History of Nevada County

Nevada County, California is one of the most historic and scenic areas of our state. It is a rural county comprising 978 square miles in northern California, with a population of approximately 99,000. The three incorporated cities are Grass Valley, Nevada City and Town of Truckee. Most of the population (65,000) lives in the unincorporated areas. The Grass Valley/Nevada City area in the west and the Truckee area in the east are separated by approximately 45 miles of National Forest and the Donner Summit mountain pass at 7,000 feet elevation.

Gold Rush

Prior to the Gold Rush, there were estimated to be about 4,000 Northern Maidu or Nisenan Indians inhabiting the area. Our modern history begins in 1848, when discovery of gold in California brought the first white settlers to Penn Valley. People of all nationalities came to work the mines.


The first wagons to cross the Sierra Nevada that opened the Truckee River route of the California trail came through Nevada County. The County was the site of the infamous Donner tragedy as well as being the center of the northern mines during the Gold Rush. Portions of the first transcontinental railroad and the first transcontinental automobile road are located within the county. Famous stage personalities, writers, politicians, and industrialists emanated from or found homes in the County. More recently, Nevada County's high tech firms, outstanding schools, rich artistic community and cultural attractions, and scenic natural resources make it a desirable location for residents and visitors alike.


The County of Nevada was incorporated on April 25, 1851. The first County Supervisors served in 1856. For a complete list of all the Supervisors who have served Nevada County, view Board Member History (PDF).