Gold Rush in California
Gold Rush in California
The gold rush in California is a period of approximately eight years (1848 - 1856) which began in January 1848 following the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill, a sawmill owned by Johann August Sutter near Coloma east of Sacramento, in the current State of California (USA). The news spread rapidly and attracted over California 300 000 adventurers, U.S. and foreign.
These settlers, later known as "forty-niners" (a phrase that could be translated as "forty-neuvards"), arrived by boat or overland freight wagons, across the continent, the price of a Travel often difficult. Although most of these newcomers were Americans, the gold rush also attracted tens of thousands of immigrants from Latin America, Europe, Australia and Asia. These gold seekers began settled along the rivers and used for their research techniques artisanal gold mining. Then more sophisticated methods of gold mining grew and were later adopted worldwide. It is estimated that the value of the quantities of gold found during this period amounted to several billion dollars today. But while some made fortunes, others returned home with little more than they had initially.
The gold rush changed profoundly California. While small hamlet consisting of tents, San Francisco developed under the pressure of population growth, roads, churches, schools and other buildings were built. A system of laws and government were created, government leading to the admission of California as a state U.S. in 1850. New modes of transportation were developed: the steamboat, which becomes a means of regular transport, and railways. Agriculture, the next major California economy began to grow throughout the state. However, the gold rush was not as positive aspects of Native Americans were attacked and driven from their lands of ethnic and racial tensions were formed, and the gold mining led to many problems environment.
Scientists believe that large concentrations of gold found in California mountains are the result of the combined work forces of tectonic, volcanic and erosion over the past 400 million years. At the beginning of the process, California was submerged, and underwater volcanoes deposited lava and minerals, including gold, on its seabed. Around 200 million years ago, tectonic pressure was plunging the seabed under the American continental plate. Because of subduction, the ocean floor was turned into magma under pressure then forced his passage through cracks to the surface of what is now the Sierra Nevada in California. In sum, the magma cooled, solidified, and veins of gold were formed in quartz gangue. Finally, these rocks and minerals s'érodèrent to the surface and thus exposed to the air, the gold was washed away by rain and placed it among the sediments composing the banks of rivers on which forty -niners first concentrated their efforts.
Birth of the California myth and first discoveries
Centuries before the start of the gold rush, even before California was discovered, his name was linked to gold and the image of a new Eden in the imagination of future explorers. This name appeared for the first time in the early sixteenth century in the writings of the Spanish writer García Ordóñez de Montalvo in Las Sergas of Esplandian, fifth book of Amadis of Gaul novel was very successful at influencing the conquistadors exploration New World. As described in the book Island of California:
"Know that, at the right hand of the Indies near the terrestrial paradise, there is an island called California, formed the largest rocks ever seen. This island was inhabited by strong black women in a warm heart, endowed with great strength, who lived almost like Amazon without a single man among them [...] Their weapons were all whole gold. The island everywhere abounds in gold and precious stones, and no other metal was not there [...]".
The author took this name Califerne, an African city mentioned in The Song of Roland. The myths of the Island of California and the Seven Cities of Cibola, the legendary cities of gold, drove many explorers to the western coast of North America. Among them, Hernan Cortes learned of the existence of a Terra Incognita to the Indians that is situated north-west of New Spain and could well be an island. He organized several expeditions and in 1535 founded a small colony on the present site of La Paz in Baja California. Despite all his efforts, he returned to Mexico without finding any treasure. In 1602, the expedition of Sebastian Vizcaino made a mistake and confirmed that California was an island well, reinforcing the myth. However the Spanish explorers obtained only meager results. The name of California remained one of the land although the dream of finding gold gradually faded.
It was not until 1765 and access to Don Jose Galvez under visitadores of New Spain for a major operation is implemented in order to populate Alta California and they start to look for gold in this region. Don Jose Galvez gave control of the company to the governor of Baja California, Don Gaspar de Portola. The expedition started in January 1769, accompanied by Franciscans have replaced the Jesuits and their father higher Juniperro Serra. The trip was very hard and finish riches were not expected to go. Don Gaspar de Portola confided to his job as Governor Don Pedro Fages and reported his disappointment at the outcome of the operation:
"We have never seen or discovered the mines of gold and silver, not more than other precious metals that we had talked before we left.".
Contrary to Don Gaspar de Portola, the Don Jose Galvez visitadores did not give up and presented to the king a report on the existence of gold mines in Alta California, followed by a development project based on the hand of Indian work. This project never saw the day, the Spanish authorities turned away from what they saw as the pursuit of chimerical dreams.
From 1769 to 1823, the Franciscans founded 21 missions along the coast from San Diego to Sonoma, and were thus the first to colonize the territory, soldiers and officials, obtaining the help of Alta California Indians, peaceful people and easy to convert to Christianity. Rumors about the knowledge of gold deposits by men in frock appeared. William H. Davis, an American dealer, claimed to have seen some of them in possession of gold nuggets. If these rumors were true, it is likely that the Franciscans have not measured the extent of deposits or they managed to keep secret. Another rumor, trappers claimed in 1814 that the inhabitants of Fort Ross, founded by Russians in 1812 to 100 km north of Yerba Buena, exploited gold deposits but nothing confirmed.
