Long before Europeans first set foot upon this continent, people found this area hospitable. The verdant hills and plains held an abundance of resources, and the Nisenan—a branch of the Maidu Indians—established a large village on the site that would become the City of Lincoln.
With the discovery of gold, Easterners began streaming toward the Sierra Nevada, in search of their fortunes. Towns sprung up overnight, but the site of Lincoln remained unsettled until 1859.
It was Theodore D. Judah who first envisioned a new town upon this land. Judah, a young railroad engineer, surveyed the area for the Sacramento Valley Railroad and held title to the site of the planned railhead. But when funding problems temporarily halted track construction, Judah sold his property to the railroad’s president. Within weeks of his purchase, Charles Lincoln Wilson had mapped out a town site. On November 23, 1859, Wilson sold 46 lots at auction. These new landowners would lay the foundations for the City of Lincoln.
The coming of the railroad on October 31, 1861 had an immediate effect on Lincoln’s economy. People arrived from all points of the compass to transfer from stage to rail, but layovers could last for days. These ready-made customers were a boon for local hotels, restaurants and shops, but the town’s initial success was short-lived. The railroad extended its line northward and passengers moved along with it.
But Lincoln wasn't meant to be a ghost town. Civil War veterans moved west in search of productive farmland providing the next economic wave. They planted orchards and grazed cattle upon the neighboring hills. By the late 1800s, the first of several fruit packing plants opened in Lincoln, providing employment to the town for 50 years.
The land also drew J. Parker Whitney to the area. The owner of Spring Valley Ranch—the future site of Lincoln’s Twelve Bridges master planned community—became the richest man in Placer County during the nineteenth century. Whitney was a versatile rancher involved in everything from breeding horses to growing raisins, but he’s best known for the wool produced by his flocks of Australian Merino sheep.
The discovery of coal added more jobs to the fledgling community. Though many locals had been aware of its existence for many years, several coal mines opened following the 1873 ‘discovery’ and carloads of the ore began rolling out of Lincoln to fuel furnaces in towns throughout the valley.
The greatest discovery came in 1875. Chicago resident Charles Gladding was visiting in San Francisco when a newspaper story peaked his interest. The article told of a road crew encountering a large layer of clay in the Lincoln area. With 25 years in the pottery business, Gladding needed no other enticement to travel to Placer County.
Within months, Gladding, along with partners Peter McBean and George Chambers, invested $12,000 to found Gladding, McBean & Co. For more than a century, the company would serve as the cornerstone of the community’s economy. Today, Lincoln is a growing community with a diversifying economy. New residents and industries are choosing Lincoln for its location, lifestyle and attitudes. The community is committed to preserving the best of Lincoln, from historic 1890s-style architecture to unparalleled community spirit. The future looks bright.