James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma
The California Gold Rush began at Sutter's Mill, near Coloma. On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River.
The California Gold Rush began at Sutter's Mill, near Coloma.On January 24, 1848, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River.
why was the california gold rush important?The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California.The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial.
The California Gold Rush was the largest mass migration in American history since it brought about 300,000 people to California. It all started on January 24, 1848, when James W. Marshall found gold on his piece of land at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma. The news of gold quickly spread around. People from Oregon, Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) and Latin America were the first to hear the breaking news, so they were the first to arrive in order to test their luck in California by the end of 1848. Soon the others from the rest of US, Europe, Australia and China followed and since they mainly arrived during 1849 they were called the “forty-niners”. At first, the gold could be picked up from the ground but later on it was recovered from the streams and rivers with the use of pans. The gold rush peaked in 1852 and after that the gold reserves were getting thinner and harder to reach so that more sophisticated methods of mining had to be employed. The best results were achieved with hydraulic mining although it was environmentally damaging. The gold rush resulted in the hasty development of California: many roads, churches, schools and towns were built to accommodate the gold-diggers. In the beginning, property rights in the goldfields were not covered by law and this was solved by the system of staking claims. The gold also helped to speed up the admission of California into the US as a State. All the preparations in terms of constitution and legislature were made in 1849 and California became a state in 1850.
A Lady’s Life in the Gold Rush- ‘Really, everybody ought to go to the mines just to see how little it takes to make people comfortable in the world,’ Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe wrote from the mines in California, to her sister Molly in New England. She penned 23 letters in all, from September 13, 1851, through November 21, 1852, describing life at Rich Bar and nearby Indian Bar, on the ‘East Branch of the North Fork of Feather River,’ roughly 120 miles northeast of Sacramento, in present-day Plumas National Forest.Someone with whom Louise did exchange letters was Alexander Hill Everett. They met by chance in August 1839 while traveling by stagecoach in southern Vermont. Louise Smith was then a delicate, bright, golden-haired 20-year-old student. Alexander Everett was a widely traveled diplomat 30 years her elder. She was fascinated by him, in an academic way. He was infatuated with her. As her literary mentor, he advised, on October 31, 1839: ‘If you were to add to the love of reading the habit of writing you would find a new and inexhaustible source of comfort and satisfaction opening upon you.’ She accepted his advice, rejected his love. Everett died in Macao, China, in June 1847, the same year he received a letter from Louise announcing her engagement to a young doctor.
In January 1848, James Wilson Marshall discovered gold while constructing a saw mill along the American River northeast of present-day Sacramento. The discovery was reported in the San Francisco newspapers in March but caused little stir as most did not believe the account.
The spark that ignited the gold rush occurred in May 1848 when Sam Brannan, a storekeeper in Sutter's Creek, brandished a bottle filled with gold dust around San Francisco shouting 'Gold! Gold! Gold from American River!' The residents of the city now had proof of the discovery and the stampede to the gold fields was on. San Francisco's harbor was soon cluttered with derelict ships deserted by their crews. Workers abandoned their jobs - San Francisco's two newspapers were forced to close their doors as their staffs were struck by gold fever. The populations of many of the coastal towns were depleted as prospective prospectors headed to the gold fields.
The New York Herald printed news of the discovery in August 1848 and the rush for gold accelerated into a stampede. Gold seekers traveled overland across the mountains to California (30,000 assembled at launch points along the plains in the spring of 1849) or took the round-about sea routes: either to Panama or around Cape Horn and then up the Pacific coast to San Francisco. A census of San Francisco (then called Yerba Buena) in April 1847 reported the town consisted of 79 buildings including shanties, frames houses and adobes. By December 1849 the population had mushroomed to an estimated 100,000. The massive influx of fortune seekers Americanized the once Mexican province and assured its inclusion as a state in the union.
S. Shufelt was one of those gold-seekers. All that we know about Mr. Shufelt is contained in a letter he wrote from the gold fields to his cousin in March 1850. We don't know if he struck it rich or whether he ever returned to his wife and home - we don't even know his first name. On May 11, 1849 he boarded the steamer Panama in New York City along with about 200 fellow fortune hunters risking all on a gamble in California. Behind him he left a wife and child in Windham, NY near the Catskills.
Mr. Shufelt reveals his motivation when he tells his cousin that: "I have left those that I love as my own life behind and risked everything and endured many hardships to get here. I want to make enough to live easier and do some good with, before I return." These same thoughts no doubt inspired the majority of those who made the trek to the gold fields - they were not intending to stay, but planned to make some money and return to their origins.
Mr. Shufelt's letter was discovered at an auction in 1924 and is now part of the collection of the Library of Congress.
On the 85th day out we hove in sight of an object that greatly attracted our attention & ere long the green hills of San Francisco bay began to show their highest points, & soon we were gliding smoothly along between them, down the bay, & when the order came to let go anchor, we brought up directly in front of the City amidst a fleet of vessels, of all kinds & sizes." On August 19, 1848 the New York Herald was the first newspaper on the East Coast of the United States to confirm that there was a gold rush in California; by December 5, 1848, even President James Polk would announce this before Congress, significantly legitimizing the news. The gold discovery sparked almost mass hysteria as thousands of immigrants from around the world soon invaded what would soon be called the Gold Country of California.