The statehood and development of California is forever linked with its famous gold rush. Its incorporation as a state is as rocky a history as the gravel beds of the goldfields themselves. The state's quick and often disputed succession from one nation to another mirrored the rapid and often lawless settlement of the gold country.
Prior to the westerner's discovery of gold California was a territory of Mexico and before it Spain. The year gold was discovered, 1848, marked the same year that ended the Mexican-American War, a mere 27 years after Mexico's fight for independence from Spain. The change to a newly formed Mexican government in 1821 led to instability throughout Mexico and especially its northern reaches such as Texas and Alta California. This instability and the continued American expansion of Manifest Destiny led to conflict and the 1836 Texas Revolution. For the next decade the political sovereignty of Texas was under extreme debate between Mexico and the U.S. The non-compromised annexation of 1845 incorporated Texas as an official U.S. state and prompted open war between the two countries. The American victory in 1848 resulted in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and a large land acquisition including Alta California.
The result of this messy transfer was a largely lawless area where much of the goldfields themselves were outside established land grants and deemed public land. As neither an official territory or state and under minimal military control California was ripe for the taking. These conditions aided the gold rush fever, a chance to stake one's own claim at no cost and strike it rich was motivation enough to bring nearly 100,000 souls to California in 1849. Unsurprisingly many disputes over claims arose, and with no governmental body yet in place many matters were handled privately and violently, giving the gold rush its often perceived wild west feel.
The lack of government enforcement, the rapidly increasing number of miners, and the seemingly unbridled economic gain forced the United States into quick action and to forego the usual process of new land first becoming a formal territory. Instead, on September 9th 1850 California was granted full statehood becoming the 31st state of the union. Along with its initial incorporation much of its settlement and character was to be equally influenced by the continuing, and now officially, California Gold Rush.