Biography / Administrative History
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Aubrey Neasham collection
Dates: 1794-1982 inclusive
Bulk Dates: 1945-1964
Collection number: 1982/78
Neasham, V. Aubrey.
Collection Size: 37 linear feet in 74 document
boxes, 3.5 linear feet of oversized material, photograph files, and
Center for Sacramento History
Sacramento, California 95814
Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English
Collection is open for research. Please contact the Center for Sacramento History regarding
availability for research use.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Center for Sacramento History
for private collections. All requests for permission
to publish or quote from private manuscript collections must be submitted in
writing to the Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of
the Center for Sacramento History as the owner of the physical items and is not
intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the
reader. No permission is necessary to publish or quote from public records.
Please use the following citation format for all Center for Sacramento History materials. Refer
to a standard citation style, such as MLA, ALA, or Turabian, when identifying
the individual item:
[Item]. Aubrey Neasham collection, 1982/78, Center for Sacramento History, Sacramento, CA.
Donated by Irene Simpson Neasham, 1982.
Processed by Brandon Metcalf, 2003-2004. Finding aid prepared by Brandon
Metcalf, 2004. Machine-readable finding aid encoded by Larry Bishop, 2005.
Biography / Administrative History
Aubrey Neasham made a career as an experienced historian, writer,
educator, and a champion of the historic preservation cause. He researched and
promoted numerous historic sites spanning across the western United States
throughout his life leaving an indelible mark upon such prominent sites as Old
Sacramento, Columbia, Monterey, and Coloma.
Vernon Aubrey Neasham was born August 28, 1908 in Reno, Nevada. His
family moved frequently prior to settling in Berkeley, California in 1923.
After graduating from Berkeley High School, Aubrey enrolled at UC Berkeley in
1926. He married Ruth Esther Jackson in 1928 before receiving his bachelor's
degree in political science in 1930. Deciding to continue his education,
Neasham began graduate courses at Berkeley and obtained both his M.A. (1932)
and Ph.D. (1936) in history.
Neasham was appointed supervisor of a Works
Progress Administration research project on California's historical landmarks
by the California State Division of Parks in 1936. During this time he edited
100 monographs known as the California Historical Landmark Series. In 1938, he
accepted a job as Regional Historian for the National Park Service in Santa Fe,
New Mexico. His projects included tracing the Coronado Trail as part of its
400th anniversary, and the San Jose Mission in Texas.
transferred to San Francisco in 1942, where he continued work as a Regional
Historian for the National Park Service. Between 1944 and 1946 he served in the
U.S. Navy and traveled to Europe, Africa, and South America. Following his
stint in with the Navy, he assumed his duties in San Francisco and researched
Monterey and the gold discovery site at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California.
He participated in a survey of Hawaii, and Alaska. Additionally, he performed a
historical study on the mining town of Columbia as an independent consultant
for the California State Parks Commission (1947-48), and planned exhibits for
the California Centennial Historical Caravan.
In 1953, Neasham was
appointed State Historian for the California State Park System's Division of
Beaches & Parks. His projects included research on Old Sacramento, the
Pueblo de Los Angeles, Hearst Castle, Bodie, Coloma, Donner Memorial State
Park, Fort Ross, Sonoma Mission, and Sutter's Fort.
Neasham opted to
leave State Beaches & Parks in 1960 and founded Western Heritage, Inc., a
historic consulting firm. It was at this time that Neasham became heavily
involved in the historic preservation of Old Sacramento, and continued research
to find the site of Drake's Landing which he believed to be at Bolinas Bay. He
also worked on the John Marsh Home in Contra Costa County, the Wells Fargo
History Room, the Jerome Museum in Arizona, and produced a filmstrip on
California history for use in schools.
In 1964, Neasham began the Park
Management program at Sacramento State College. This soon evolved into the
department of Environmental Resources and Neasham was appointed full professor.
Along with his responsibilities for Western Heritage and Sacramento State
College, Neasham became a consultant for the Sacramento Historic Landmarks
Commission and established Sacramento's first city and county museum.
Neasham's wife Ruth passed away in 1969, and a short time later he
married Irene Simpson, a noted historian at the Wells Fargo History Room in San
Francisco. The two vigorously promoted historic preservation and as a result,
the California Historical Society established the Neasham Annual Award for
Historic Preservation in 1973. That same year Neasham retired from Sacramento
State College and spent his later years on numerous excavations, attempting to
find evidence for Drake landing at Bolinas Bay. He died at home in
Hillsborough, California on March 11, 1982 at the age of 73.
authored by Neasham:
The City of the Plain; Sacramento in the
Co-authored with James E. Henley. Sacramento,
Calif.: Sacramento Pioneer Foundation, 1969.
Wild legacy: California Hunting and Fishing
Tales; a combination of the best stories by California authors covering more
than one hundred and fifty years from the Spanish and Mexican days to the
Berkeley, Calif.: Howell-North Books, 1973.
Drake's California Landing; the Evidence for
Co-authored with William E. Pritchard. Sacramento,
Calif.: Western Heritage, 1974.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Aubrey Neasham Collection is organized chronologically, and divided
into eleven different series which reflect on his research and professional
career. The first series consists of files created while Neasham was a student
at UC Berkeley, including drafts of his thesis and dissertation. The second
series contains reports and correspondence from Neasham's tenure as editor of
the California Historic Landmark Series. The next two series deal with his
employment for the National Park Service, first in Santa Fe, New Mexico and
then in San Francisco, California. Included in these series are correspondence,
guidebooks, reports, and research related material. Series five is a small
amount of material devoted to Neasham's service in the United States Navy
during World War II. The sixth series documents Neasham's stint as state
historian for California State Beaches & Parks. Series seven contains
research on a variety of topics executed by students in Neasham's
Environmental Resources classes at Sacramento State College, as well as
material dealing with Neasham's book Wild Legacy. The eighth series is the
largest, and it consists of business files and research associated with his
historic consulting firm, Western Heritage, Inc. Included in this series are
extensive research and a number of reports pertaining to Old Sacramento's
redevelopment and establishment as a state historic area. The ninth series
contains material related to Neasham's research on Sir Francis Drake, the
Drake Commission, and the Drake Debate (1974) in which Neasham was a
participant. Series ten is clippings collected by or about Irene Simpson
Neasham, former director of the Wells Fargo History Room and Neasham's second
wife. The final series is made up of A-Z Subject Files that document a wide
range of associations and sites in which Neasham had dealings with. The
original order of these subject files has been maintained.