A grisly battle . . .
In 1846 California was part of Mexico and Americans were the minority (only 500 Americans compared to 8,000-12,000 Mexicans). Nevertheless, a group of American settlers revolted against the Mexican authorities in what's called the Bear Flag War. A mere dozen or so Americans captured Sonoma, declared independence for the "Republic of California "and raised a flag depicting a grizzly bear facing a red star (now California's state flag). The Republic was short-lived, however, yet it cleared a path toward U.S. statehood.
Name Origin: Spanish. (Cortez named it after mythical paradise-like island from a popular Spanish romance novel at that time, "Las Sergas de Esplandian" published in 1510.)
Area: 158,706 square miles
Statehood: September 9, 1850 (31st)
Nickname: The Golden State
Motto: "I have found it" (Eureka)
Famous For: Spanish Missions, Gold Rush, Golden Gate Bridge, Wine Country, Citrus, Giant Sequoia Redwoods, Hollywood, Disneyland, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite National Park, Big Sur, Earthquakes, and Death Valley