Nevada City's Historic Past


At the height of the Gold Rush in the 1850’s, Nevada City, with a population of 10,000, was the third largest city in the state of California, after San Francisco and Sacramento. Later, in the 1860’s and 1870’s Nevada City would become equally as formidable in its politics as it had been in its population when Senator Aaron A. Sargent resided in Nevada City.

In 1878, Senator Sargent crafted the National Mining Act and the Pacific Railroad Act in his home atop Broad Street in Nevada City.  With his wife, Ellen Clark Sargent, who was a leading voting rights advocate and their friend and suffragette leader, Susan B. Anthony, they penned the 29 words that would later become the 19th Amendment to the Constitution to the United States giving women the right to vote.

The bill calling for that amendment would be introduced unsuccessfully each year for the next forty years until August 26, 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified. The face of the American electorate was changed forever.

Nevada City residents played a significant role in codifying women’s voting rights, creating the transcontinental railroad, and establishing mining legislation. At the same time, the hydraulic mining innovation that was born in Nevada City would unintentionally usher in the first environmental legislation in the entire nation, which banned that form of mining.

By the end of the Gold Rush, the Pelton Water Wheel and the long distance telephone had been invented to serve the gold mines, and iconic figures and companies had formed such as the Hearst Empire, PG&E, Wells Fargo, Arm & Hammer, Chevron (Pacific Coast Oil Company), and Levi Strauss to name a few.