Some San Joaquin County “Firsts”

As an anthropologist, I'm not accustomed to thinking in terms of "firsts." But I was asked by the members of the staff at Madden Library at California State University, Fresno, to compile a list for San Joaquin County as part of an exhibition on "firsts" in the greater San Joaquin Valley.

Bidwell-Bartleson party member Charles M. Weber as a young man.

Bidwell-Bartleson party member Charles M. Weber as a young man.

The brief list that follows has been taken from a longer and more complete one, which can be viewed by following this link. The results illustrate how significant our County has been in the history of California. Of course, even the longer version is far from complete because it is weighted toward areas of our history that I have recently researched.

Please send corrections and additions to me at


First American trappers in what is now California and SJC: led by Jedediah Strong Smith. Camped for winter (southeast SJC) (Nov.).


First non-Indian crossing of the Sierra Nevada range: Jedediah Smith and two other American trappers, crossing near present Ebbetts Pass (May).


First military defeats of Spanish or Mexican forces and first successful use of European-style defensive works by Native freedom fighters in what is now California: led by Native leaders Estanislao and Cipriano. Mexican forces led by Sgt. Jose Antonio Sanchez and by Lt. Mariano G. Vallejo. (On lower Stanislaus River, south SJC.) (Early May and May 30)


First non-Indian community in what is now SJC: "French Camp" (south-central SJC). The seasonal community of up to four hundred people was called by the Mexicans: Campo de los Franceses (Camp of the French).


First major epidemic of European disease throughout the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, including what is now SJC: malaria introduced by the Hudson's Bay Company trappers from Oregon country.


First EuroAmerican "road" in what is now SJC: the New Helvetia (Sutter's Fort, now Sacramento) to Mission San Jose "road" or trail (northeast to southwest SJC). Later became known as the "upper Sacramento road."


First party of American settlers to cross the Sierra Nevada and initiate the California Trail: Bidwell-Bartleson party. The party traveled on foot down the Stanislaus River through what is now SJC (south SJC). Included was young Charles Weber, founder of Stockton and SJC. (Nov.)


Petition for first significant Spanish or Mexican land grant in what is now SJC: Charles Weber's partner in San Jose businesses, William "Guillermo" Gulnac, petitioned the Mexican government for forty-eight thousand acres (central SJC), called Rancho del Campo de los Franceses (French Camp Ranch). Weber was not yet a Mexican citizen and was therefore ineligible. The land was granted to Gulnac on Jan. 13, 1844. Weber purchased it on April 3, 1845. (July 14)

First Mexican land grants awarded in what is now SJC: El Pesadero and Paso del Pescadero (southwest SJC).


First American mapping party to California and what is now SJC: led by John Charles Frémont (northeast through central to south SJC). The group first camped in what is now SJC on March 26, 1844. (Mar.)

First family of year-round EuroAmerican settlers in what is now SJC: David, Susan, and daughter America Kelsey (and other child[ren]?) built a tule house on Rancho del Campo de los Franceses (now French Camp, south-central SJC). (Aug.)

First Mormon agricultural colony in what is now California and SJC: New Hope (south SJC). (Nov.)

First sawmill in what is now SJC: New Hope colony (south SJC).


First EuroAmerican child born in what is now SJC: William Gann, to Nicholas and Ruth Gann, at Weber's Point (now downtown Stockton). (Oct.)

First EuroAmerican marriage in what is now SJC: Ned Robinson and Christina Patterson were wed on her ranch claim on Dry Creek (north SJC). (Winter)

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