Gold in Dem Dare Hills

By | Jan 24, 2017

John W. Marshall had developed a partnership with John Sutter, the founder of Sutter’s Fort, California to build a sawmill. The area around Sutter’s Fort would eventually become Sacramento. Marshall’s job was to oversee the construction and operation of the mill. The location where they decided to build the mill was around 40 miles from Sutter’s Fort along the American River. Work began on the mill in August of 1847, but it was a small discovery on January 24, 1848 that changed the the area, California and the United States. He discovered some shiny rocks in the channel. These rocks were gold.

When the discovery of gold was made, California was still part of Mexico, although it was under the protection of the United States military as a result of the Mexican-American War. It wasn’t until a little over a week later on February 2, 1847 that the treaty ending the war was signed.

Sutter had the dreams of building the area into an agricultural empire and feared that the announcement of gold being discovered would cause a mass search for gold and ruin his plans. Even though he tried to keep the discovery quiet word got out and the search for gold was on. By the end of 1849 the European (American) population had grown to over 100,000 from 15,000. The city of San Francisco alone grew from a quiet, nearly ghost town with an economy based on the sea of around 1000 in 1848 to a booming 25,000 by 1850. San Francisco was the major sea port for imports and exports of the area.

At the time that gold was discovered in California, William T. Sherman, yes the same Sherman who marched across Georgia in 1864 during the Civil War, was a Lieutenant stationed in California. By 1853 he had resigned his commission and became the President of the Bank of San Francisco. The bank would fail in 1857 and he left California for Kansas and then Louisiana, before going north after Louisiana seceded. The rest as they say is history.

1849 was the year of the gold rush and those who went to California in 1849 are commonly known as 49ers. Today many of the gold rush towns such as Placerville, Auburn, Grass Valley, Coloma, Jackson, and Sonora are connected by California route 49.

However, Marshall’s life, as did Sutter’s, was negatively effected by the discovery of gold. The sawmill failed when all able-bodied men left in search of gold. By the end of his life Marshall was penniless. But he is still remembered since in 1890 a monument was built over his grave that overlooks the area where he discovered the gold. On top of the monument is a statue of Marshall pointing to the spot where he found the gold.


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