Gold Discovered in California
Many people in California figured gold was
there, but it was James W. Marshall on January 24, 1848, who saw
something shiny in Sutter Creek near Coloma, California. He had
discovered gold unexpectedly while overseeing construction of a
sawmill on the American River.
Another builder, James S.
Brown, heard Marshall say, "Boys, I have got her now." Brown
stepped over to Marshall, who held his hat in his hand. There in
the hat were 10 or 12 pieces of gold.
People had made
false claims before that they had discovered gold, so it wasn't
until December of 1848, when President James Polk backed up the
discovery, that the Gold Rush began.
The thought of
becoming rich from picking up gold nuggets from the ground was
like hoping to win the lottery! In 1849, prospectors came from
everywhere to try to make their fortunes. They became known as
the "forty-niners." More than 100,000 people arrived in
California, but the gold was harder to find than people
realized. A few made a small fortune. Others left for home
penniless. Many made a living instead, running stores, saloons,
laundries, and boarding houses, creating towns and cities that
still exist in California.
Would you have been a
"forty-niner?" And if you had discovered gold in a river or
under the ground, what would you have done?