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February 18, 2016


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Every January, ECV Chapter Yerba Buena #1 celebrates "Emperor Norton Day". But who was Emperor Norton; this is his story.

James Mcclatchy was born in Ireland in 1824. He immigrated to New York in 1848. Being a journalist, James got hired to Horace Greeley’s editorial staff at the "New York Tribune", a famous newspaper of the times. Soon news of a "gold strike" on the Northern California’s American River reached the East. James decided to take the advice of his boss, Horace Greeley, who famously declared "Go West Young Man"; so Mcclatchy traveled west.

James took a freighter, sailed around "Cape Horn", and eventually was shipwrecked in Baja, California. >From there, he ventured to the gold fields of the Sierra Nevada. Although he tried his best at mining, he departed penniless.

In the summer of 1849, James took a position with the "Placer Times" which was published at "Sutter’s Fort", a settlement that gave rise to the river port town of Sacramento, California. As an editorialist, Mcclatchy developed a reputation as the "people’s champion", after he took a stand against land speculators in which became known as the "1850 Squatter’s Riot". This involved claim-jumpers trying to steal land, kill miners and their families, and mining claims.

By the fall of 1851, Mcclatchy was editing the newspaper, the "Settlers and Miners Tribune" which only lasted a few weeks. He moved on to work for the "Sacramento Transcript", the "Democratic State Journal", and the "Sacramento Times". Eventually James was hired by Rollin Ridge, the owner of the struggling newspaper, "The Sacramento Bee". Less than a week after the newspaper appeared in 1857, Mcclatchy had become its editor. That same week, "The Sacramento Bee" reported a scandal that led to the impeachment of California State Treasurer Henry Bates.

Known as a supporter of people’s interests against corrupt corporations and crooked politicians, Mcclatchy made "The Sacramento Bee" a forum for progressive reformers. Upon his death in 1883, "The Sacramento Bee’s" leadership passed to James’s sons, "Charles K Mcclatchy and V.S. Mcclatchy.

"The Sacramento Bee" is still being produced, in a standard newspaper and on the internet too. James Mcclatchy’s progressive vision lives on!!!

Gary "Colonel Klink" Klinke
John A. Sutter-Historian