California Gold Rush

Jenn Sheets
      The California Gold Rush (1848-1859)
      Pd. 3

      It was in early January of 1848, when J. A. Sutter decided he wanted to build a saw mill in California. Little did he know one of the men he hired would make history.   James W. Marshall was walking along a ditch on his way to work one afternoon, when he looked down and noticed something odd in the water. It was a piece of gold! He rushed back to share his discovery with Sutter. Of course they wanted to keep the finding a secret. Sam Brannan, a news journalist heard about the finding and wrote an article for his paper, the California Star. The heading read “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” Soon after more news reporters got hold of his paper and used it in theirs. So much for keeping it a secret, the news was spread from state to state and eventually the world. Soon people “flooded” California in hopes of striking it rich, thus beginning the California Gold Rush.

      In the summer of 1849, most of those who were arriving in California were men aged 25 to 30. If you asked a prospector what he was before gold was found he might give you the answer of “I was a ‘storekeeper, teacher, farmer, or an immigrant looking for a new life’.” The average miner could make about $8 a day panning in the river, which is equivalent to $160 present day. A bucket of dirt “washed” could uncover 10¢ of gold.

      What was life like for those involved in the gold rush? Life was simple not too busy. You could expect a prospector to live near the rivers. What were their homes like? The homes were most likely shacks, tents or even simple blankets lied on the ground. Building a shack from good wood was almost as expensive as the other supplies. To build a ten-room house in an eastern city cost about $2,000. The common use for money was gold dust. ( A dollar was a pinch of gold dust or however much one man could grab in between his thumb and forefinger) It was more likely to find...