Southern California Frederick Jackson Turner Term Paper

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Russia, Britain, and the U.S. all laid claim to parts of California and wanted to claim it for themselves. In the 1840s, Britain had the strongest claim "because of its sea powers and firm foothold in Oregon, and because British investors held huge financial claims against the Mexican government. Rumors that California would be used to pay off the debt provoked considerable alarm and anger in the U.S." (Fehrenbacher, p. 22).

While the shift would soon move to Southern California, at this time, American interest in California as a whole "centered upon the economic and strategic importance of San Francisco Bay" (Fehrenbacher, p. 22). Despite American attempts at gaining ownership, it was finally the Mexicans' fear that what had recently happened in Texas would happen in California that encouraged them to deal with the U.S. Of course, the fact that the Americans garnered several decisive victories in Mexico during the Mexican War didn't hurt either. (In Texas, then a part of northern Mexico, a rebellion in late 1835 and early 1836 by the residents against the Mexican government and military led to the establishment of the independent Republic of Texas.)

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And, in fact, in 1846, the Mexicans' fears were realized when the Bear Flag Revolt took place. In 1846, settlers living in Sacramento Valley revolted, proclaiming California an independent republic. The settlers in California had become increasingly uncomfortable with Mexican rule. On June 14, 1846, they captured the presidio at Sonoma, north of San Francisco, and proclaimed the independence of the settlements. The uprising is known as the Bear Flag Revolt because the rebels raised a homemade flag that carried the figure of a grizzly bear, as well as a star and the words "California Republic." Like the Independent Republic of Texas, the California Republic was short-lived. On July 7, 1846, California was formally claimed as part of the United States.

Term Paper on Southern California Frederick Jackson Turner Assignment

California did not really experience the stages of pastoral agriculture and then intensive agriculture that Turner outlines in his essay. Agriculture was an important component of California life and economy, to be sure, but this occurred much later, in the middle of the nineteenth century, after the mining boom. It was fully realized during the early twentieth century.

Rather than experiencing an agricultural period according to Turner's "timeline," California, especially Southern California, went right to the establishment of manufacturing and industry. "With the rise of the hide and tallow trade, after 1820, more men arrived from the 'States' to take up residence. Among them were businessmen of means and ability who soon acquired influence. Indeed, well before 1846, American enterprise was executing an economic conquest of California" (Fehrenbacher, p. 23).

In 1848, New Jersey-born carpenter James W. Marshall was the first to discover gold in California. His discovery set off what became known as the California Gold Rush. The search for gold was concentrated on the Mother Lode country, in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Thus, the "slow development of an agricultural and pastoral society was transformed into a roaring boom" (Fehrenbacher, p. 36).

The epidemic of gold fever that ignited the nation led to the expansion and exploration of California much more so than the lure of arable farmland. That lure was certainly the impetus for Turner's "Middle Region," but not here. The prairies may have been rich in topsoil and arable farmland, but the land of California was rich in gold.

Mining led to the development of complex technology and the beginnings of industry. For example, the sluice, the concept of hydraulic mining, and the process of diverting streams all came out of the Gold Rush.

Society in these days "was a hierarchy determined by national origins" (Fehrenbacher, p. 38). Furthermore, "the mining camp codes have been offered as examples of the instinctive upwellings of democracy characteristic of America" (Lavender, p. 67). However, while this was often the case in that "all legitimate claimants were to have equal access to mineralized ground" (Lavender, p. 67), in practice, this was not always the case, especially as it pertained to other races, such as Chinese, French, and, of course, the Indians.

The Gold Rush occupied a relatively brief period of time in California's history, but its effects were long-lasting. By 1850, California had become the most populous region in the western half of the country (Fehrenbacher, p. 40). As previously mentioned, it was after the mining boom subsided that California entered its period of agricultural development, rather than before, as in Turner's model. The growth of the cattle, sheep, wine grapes, and wheat industries assured that California would soon be known as a major transportation and commercial agriculture hub.

Southern California experienced a process of development markedly different from the process presented by Turner. This was due to the fact that its settlement was the result of peoples of various national origins having settled the region. Much later, in the middle of the twentieth century, during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the migration of peoples from east to west would mirror Turner's model, but this was not the case in the beginning.

Southern California nearly escaped becoming part of the Union altogether. This portion of California was worried about the decision to become part of the Union and loudly protested this action, especially the ranchers. They feared that "the funds for running a state government would be raised primarily through taxes on real estate and not on the mines" (Lavender, p. 70). Given that Southern California was composed primarily of ranchers and farmers at this time, two groups of people who owned large tracts of land, it is no wonder that they were opposed to statehood if this was to be the result.

A separatist movement emerged in the 1850s. In fact, Southern California tried three separate times during these years to secede from the northern part of the state and form its own independent territory. Tensions arose to the point where a crisis was imminent, and fighting might almost have certainly broken out were it not for another secession -- that of the Southern states from the North and the subsequent Civil War.

Southern California didn't experience much pastoral growth and changes as did the rest of the region. The decline of the cattle industry paired with widespread droughts in the 1860s led to a decline in farming. Large farms were broken up into smaller ones. Agriculture eventually got back on track, but this was due more in part to the development of the railroads, land speculators, and health seekers than to anything else, which is again opposite from how events played out in the "Middle Region."

What the Gold Rush was to California in general, the "health rush" was to Southern California. The sunny climate of Southern California attracted victims of diseases like tuberculosis, and by the 1870s, hotels, rest homes, and spas were followed by sanitariums and hospitals, all of which created a thriving business enterprise (Fehrenbacher, p. 65). Turner doesn't even address the factor the environment and weather plays on the development of a region in his model

What really makes Southern California unique, however, was the development of Los Angeles. The development of this city, probably the quintessential Southern Californian city, was hastened by the railroad rivalry present in 1887. From the 1850s through the 1870s, Los Angeles was a relatively insignificant town, far overshadowed by the growing metropolis of San Francisco to the north. There was a strong push to turn Los Angeles into a port city, but this was a difficult endeavor because "no one in the harbor cities of San Francisco or San Diego would consider it seriously" (Quiett, p. 211-2). The citizens of Los Angeles, however, were determined.

Although there is no natural deep-water harbor along the coast near Los Angeles, there are several points where artificial harbors might be constructed" (Quiett, p. 212). After much debate, the old port of San Pedro, which was served by the Southern Pacific Railroad, was selected as the site. The Southern Pacific, however, worried about the competition this might bring, refused to support this project, and a man by the name of Collis P. Huntington began construction of a port in Santa Monica. The Santa Fe Railroad protested this action vigorously, claiming that it would not have free access to Huntington's harbor. After a great deal of wrangling in Congress and further attempts by Huntington to have the port built in Santa Monica, Harry A. Cooper of Wisconsin said, "It is time that people who propose to fight as they have, violating every precedent, should be taught a lesson that the patience of the American people on this subject has been exhausted" (Quiett, p. 214).

Once this dispute was finally resolved and the port built, Los Angeles was transformed from the 1890s through the 1930s from a backwater ranching region into a modern industrial and agricultural city. Future oil magnate Edward L. Doheny discovered oil near the La Brea Tar Pits… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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