On 19 August 1848, the New York Herald became the first major east coast newspaper to announce the discovery of gold in what became known as the California Gold Rush. The rush of men to the area initiated new markets for just about everything. The excavating and panning was strenuous work, and those that had the resources often took advantage of Indians, making them do the work. By the end of the year, placer miners were making $20 a day for their toil.
Before the Gold Rush initially began at Sutter’s Mill in January of 1848, San Francisco had been a tiny settlement. When residents heard about the discovery, the settlement at first became a ghost town of deserted ships and businesses, but then expanded as merchants and new people arrived. The population grew from about 1,000 in 1848 to 25,000 full-time occupants by 1850.
Miners lived in tents, wood shanties, or deck cabins removed from abandoned ships. Wherever gold was found, hundreds of miners would join forces to put up a campground and stake their claims. Each campground usually had its own bar and gambling home.
At the time gold was discovered, California was part of the Mexican territory of Alta California, which was ceded to the U.S. after the end of the Mexican-American War with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848. Though the New York Herald reported the discovery of gold in August of 1848, it wasn’t until December 5 of the same year that President James Polk verified the discovery in an address to Congress. Soon after that verification, a surge of immigrants from around the world, who would later be referred to as the “forty-niners,” invaded the Gold Country of California or “Mother Lode.”
Photo Credit: L. C. McClure’s photograph of a miner, 1850.
I am a local musician in the Metro Detroit/Downriver areas of Michigan. My very first full length album is available now! I attend church at The Bridge in Trenton, MI every Sunday! I love Jesus with all my heart and love to worship God through music. I graduated high school at Plymouth Christian Academy. I currently attend Schoolcraft College where I am taking general education classes. In the fall, I plan to attend Valley Forge Christian College in Pennsylvania.