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Guide to the Vernon Aubrey Neasham papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • Biography / Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Vernon Aubrey Neasham papers
    Dates: 1794-1982 inclusive
    Bulk Dates: 1945-1964
    Collection Number: MS0004
    Creator: Neasham, Vernon Aubrey, 1908-1982
    Collection Size: 37 linear feet (74 boxes)
    Repository: Center for Sacramento History
    Sacramento, California 95814
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English
    Physical location: SP 28:H:01-11, 35:I:4, 31:B:02, 31: A:03, 52: Cabinet, 4:I:01, 54:B:1 (MB4:1), 55:B:1 (MC2:20), 55:B:1 (MC2:19)


    Collection is open for research. Please contact the Center for Sacramento History regarding availability for research use.

    Publication Rights

    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 csh@cityofsacramento.org. 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.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Aubrey Neasham papers, MS0004, Center for Sacramento History.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated by Irene Simpson Neasham, 1982 (Accession #1982/78).

    Processing Information

    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

    Vernon 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.
    Neasham 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.
    Books authored by Neasham:
    • The City of the Plain; Sacramento in the Nineteenth Century. 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 present. Berkeley, Calif.: Howell-North Books, 1973.
    • Drake's California Landing; the Evidence for Bolinas Lagoon. 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.

    Indexing Terms

    Neasham, Vernon Aubrey, 1908-1982
    Drake, Francis, 1540?-1596--Travel--California
    California. Office of Historic Preservation
    United States. National Park Service. Western Regional Office
    California historical archaeology
    Drake, Francis, approximately 1540-1596--Plate of brass
    Historic preservation--California
    Old Sacramento Historic District (Sacramento, Calif.)