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Sacramento Historical Society Memorial



Let the memory of the following people not be lost to memory. This memorial acknowledges and recognizes the remarkable volunteers and historians who worked with the Society to preserve, uncover, and promote

Sacramento's regional history. 


SHS and our Community encourages you to preserve their memory and their contributions.


In Memoriam 

James Henley (1944-2014)

James Henley was a visionary Sacramento historian and a driving force in the preservation, restoration and public celebration of the city's storied past. As official city historian, Mr. Henley was the gatekeeper to Sacramento's gilded origins and rustic heritage for four decades.  He gave new life to the Old City Cemetery at 10th Street and Broadway, a resting place for many Sacramento pioneers that had fallen into disrepair. He developed archives known today as the Center for Sacramento History in the Richards Boulevard district to house a treasure trove of artifacts, government records, manuscripts, photographs and other materials from public and private donors dating back to the Gold Rush. His legacy will forever be remembered in his extraordinary works for Sacramento's history. Read Mr. Henley's complete obituary here. Watch Mr. Henley's "Small Bites of Sacramento History" series on YouTube here.

Walter “Mickey” Knapp (1929-2008)

Walter "Mickey" Knapp, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, was an active community volunteer who became a founding member of the Sacramento History Museum. A charter docent of the Discovery Museum, Mr. Knapp helped train volunteers and wrote and edited promotional materials for the museum. He was a friendly, engaging speaker who liked sharing his interest in California history. Mr. Knapp was also a past president of the Sacramento Historical Society and a member of the History Museum of Folsom. He also belonged to the Old City Cemetery Committee and, after several years of dedicated research, organized a daylong bus tour of Sacramento County historical sites. His great passion for history was remarkable and will be forever remembered. Read Mr. Knapp's complete obituary here.

William (Bill) Mahan (1931-2016)

William Mahan was a great contributor to the Sacramento County Historical Society (SCHS) and all it stands for. He served on the Board of Directors of SCHS and created the complete index to the SHS Golden Notes Library, evident on this website today. When asked to do a bit of research to commemorate the “lost” cemetery at 24th and Meadowview, Mr. Mahan became so engrossed by the history of the area that he wrote the fascinating essay "The Rebirth of a Community: Meadowview." That document demonstrates how he was always willing to share knowledge for those interested. He always had a welcoming and warm personality and is greatly missed. Read Mr. Mahan's complete obituary here.

Dr. Joseph McGowan (1912-1992)

Professor McGowan's name is synonymous with the history of Sacramento. He was co-founder and first president of the Sacramento County Historical Society in 1954. He taught history three years at Gridley High School, in Butte Co., before joining the Navy in WWll. After the war he joined the faculty of the then-Sacramento State College in 1949. As a professor, he was known for his stimulating classes and his spellbinding storytelling. At a time when most academics looked down on local history, Prof. McGowan spearheaded involvement with grass roots history. He served on the Sacramento County Historical Society's Board of Directors for three decades. He also was a member of the Pioneer Society, American Association of University Professors, California Historical Society and the American Historical Society. Dr. McGowan wrote three books: History of the Sacramento Valley – 3 Volumes (1961); The Sacramento Valley: A Students Guide to Localized History (1967); Sacramento, Heart of the Golden State (1983). Read Dr. McGowan's complete obituary here.

Mary Otis (1920-2017)

Mary Otis will forever be remembered for her extraordinary and relentless dedication to the preservation of the history of her native city of Folsom and Sacramento. She served on the Board of Folsom Powerhouse and assisted in the foundation of the Friends of the Folsom Powerhouse, seeing to the preservation of the Powerhouse as a historic site. In her effort to preserve local history, she became an active member of the Sacramento County Historical Society (SCHS) and the Conference of California Historical Societies, eventually becoming the Vice President of the latter. Ms. Otis also oversaw Sacramento History Day for Sacramento County schools for a quarter century. For her incredible work, SCHS honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her 54 years of volunteer work in the conservation of history in Northern and Southern California.

If you know of someone who you feel should be listed here please provide their name, date of birth and death and a brief paragraph about their contributions.  Email that information to:

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