Sutter's Gold: A Long Journey To California

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On January 24, 1848 James Wilson Marshall found flakes of gold in the American River at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Marshall was a carpenter from New Jersey working on a water-powered sawmill owned by John Sutter, a German-born Swiss man who founded the colony of New Switzerland, later to be known as Sacramento. Marshall and Sutter tried to keep the news of the discovery out of the public ear, but word got out, and around March, at least one newspaper was out reporting of gold being discovered at Sutter’s Mill. At first, when the news hit San Francisco, there was disbelief about the discovery until a storekeeper, Sam Brannan, shocked the public with a vial of gold from Sutter’s Mill. Three months later, much of the male population of San Francisco had left for the gold mines reaching numbers in the thousands. After news spread about people in …show more content…

While men left their hometowns and families, women had to learn how to run businesses, take care of farms, and raise children by themselves. These people, known as ‘49er’s, traveled immense distances, some even going through Panama or around Cape Horn. By the end of 1848 almost 100,000 non-California natives were in the state, compared to a mere 800 the year before. Gold mine towns were everywhere in the region with saloons and shops along with businesses looking to strike gold and become rich. San Francisco’s economy boomed and became the center of the new frontier. The gold largely disappeared in 1850, even though miners were still arriving. Mining was not only difficult, but dangerous labor, and required as much luck as skill and hard work. The average take home for an independent miner was now much less than what it was a year before. In 1853, the invention of hydraulic mining brought enormous profits, but destroyed landscapes, and changed independent miners into wage

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