Grass Valley's history is part of the colorful lore of the California Gold Rush. The first notations about the area are from the late 1840's when a party of men searching for cattle came upon a "grassy valley". Grass Valley's claim to historic fame is embedded in the vast amounts of gold discovered and extracted from its rich underground mines. In more than 100 years of mining, the mines of Grass Valley made it the richest of all California gold mining towns. As word spread about the gold rush, prospectors flooded the foothills. The small settlement began looking like a village. Then in 1850, a settler by the name of George McKnight discovered gold in the quartz rock along Gold Hill and the real boom began.
By 1851, thousands of people were living in the bustling town now known as Grass Valley and in the nearby town of Nevada, (later renamed Nevada City when Nevada became a state). Grass Valley suffered a disastrous fire in 1855, and Nevada City burned in 1863, but the towns quickly rebuilt and continued to grow.
Today, the towns thrive and the beautifully restored historic buildings in the downtown areas remind us of the days gone by. The community and its economy are still emerging. Part of the emergence has required nearly all of our major industries to retool for greater competitiveness in a global marketplace.