Until then the sparse population and lack of openness to foreigners, which added the war of independence of Mexico from 1810 to 1821, had not failed a lot more exploration and prospecting. This situation changed when California became a province of Mexico at the end of the war. Unlike Spain, the new state encouraged trade with other countries and set up in 1824 legislation favorable to the settlement of California by ensuring the safety of property and persons and granting property titles to a quota foreigners with a certain Johann Augustus Sutter arrived in California in 1839 and was soon not to be talked about.
Only a few years before the gold rush, and with the arrival of these new migrants, new rumors circulated. In March 1842, Francisco Lopez, an employee of Rancho Del Valle or Rancho San Francisco, discovered gold in Placerita Canyon in the mountains north of Los Angeles. With friends, including a French native of Bordeaux (Charles Baric), he exploited the vein that ran out quickly. In 1843, Jean Baptiste Ruelle, a French Canadian, also allegedly discovered a deposit. However, between the myths of a promised land and rumors, nobody knew that the dreams of conquerors would soon become reality and that this would be the Yankees who would benefit. Ironically, the acquisition of California took place just over a week after the discovery that started the gold rush.
The discovery at Sutter's Mill
The gold rush began at Sutter's Mill (sawmill owned by the Swiss pioneer John Sutter) in the vicinity of Coloma Monday, January 24, 1848. James W. Marshall, a carpenter working for Sutter, found pieces of shiny metal in the forebay of the mill he was building for Sutter on the edge of the American River. Test results performed by the two men showed that the particles found by Marshall were good for gold.
Taken aback by this discovery, Sutter tried to keep it secret at first because he feared what would happen to his plans for agricultural empire (New Helvetia) where intensive search for gold. However, the new soon to spread and was confirmed in March 1848 by newspaper columnist and businessman Samuel Brannan San Francisco. According to a famous anecdote, Brannan strode through the streets of San Francisco when he brandished a vial of gold above his head and exclaimed: "Gold! Gold! Gold! There's gold in the American River! "
On August 19, 1848, the New York Herald (a New York newspaper published from 1835 to 1924) was the first major East Coast newspaper to mention the Gold Rush in California. On December 5, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in a message to the U.S. Congress. Immediately, waves of immigrants from around the world arrived in the Gold Country, California. These immigrants will be later called the "forty-niners" because this year 1849.
As feared John Sutter, the gold fever soon took momentum. So far one of the richest men among his contemporaries, he was paradoxically ruined by the discovery of gold on his land his men deserted, its ownership was disputed, his crops destroyed, their cattle stolen and their land by squatters newcomers.
San Francisco was a tiny settlement of pioneers before the start of the Gold Rush. When people were aware of the discovery, it became a ghost town of abandoned ships by their crews and shops abandoned by their owners who had joined the rush. At the same time, the population growth of the city exploded with the arrival of new adventurers and traders. The population of San Francisco went from around 1000 inhabitants in 1848 to 25,000 permanent residents in 1850. The infrastructure of San Francisco and other cities, real boom towns in the vicinity of the gold fields were saturated by the sudden influx of population. The men lived in tents, wooden huts or booths taken from abandoned ships.
The gold rush in California is considered the first global. Yet there was no obvious route to go to California. The forty-niners faced many difficulties and many could be killed on the roads of the conquest of gold. Originally, the Argonauts (as they were called then) were traveling by sea From the East Coast, a trip around Cape Horn took between five and eight months and covered a distance of 33,000 km. An alternative was to join the east coast of the Isthmus of Panama and then, using mules and canoes, cross over a week, the jungle to the Pacific coast and await a ship bound San Francisco. Another route through Nicaragua was developed in 1851, but she had not the popularity of the Panama. There was also a road through Mexico from Veracruz. Moreover, many miners borrowed an overland route through the United States of America, particularly along the California Trail from Missouri to California. Each of these routes had its own lethal risks: shipwrecks, typhoid and cholera.
To meet the demands of new immigrants, ships importing goods from around the world, such as porcelain and silk from China or Scottish ale, flocked to San Francisco. Arrived safely, the boat captains found themselves without a crew, their ship deserted by the sailors who went prospecting. The wharves and docks of San Francisco became a forest of masts, as hundreds of ships were abandoned. The people then turned the ship into warehouses, stores, taverns, hotels and even served a prison. Many of these ships were later destroyed and used as backfill to increase the area of residential land to meet the exploding demand.
For several years, there was another, though lesser known, flood in northern California where, today, the County of Siskiyou County and Shasta County Trinity. The discovery in 1851, Golden Nugget, on the current site of the city of Yreka, drained thousands of prospectors through the Siskiyou Trail and the northern counties. Gold has also been found in southern California, but in much smaller quantities. After the first discovery in 1842 year at Rancho San Francisco Other deposits were later discovered in the mountains of southern California, but made little noise and had limited economic impact.
At the time of the gold rush, some sites such as Portuguese Flat were built from scratch before disappearing quickly. The town of Weaverville in the Trinity River is home to the oldest Taoist temple still in use all over California, a legacy of Chinese miners from prospecting. While not much of ghost towns that time the buildings are still well preserved, Shasta City are behind a National Historic Park in northern California.