Native Sons of the Golden West

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The Native Sons of the Golden West is a fraternal service organization founded in 1875, limited to native born Californians and dedicated to historic preservation, documentation of historic structures and places in the state, the placement of historic plaques and other charitable functions within California. In 1890 they placed the first historical marker in the state to honor the discovery of gold which gave rise to the state nickname "Golden State" and "Golden West." Former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren were both past presidents of the NSGW.

Logo of the Native Sons of the Golden West.

History[edit]

The Native Sons of the Golden West was founded 11 July 1875 by General A. M. Winn, a Virginian, as a lasting monument to the men and women of the Gold Rush Days. General Winn lived in California during the Gold Rush and was impressed with the spirit and perseverance of the "Forty-Niners." In speaking of his object in organizing the Order General Winn said "For twenty years my mind had been running on some lasting style of monument to mark and perpetuate the discovery of gold I could not think of anything that would not perish in course of time. At last it came to my mind that an Order composed of native sons would effect the object and be sustained by pride of parentage and place of nativity while it would be an imperishable memento an institution that would last through all time."[1]

The chief objects of the Order as set forth in its constitution were, "To perpetuate in the minds of all native Californians the memories of the days of '49 to encourage a lively interest in all matters and measures relating to the promotion of the national interests and to the upbuilding of the State of California." Today, the Native Sons of the Golden West is open to membership from any native-born, current or former resident of California origin. The Native Sons of the Golden West is a charitable and fraternal organization. Organized locally into "Parlors," the group is perhaps best known for the large number of commemorative markers it has placed throughout the state.

They have a sister organization, the Native Daughters of the Golden West. The term Golden West is a common colloquialism for California, popularly known as the Golden State.

The Native Sons began as an organization "embracing only the sons of those sturdy pioneers who arrived on this coast prior to the admission of California as a state."[2] In the 1920s, the Native Sons took two very different stances; one on Japanese internment and one on rights for Native Americans. In 1920, then Grand President William P. Canbu of the Native Sons wrote that “California was given by God to a white people, and with God’s strength we want to keep it as He gave it to us.”[3] The Native Sons openly opposed Chinese, Mexican, and Japanese immigration and battled in the United States Supreme Court for Japanese-Americans to be disenfranchised during World War II.[4] However, by contrast, the Native Sons actively fought for California Native American rights. "The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco was looking into the matter of Indian rights under the 18 treaties as early as 1909. This resulted in a special section on Indian Affairs for the purpose of making a complete study of the rights, wrongs, and present condition of California Indians in 1924. The Native Sons was one of the groups that was active in this area. Study committees were formed and publicity as to the needs of the California Indians appeared in its magazine, the California Grizzly Bear. In 1922 and again in 1925, there were articles of real importance in arousing public opinion.[5]

Today, the Native Sons welcome native Californians of all races. The current organization has many Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and African American members, some of who have served in the order's highest offices.[6]

Historical preservation[edit]

Throughout its history, members of the Native Sons have safeguarded many of the landmarks of California's pioneer days, purchasing and rehabilitating them and then donating them to the State or local governments.

