California is called the Golden State for many reasons,
including its abundant sunshine and the Gold Rush with
its exciting and colourful history.
“Boys, by God, I believe I’ve found a gold mine,” said
JamesW. Marshall to his mill workers on January 24, 1848
aft er he discovered shining fl ecks of gold in the tailrace
of the sawmill he and John Sutter were constructing on
the South Fork of the American River.
Gold! Th e cry went up from Sutter’s Mill and brought a
mass migration of people into California from the four
corners of the world.
By August, the hills above the river were strewn with wood
huts and tents as the fi rst wave of miners lured by the gold
discovery scrambled to strike it rich. Prospectors from
the East sailed around Cape Horn. Some hiked across the
Isthmus of Panama and, by 1849, about 40,000 came to
San Francisco by sea alone.
Most of the 49ers never intended to remain in California
permanently. Most meant to seek their fortune and return
to wherever they called home.
But many sent for their families and stayed, causing a
culturally diverse population to grow rapidly. Between
1848 and 1852 – four short years – California’s population
grew from 14,000 to 223,000.
Th e Gold Rush expended 125 million troy ounces of
gold, worth more than $50 billion by today’s standards.
It is estimated that more than 80 per cent of the gold in
the Mother Lode is still in the ground.
Th ese 49ers established hundreds of instant mining
towns along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Most mining camps were nothing more than temporary
encampments established where a section of a river was
panned or sluiced until the gold ran out.
The Gold Rush Trail:
California Highway 49
Placerville circa 1849
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