Hi, thank you for checking out our new blog, Folsom Unveiled. My name is Kaitlyn Scott and I’m Folsom Historical Society’s historian. Each week I will be highlighting a different topic related to Folsom’s history that not everyone knows about by diving deeper into a place, event, person or piece in our collection.
If you have been in the area for a while you have undoubtedly heard of the Natomas Company. They were a huge local corporation that started as a water company during the Gold Rush. It was founded by Amos P. Catlin, Augustus T. Arrowsmith and a group of other like-minded men who wanted to strike it rich by investing in the influx of people coming to California.
With gold newly discovered in the area, a canal was needed to safely channel water for miners and on March 3rd, 1852 the Natoma Water and Mining Company was fully formed and began work on a canal to Prairie City. In 1857, they purchased 9,654 acres of land from the Joseph Folsom estate for $36,000 dollars and work began on a canal in Folsom. The company proved to be extremely successful and grew over the years, branching out onto other ventures such as agriculture, viticulture, and dredging.
I am not going to go deep into the company’s business history because I would much rather write about a town that cropped up because of the company. There used to be many little towns peppered throughout the area that no longer exist (read my Salmon Falls blog from a couple of weeks ago!) Natoma was one of those towns.
It was located in the area that is now part of Folsom Blvd near Blue Ravine. You have been there if you have ever had lunch at Dos Coyotes or grabbed a smoothie at Jamba Juice. I personally pass by it every time I head over to our museum from Sacramento.
As a company town, Natoma was built for the sole purpose of housing employees and their families and creating a space for company offices, businesses and storage buildings. It might sound odd to have a town built just for a company, but it is actually not that uncommon. In California, there is Scotia in Humboldt County which was created for the Pacific Lumber Company. A more popular (and delicious) company town is Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Natoma had a post office, an assay office, machine shops, a forge and a railroad which the Natomas Company used to ship its fruits and vegetables. The town was also set up to host wealthy investors from San Francisco and other big cities. They were invited to the town, shown around the facilities and then taken in cars to view the company’s dredges and land holdings.
The town of Natoma was also known as “Yellowtown” because every building was painted Armour Yellow, a distinct shade of yellow popular with the Armour Packing Company which was owned by Philip D. Armour, a heavily involved investor with the Natomas Company. A group formed at the town who called themselves the “Yellowtown Kids” and they regularly hosted balls and other get togethers for Natoma and Folsom. Events were held in Folsom, usually at Odd Fellows’ Hall which was located on the corner of Scott and Sutter streets.
Shopping and attending school had to be done in Folsom as Natoma was rather small. In later years, many families who lived in Natoma made the move to Folsom when the Natomas Company pulled their last dredge in the area in 1962. Soon after the town of Natoma was dismantled, and in the 1970s a plaque went up to mark where the town was once located.