The History of the California Gold Rush
Last Updated on
We know we’re a pizza and wing joint in West Phoenix, but what can we say, we really love history. Especially the history of the Southwest. And since the California Gold Rush was a pivotal moment in America’s history that saw incredible expansion and migration West, Arizona and the entire Southwest owe their modern exploration in large part to this historical moment.
The great and expansive Western region of our modern United States was little known to the Europeans who settled in America through the early and mid-19th century. It wasn’t until the war of 1812 that people even began to settle West of the Appalachian Mountains. Migration picked up as people sought open land and opportunity, but when gold was found one auspicious day in the Sacramento Valley, The West would never be the same.
We Struck Gold!
Or really, we sifted gold up from the river. In 1848, a man by the name of John Sutter owned a water-powered sawmill on the banks of the American River in California. On a cold January morning that year, one of Sutter’s carpenters noticed something sparkly on the shore of a nearby streambed. Some sources describe it as gold flakes and others as full-on gold nuggets. Of course, this story was passed down orally for quite some time and has surely changed a bit in it’s finer details. But nonetheless, gold was found and it didn’t take long for the message to reach the Eastern Coast of the States.
The California Gold Rush
When the rush for gold began, it’s estimated that the population of what soon became the State of California consisted of around “6,500 Californios (people of Spanish or Mexican descent); 700 foreigners (primarily Americans); and 150,000 Native Americans.” Once this precious treasure was found–one that Columbus himself set out to find when he originally set foot on the shores of this country–European-American settlers began to migrate westward in waves.
The namesake of San Francisco 49’s football team were the thousands of miners that flooded the territory during the year 1849. In 1852, the California Gold Rush saw its peak, and some sources say, that once all was said and done, over 300,000 people had moved to the region.
During the period considered the California Gold Rush, miners unearthed 750,000 lbs of gold. By the end, a total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was pulled from the ground. Mining was a strenuous and even dangerous endeavor. Those that struck gold early (48 and 49) saw much of the reward for their effort. By the early 1850s, the surface of gold was already beginning to disappear. Migration began to slow to a trickle after that, but the damn had been broken and California was officially on the map.
Images used under creative commons license (Commercial Use) Pixabay (11/30/2018)