The Gold Rush was a massive event, triggered by the discovery of gold in Coloma, California. James W. Marshall found the gold, while he was inspecting the river’s channel. This discovery led to the development of California as a state.
The city of San Francisco had grown from a mere settlement to a mighty city. It served as a base for the miners. The Gold Rush ended in tragedy for many families. Many of the miners died due to disease, violent encounters with the natives and criminals.
The native Indians suffered too – the miners drove them away from their lands. In 20 years, since 1848, their population had declined by over a hundred thousand people. We will examine three stories of the Golden Rush, in order to show the event through the eyes of those who had participated in it.
James Marshall’s Primary Concerns after He Discovered Gold
When James Marshall had first discovered gold and showed it to some of his men, his concern was that his workers would abandon the construction of the mill, in favor of gold hunting. In retrospect, it was a bad idea to show his findings to the workers, as it was unlikely for them to keep their mouths shut.
There were many Mormon soldiers wandering around the nearby fort. When the news had reached the fort, the entire country was set on fire in a matter of months. California was a land recently acquired in the war with Mexico, and all of the income from the discovery went to the Americans and not the Mexicans. Ironically, the discoverer of gold in California met his end in a wooden cabin, in poverty (Roark et al. 334).
Sarah Royce and the Abandoned Caravan
In her memoirs, Sarah described the hardships that she and her family had to go through during their trip to California. They had suffered from many things – from disease, hunger and thirst to violent threats posed by the native Indians.
She described several scenes, which she bore witness to on the way through the desert. Sarah and her family had encountered what she first thought to be a company.
However, as they approached, it became obvious that the camp was abandoned. Rotting carcasses were lying about, and there were no people inside the wagons. There was no indication of what had transpired, although some of the personal possessions were scattered as if the occupants had left in haste (Roark et al. 335).
Disillusionment of Daniel B. Woods
Daniel Woods was a school teacher and one of the forty-niners caught by the Gold Rush. He traveled to California in hopes of becoming rich. However, he quickly realized that his chances were very slim. The conditions were harsh, the profits – uncertain at best, and the food was terrible. Drought and diseases were flourishing. He described several days of his work.
One day he and his friends got lucky and earned 20 dollars each. However, the several subsequent days were not nearly as profitable. The prices for food were exorbitant. Soon came the realization that no fortune was to be made there. The man was looking for quick and easy money in California. The harsh reality shattered those dreams (Roark et al. 335).
Roark, James L., Michael P. Johnson, Patricia Cline Cohen, Sarah Stage, and
Susan M. Hartmann. The American Promise: A History of the United States. 6th ed. Vol. 1. 2014. New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Print.