  • Sutter's Fort, Sacramento: By 1888 the once proud fort built by John Sutter was abandoned and deteriorating and the City of Sacramento sought to demolish it. C.E. Grunsky of Native Sons of the Golden West Sunset Parlor #25 in Sacramento led the fight to purchase and restore this most important symbol of California's pioneer history. After two years of fundraising, the Native Sons bought the historic Central Building and turned the land and building over to the State of California for further restoration.
  • Rancho Petaluma Adobe, Petaluma: In 1910, Native Sons of the Golden West, Petaluma Parlor #27 purchased what remained of General Mariano G. Vallejo's vast adobe ranch house. Over half of the building had succumbed to neglect and the forces of nature. In 1932 it was registered as California State Historical Landmark #18.[8] After years of work and fundraising, the fully restored historic site was turned over to the State of California in 1951.
  • James W. Marshall Monument Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, Coloma: In 1886, the members of the Native Sons of the Golden West, Placerville Parlor #9 felt that the "Discoverer of Gold" deserved a monument to mark his final resting place. In May 1890, five years after Marshall's death, Placerville Parlor #9 of the Native Sons of the Golden West successfully advocated[10] the idea of a monument to the State Legislature, which appropriated a total of $9,000[11] for the construction of the monument and tomb, the first such monument erected in California. A statue of Marshall stands on top of the monument, pointing to the spot where he made his discovery in 1848. The monument was rededicated October 8, 2010 by the Native Sons of the Golden West, Georgetown Parlor #91 in honor of the 200th Anniversary of James W. Marshall's birth.[12]
  • Pioneer Monument Donner Memorial State Park, Truckee: The Pioneer Monument was erected in honor of all who made the difficult trek across the western plains and mountains to reach California during the 1840s. Constructed near the site of the cabins that gave shelter to the Donner Party, work on the monument began in 1901. On June 6, 1918 in a ceremony that included Donner Party survivors, the Native Sons of the Golden West donated the completed monument and eleven (11) surrounding acres to the State of California.
  • Old Customhouse (Monterey, California): The Monterey Customs House, over which the American flag was first permanently raised in California, was a landmark that Native Sons determined should not disappear if within the power of the Order to prevent it. The property belonged to the United States Government, but the Native Sons obtained a lease of the buildings and grounds and restored them in the early 1900s.[13] The lease was ultimately transferred to a State Commission appointed under a legislative act passed in 1901 which act also carried an appropriation for further restoration of the building.
  • Colton Hall, Monterey: Native Sons were instrumental in 1903 in securing a legislative appropriation for necessary repairs on Colton Hall.[14] It was within this building in September 1849 that the convention convened which drafted the Constitution under California was admitted into the Union.
  • Mission San Antonio de Padua, Alta: Mission San Antonio de Padua was founded on July 14, 1771, the third mission founded in Alta California by Father Presidente Junípero Serra, and site of the first Christian marriage and first use of fired-tile roofing in Upper California. The first attempt at rebuilding the Mission came in 1903, when the California Historical Landmarks League began holding outings at San Antonio. "Preservation and restoration of Mission San Antonio began. The Native Sons of the Golden West supplied $1,400. Tons of debris were removed from the interior of the chapel. Breaches in the side wall were filled in."[15]
  • Bear Flag Monument, Sonoma: "For many years, the site in Sonoma Plaza where the bear flag originally had been raised went unmarked. Largely through the efforts of the Native Sons, the legislature appropriated $5,000 for a monument to be placed there. The Native Sons raised $500 to prepare the site, put on dedication ceremonies, and to move the huge rock that serves as the pedestal from a mile away."[16]

Historical markers[edit]

An NSGW marker at the site of the first California Central Creamery in Ferndale, California.

Chapters of the organization (called "Parlors") place historical markers on buildings and on sites of historical interest. The organization maintains a list of the over 1,200 markers in place.[17] One of these plaques is featured in the movie The Karate Kid on the side of Daniel LaRusso's new school in California.

Publications[edit]

From 1905 through 1954 the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West published The Grizzly Bear.[18]

Notable members[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Overland Monthly, Volume 51 http://books.google.com/books?id=E7pUAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA108&lpg=PA108&dq=monterey+customs+house+native+sons&source=bl&ots=LD2eERUPhC&sig=1gAwnngCA4nVZ39O0NmkNnF-vB0&hl=en&ei=016LTuHGMMX-sQLosJSMBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=monterey%20customs%20house%20native%20sons&f=false
  2. ^ New York Times, July 11, 1884
  3. ^ Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, Frank H. Wu, 2002
  4. ^ New York Times, July 27, 1942
  5. ^ 'Five Views:An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California', 1988 Johnson, Kenneth M., California Office of Historic Preservation
  6. ^ http://www.napa62.org Napa Parlor #62 website[dead link]
  7. ^ http://www.nps.gov/safr/historyculture/shrimpjunk.htm
  8. ^ "Petaluma Adobe". Office of Historic Preservation landmark listings. State of California. Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  9. ^ http://www.chris.ca.gov/?page_id=940
  10. ^ http://ohv.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=21417
  11. ^ http://www.co.el-dorado.ca.us/Living/Stories/Marshall_Monument.aspx
  12. ^ http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMADY7_Marshall_Monument
  13. ^ http://www.mchsmuseum.com/customhouse.html
  14. ^ Historic Spots in California, Mildred Brooke Hoover
  15. ^ California Missions and Their Romances, Fremont Older
  16. ^ Native Sons of the Golden West, Richard Kimball & Barney Noel
  17. ^ http://www.nsgwca.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/List-of-Dedications-May-2010.pdf Native Sons of the Golden West List of Dedications
  18. ^ OCLC 5809069; Also see: Stanford University Library holdings: The Grizzly Bear Volumes 1–18; 1907–1917

External links[edit]