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The California Gold Rush

On January 24, 1848, Marshall was testing the mill wheel. As usual, the water running over it carried some sand and light gravel. But this time Marshall saw something sparkling in the sand. He picked out some small, odd-shaped beads of the yellow metal. (p. 6) As the beads were tested and turned out to be gold, Sutter and Marshall tried to keep the discovery quiet for fear that the plan of an agricultural empire would be ruined when people start pouring to mine. Word gradually spread about the discovery until a San Francisco newspaper run a series of stories declaring the discovery of gold – at first as news fillers and later as headlines which naturally fuelled the furor. Sam Brannan owned this newspaper called the California Star. According to Judy Monroe (2002) at first, he did not believe the news about gold either but soon he became convinced and that on April 1, 1848, he ran six pages of articles about how easy it was to find and collect California gold. (p. 16) The news then spread as wildfire and thousands flocked to California from the West in that same year alone. While people came to California in droves, their bulk came only from the neighboring states such as Tennessee. It was after the farewell speech of the then President James Polk that finally launched the California Gold Rush. In a calm explanation of the situation in California, Polk validated the future of those who already came and those multitudes who will go to find the riches in California. His exact words were: The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the public service who have visited the mineral district and derived facts which they detail from personal observation… The explorations already made warrant the belief that the supply is very large and that gold is found at various places in an extensive district of the country. (cited in Durham 1997, p. 3)