Key dates surrounding the earliest days of The Union newspaper’s history:
James W. Marshall discovered gold on Jan. 24, 1848 on the south fork of the American River in the valley the Nisenan Indians knew as Cullumah. This led to the greatest mass movement of people in the Western Hemisphere and sparked spectacular growth of the West. The gold discovery site, located in the still visible tailrace of Sutter’s sawmill, in present day Coloma, Calif., is one of the most significant historic sites in the nation.
Charles Marsh, a young surveyor from Wisconsin was the first to settle the site of Nevada City on July 30, 1849, prospecting along Deer Creek. A group of immigrants also settled by the side of Wolf Creek by what would later become Grass Valley.
George McKnight is said to have discovered gold in quartz rock in 1850, when he stubbed his toe on a rock outcrop and in anger kicked the rock. He then noticed a glitter from the broken surface of the rock he dislodged at the Gold Hill site, where a marker stands on Jenkins Street on Hocking Avenue in Grass Valley.
The Empire Mine, site of the oldest, largest and richest gold mine in California, opens in Grass Valley. From 1850-1956, the Empire Mine produced 5.8 million ounces of gold. The grounds are now maintained as a state historic park, preserving much of the mine’s structures and offering 845 acres of back country along with 12 miles of trails for hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
The first edition of the Nevada Journal is published by Warren B. Ewer on April 19, 1851, becoming the first Nevada County newspaper. Initially published on a semi-weekly basis, on Wednesdays and Saturdays in its first year, the Journal eventually became a weekly paper. It was later owned by Aaron A. Sargent, an attorney who served as both a congressman and as a United States senator, before ceasing publication in 1863.
Originally established in 1861 as a tri-weekly paper, the Grass Valley National became Grass Valley’s first daily newspaper on Aug. 1, 1864, supporting opponents of President Abraham Lincoln’s re-election.
On Oct. 28, 1864, Henry Meyer Blumenthal and James W. E. Townsend publish the first edition of the Grass Valley Daily Union, supporting Lincoln’s re-election and the Union’s civil war efforts. Among at least 37 newspapers published in Nevada County between 1850-1900, The Union, as it is known today, is the lone daily newspaper in Nevada County and is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2014.
Ten days after Grass Valley Daily Union was “founded to preserve the Union, one and inseparable,” Lincoln wins re-election on Nov. 8, 1864, over George B. McClellan, former commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, carrying all but three states and winning 55 percent of the vote for 212-21 electoral vote margin.
Blumenthal, who remained the proprietor of the Grass Valley Daily Union following Townsend’s abrupt departure, in early March 1865 sells his interest in the newspaper to Sol A. Shane and George B. Shearer, who announce their intention of continuing its “publication as a staunch Union journal.”
On April 9, 1865, after four years of Civil War, and approximately 630,000 deaths and more than 1 million casualties, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Union Lt. Ulysses S. Grant in the rural town of Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
Five days following Lee’s surrender, President Abraham Lincoln is shot by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Lincoln died of the bullet wound the following morning, on April 15. The Grass Valley Daily Union published the news with thick black borders outlining each column of the newspaper and actually closed the offices on April 19, without publishing the newspaper on April 20, 1865: “As a mark of respect to the memory of the lamented President of the United States, our offices will be closed today and no paper issued tomorrow.”