacramento’s Blue Diamond almond roasting, salting and drying plant is now the world’s largest processing company for the nuts, cranking out 12 million pounds per day during the almond high season.

The International World Peace Rose Garden in Sacramento was named one of the “Top 10 Best Public Rose Gardens in America” by the All-America Rose Selection. The garden was established in Capitol Park in 2003 as a place of peace and tranquility within city limits. The World Peace Rose Garden has sister gardens in Atlanta, GA; Pacific Palisades, CA; Mexico City; and Assisi, Italy.

Sacramento has been the capital of California since 1854, but it hasn’t always been so! California was under Mexican rule until 1835, and Monterey was the hub of the territory. After Mexican leaders abandoned the area, an American Constitutional Convention was held, to decide on a territorial seat. San Jose, Vallejo and Benicia held the title of capital city for two years each, until Sacramento was crowned victorious.

California’s (former and present) governor, Jerry Brown, has an unusual gubernatorial portrait in the state capitol building. As is the tradition in the state, governors may select an artist to paint their portrait to reflect the leader’s personality. Where former governors have stately, stiff upper lip-type renderings, Brown chose artist Don Barchardy to paint him in the abstract style. Not surprising, and totally groovy, man.

Swiss-born pioneer John Sutter arrived in Sacramento with other settlers in 1839. The trading colony and stockade named Sutter’s Fort (originally called New Helvetia, or “New Switerland”) was erected in 1840, constructed using labor from local Native American tribes. Sutter staked his claim in the agriculture business by having 2,000 fruit trees planted in 1847. The discovery of gold in the area in 1848 brought a large number of wealth-seekers to the area, greatly increasing the population.

Sacramento has an underground “city” of tunnels underneath the town that one sees today. Originally, the land level was one story lower than it is now, and raising took place between 1864 and 1877. The entire city was raised up to reduce the risk of flooding, and portions of the original street level still exist in basements and interconnecting tunnels. Most of the remaining tunnels are found in the Old Sacramento and downtown areas, and tours are given on weekends.

Sacramento is spooky: The city has many buildings and areas of town that are believed to be haunted. While strolling down the banks of the Sacramento River, residents have seen what looks to be a campfire glowing. As they approach, the fire disappears. The California State Library has a ghostly visitor in spectacles who pores over the books. Even the staff and residents in the Governor’s Mansion have reported apparition sightings.

Know all there is to know about the Pony Express and historic Sacramento? Check out some Reno trivia and lore.