Essays About The California Gold Rush

The Gold Rush of 1849


Jack London writes of the Gold Rush in Call of the Wild. It was a crazy time when men rushed to the Yukon to pan for gold. Men also traveled to the California areas to find mine and try to find gold. Some men did well in finding gold while others sold firewood, cooked, constructed buildings, or ran mining camps. London actually never panned for gold as he contracted scurvy and spent his time in the Yukon healing. The California Gold Rush was just as amazing as the movement to the Yukon area.

In January of 1848, James Wilson Marshall found gold while he was building a small saw mill at the edge of the American River. The river runs northeast of Sacramento, California. History states that a storekeeper from the Sutter Creek area, Sam Brannan, ran around yelling about the discovery of gold and then the gold rush began. People flooded into the area seeking to make money.

People traveled west to California and the search began. Men traveled thousands and thousands of miles by foot and wagon across the Plains to seek their fortune. The San Francisco area soared from around 14,000 to over a population of 100,000. The population eventually maxed out at over 250,000. Buildings were quickly constructed and claims to areas were sold. The late part of 1849 was the busiest with everyone coming for his or her fortune.

The Klamath Mountains of northwest California produced the current day equivalent of over 26 million dollars through gold mining. Gold was mined in that area well up into the late 1950s. Several reconstruction and replica mines and mining towns now exist in the Sacramento, California area for tourists and historians. Stonewall Mine is one that can be toured today to provide an idea of what life was like during the California Gold Rush of 1849.

During the California Gold Rush of 1849, some men made their fortune in gold, some men lost their fortune, many men traveled miles and miles, some men died on the way, some men died when they got there, and some like Jack London got too sick to actually mine for gold. The Gold Rush of 1849 was a historical event in which populations shifted locales in days in order to find a fortune and make a new life. They all followed the cries of Sam Brannan.


The California Gold Rush

The gold rush in California was a revolutionary discovery that took place at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. The gold rush is argued to be one of the most significant events within the history of America during the 19 century. Gold nuggets were discovered within the Sacramento Valley and as this new spread thousands of perspective Gold miners traveled over to the San Francisco area by land or by sea in search of getting rich. By the end of the year 1849 the non-native population for this California region was 100,000 people. The previous year it'd been less than 1000. The gold rush peaked in the year 1852 and by that time over $2 billion worth of precious metal was taken from this area.

The gold rush began at Sutter’s Mill. It was James Wilson Marshall, a Carpenter from New Jersey, who noticed flakes of gold in the river along Coloma. This river was part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. At the time this man was building water powered sawmill for a German born Swiss citizen who founded new Switzerland. The colony of new Switzerland was later renamed Sacramento. In his letters he noted this historic discovery as something which made his heart pounds because he knew that it was gold.

The first people to acquire great fortunes were those who were already in the land. The second group of people to acquire great fortunes for the first migrants to came from nearby areas such as Oregon, Mexico, Hawaii, Chile, Peru, and China. Those were able to reach by boat arrived much faster than their counterparts. News of the gold discovery did not reach the East Coast for some time. And those who initially saw the press reports were skeptical. But in December 1848 the president announced positive results of this report and stated clearly that there was an abundance of gold in the area. The presidents’ announcements garnered positive results and instigated the gold fever.

It was because of this announcement that the 49ers arrived. This term was given to those who came throughout the year 1849 from around the United States. Mostly men would borrow money from everyone they knew, spend their life savings, or mortgage their property in an attempt to make the journey to California and pursue wealth. Men were left behind to run the farms, the businesses, and care for the children. These Gold miners traveled in any way possible to reach the area. Small-town sprung up immediately to accommodate the needs and the mining camps were overcrowded and violent. In spite of the small towns rampant gambling, violence, and prostitution developed.

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