During the gold rush era, Marysville was one of the largest and most prosperous cities in California. Millions of dollars worth of gold were shipped to the U.S. Mint in San Francisco from Marysville by way of steamships that navigated the Feather River through the Sacramento Valley. By the 1850′s the city population had reached nearly 10,000. Brick merchant buildings, schools, mills, iron works, factories, and two newspapers were developed during this period — the city was thriving.
However, hydraulic mining debris clogged the Feather and Yuba Rivers and made the city susceptible to flooding. A levee system was constructed that essentially encircled the city like a fortress stifling any further development. Gold shipments could no longer be sent along the choked Feather River and the promise of a great city ended. According to 2011 census figures, the population of Marysville stood at 12,141 — little changed 160 years since its heyday gold rush years.
In 1935 the Farm Security Administration (FSA) began establishing migratory farm labor camps in California to house destitute migrants that arrived by the hundreds of thousands from the Dust Bowl ravaged land of the Southern Plains states (Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico). The camp in Marysville photographed by Dorothea Lange served as a model for other camps established by the FSA throughout California. The following photographs were taken during the initial research trip to Marysville which sought to determine the location of the Marysville FSA camp and to find local residents who had ancestors who migrated to the region from the Dust Bowl states. Future project updates will contain videos and interviews of area residents with ties to the Dust Bowl immigrants.