Squatters Riots Plaque
In wild and woolly Gold Rush California, land claims and speculation became a point of friction between the nascent pre-state government and the flood of settlers and fortune hunters.
Squatters, essentially people with no recognized claim to land or residence, began to crowd into Sacramento. On Aug. 14, 1850, a "company" of squatters were believed by Sacramento Mayor Hardin Bigelow to be heading to free a squatter from a prison ship. The group clashed with a military militia summoned to quell trouble. In the ensuing gunfire, five men were killed (two of them bystanders). The mayor was severely wounded. A subsequent shootout killed more in the vicinity.
Today, at J St. and 4th St. -- the intersection where the Squatters Riots first erupted -- a plaque on the California Fruit Building notes the mostly forgotten melee. The plaque is courtesy of E Clampus Vitus and dates its installation as 1982. The riot is also mentioned over in the city cemetery on the tombstone of the mayor, who succumbed during Sacramento's big cholera epidemic later the same year. Fun times.