The beginning of California gold rush dates back to January 24, 1848, when James Marshall, who built a sawmill for John Sutter (the man who in 1841 bought Fort Ross) on the American River in Coloma, California, found some nuggets. He spoke about his discovery to Sutter, who checked Marshall’s samples and confirmed that those were almost pure gold.
John Sutter wanted to keep the discovery a secret; he knew that the discovery of gold would cause a stir and prevent him to develop an agricultural settlement “New Helvetia,” which he had founded in California. He did not restrain his employees from washing gold, but he as well was not in a hurry to inform the world about the precious metal he has detected. However, very soon the news spread, largely thanks to a San Francisco businessman, journalist, and publisher Samuel Brennan. When one of the employees of Sutter paid golden sand in the shop, Brennan, an enterprising merchant, went to the sawmill and learned about the discovery. According to legend, Samuel Brennan bought every shovel in town, and May 12, 1848 ran through the streets of San Francisco holding a vial with gold crying “Gold! Gold! There is gold in the American River!”
Thus began the California gold rush. James Marshall lost his job (all the workers left the sawmill in pursuit of gold), he also tried to mine the precious metal, but failed and ended his days a pauper. John Sutter has also lost his investments due to the gold rush (and later the land).
However, Samuel Brennan, who quickly opened a few shops for prospectors, became the first millionaire in California gold rush, and later a large landowner and Senator of California.
Most residents of San Francisco, which was then a small (a few hundred inhabitants) village have abandoned their usual activity and moved to the American River. Closed stores, warehouses, hotels, the city was deserted. Sailors deserted several ships (and even warships), standing in the San Francisco harbor, and turned into gold miners.
August 19, 1848, the largest in the newspaper on the east coast of the United States, New York Herald, reported about the discovery of gold in California, and in December of the same year, the eleventh U.S. President James K. Polk has officially confirmed the news in his address to the U.S. Congress.
Thousands gold hunters precipitated to California, but getting here was not easy. There are two ways to get to California – land and sea. Those treasure hunters who chose the sea route, were called the “Argonauts.” They had to either go around South America (the journey lasted from five to eight months), or get to the Isthmus of Panama, cross it, and expect the associated vessel to the north. Overland California could be reached by “California Trail” from Oregon or through Mexico, but all of these roads were difficult and dangerous.
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