January 24, 1848
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?