One resident of northern California whose life exemplified several important themes in American and California history was Sander Christensen.

 

Born September 26, 1870, Sander Christensen was reared and educated as a bookkeeper in Frederikshavn, Denmark. There he remained until the age of twenty-one when he became a part of a great Danish exodus.

 

Christensen found his way to California in search of his fortune. He played an early role in establishing rice as an industry, a crop that was untested in terms of viability and profitability in the Sacramento Valley. He was a settler in Butte and Glenn counties in an era of small town boosterism. In many important aspects, he was the “everyman” of his age.

 

The history of the American West is composed of numerous themes reflecting the realities and myths of the nation's general experiences. It is region filled with immigrants on the move and on the make: a land of individuals both larger than life and quite ordinary.

 

The history of California is a particularly compelling example of the tensions between the myths and realities of immigration, mobility, and opportunity in nineteenth and twentieth century America. In California, the ancestor of nearly every resident in the state has arrived within the last two centuries, the vast majority within the last one hundred years. And these immigrants came seeking opportunity. Indeed, one cannot be found without the other: Spanish in search of gold and conquest; 49ers in search of a fast fortune; 'Oakies' in search of enough to feed themselves and their children; recent immigrants from southeast Asia and central America in search of freedom and something approximating an American standard of living.

 

California is where a few important individuals—the Stanfords, Bidwells, and others—influenced the events of their day, but were swept along on a tidal wave of momentum created by the vast majority of Californians who left little record of their lives, of their accomplishments and failures.

Sander Christensen and the Rice Industry of the Sacramento Valley by Peter Ellen

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