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A Brief History of California, Missouri
(From Moniteau County, Missouri History, page 65-66; Published 1980-Moniteau County Historical Society)

The city of California was first established at a site one mile east of its present location. At this site in 1834 a blacksmith shop was erected, and this location became known as Boonsborough. In 1845 Moniteau County was organized. On February 27, 1845 the county court met and selected Boonsborough as the permanent place of holding court.


Boonsborough was located near the center of the county, and this geographical factor seemed to offer many advantages to the new county court. Buying land for the new court was difficult. When the court was unwilling to pay the price asked for the land, a site one mile west of Boonsborough was selected as the county seat.


On September 4, 1845, the town site was platted on fifty acres of land purchased from Alfred T. Bylen (Byler?). The public square contained one acre of land and was located in the north-central part of the fifty-acre tract. The lone building standing on the square was the E. M. Hand home, and its living room served double for holding court. A courthouse was built on the square in 1847 at a cost of $2,176.85.


The first building erected on the square belonged to Lashley L. Wood, who had moved his business to the new town from four miles northwest of Boonsborough. Early records use the names California and Boonsborough interchangeably.


Tradition has it that during the raising of the first house in Boonsborough after the establishment of the blacksmith shop, the brother-in-law of the blacksmith, California Wilson, offered to treat the boys to two gallons of whiskey if they would name the new town after him. Supposedly they agreed, and so for four-bits worth of whiskey the town was named California. Since there was already a Boonsborough in Missouri, the Post Office Department required a new name be chosen for the post office and California was used after 1846.


California was incorporated in 1848, but it wasn't until 1858 the first elected city officials, including mayor William F. Lansdale, exercised their rights of local government.


In 1858 the Pacific Railroad was completed through California and as far west as Tipton. Prior to 1858, commercial transportation was limited to the stage coach. The stage line ran from Jefferson City to Boonville through California. The stage stop in California was located at Wood's Hotel.


The Weekly California News printed its first edition on September 18, 1858. By 1859 California had a population of 714. Like most conditions of the time, there was no paving or sidewalks and mud and dust were seasonal problems.


Many of the early settlers had southern sympathies but the large German influx in the 1840's counter-balanced this sentiment. The California Guards, made up of 58 rank and file, left for the defense of Jefferson City on May 14, 1861. Almost all of the men entered Price's army where the command was eventually scattered. California was occupied in December 1861 by the 11th Iowa Regiment and was replaced in March 1862 by two companies of the 6th Missouri Cavalry.


The end of the Civil War saw California with an estimated population of 1,000. The city had 10 dry goods stores, 2 drug stores, a tobacco factory, a large steam flouring mill and a carding machine, a high school, and a printing office. The first bank was established in 1867. In 1873 it was succeeded by the Moniteau National Bank (currently Commerce Bank). The Farmers and Traders Bank was established in 1885.


In 1867, $3,500 was appropriated for a new court house, replacing the old building on High Street. The present court house was completed in 1868 from this appropriation and since 1970 has been designated a Missouri Historical Landmark.

The California Fire Company was established in 1875. The present (in late 1800's, but not now) Aurora High School was built in 1871.

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Last modified: February 24, 2009