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Marysville's Golden History

In the fall of 1842, John A. Sutter leased the land which would later become the City of Marysville to Theodore Cordua. Cordua raised livestock on the land and in1843 built a home and trading post at what is now the southern end of 'D' street.

In 1844, Cordua obtained an additional seven leagues of land, adjacent to that leased from Sutter, from the Mexican government.

Charles Covillaud, a former employee of Cordua, struck it rich in the gold fields and returned to buy one-half of the Cordua Ranch in 1848. The other half was purchased by Michael C. Nye and William Foster in January 1849. Nye and Foster, brothers-in-law to Covillaud's new wife Mary, then sold their interest to Covillaud. In October of the same year, Covillaud sold three-fourths of the rancho to Jose Ramirez, John Sampson, and Theodore Sicard.

This woodcut depicts Marysville as it looked during the early years of the Gold Rush.

There were no levees then and the Feather River was deep enough for riverboats.


During the Gold Rush, the ranch became a point of debarkation for riverboats from San Francisco and Sacramento filled with miners on their way to the 'diggins'. In 1850, the four partners hired French surveyor Augustus Le Plongeon to create a master plan for a town.

Newly arrived Attorney Stephen Fields purchased 65 lots and drew up a proper deed for the land being sold. Along with land development came government and the name 'Marysville', named for Covillaud's new wife, Mary Murphy. Mary was a survivor of the ill-fated Donner Party.

Shortly afterward, Marysville was incorporated by the new California legislature and the first mayor was elected in 1851.

By 1853 Marysville's tent city had been replaced by brick buildings, mills, iron works, machine shops and factories. Schools, churches and two daily newspapers had brought 'civilization'. The population was nearing 10,000.

Marysville prospered during the Gold Rush era, becoming one of the largest cities in California. In 1857 alone, over $10 million in gold was shipped from Marysville's banks to the U.S. mint in San Francisco.

Sediment from hydraulic mining on the Yuba River above Marysville raised the riverbeds of the Feather and Yuba Rivers making Marysville vulnerable to flooding during winter storms and spring run-off so the city build a levee system that still protects it today. In modern times, that very same levee system has hampered Marysville's growth, and the population has not increased much since Gold Rush days.

The rising riverbeds also made the Feather River more and more difficult to navigate until riverboats could no longer make the trip to Marysville.

Many buildings from Marysville's heyday have been lost over the years, both from fire and redevelopment, but those that survive are a constant reminder of Marysville's golden history and proof that Marysville is still the 'Gateway to the Gold Fields.'

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