How to Find Gold

    California Gold Rush History (1848–1855) instigated on January 1848, when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. James Marshall’s discovery of a nugget that was the size of a dime in the tailrace of Sutter’s Mill started this frenzy. A man named Sam Brannan was the one that announced that gold had been found in the American River and showed a bottle full of gold nuggets. James Marshall found a gold nugget that had the size of a dime in the tailrace of Sutter’s Mill.

    Sam Brannan was an elder in the Mormon Church and he had a general store in Sutterville, which was a small town on the Sacramento River. Since Sam knew that gold seekers were going to start going into Sutterville, he placed a stock of shovels, picks and a lot of other mining equipment prospectors would need in his store because he knew that these people were going to have to pass by his store before going out to get the gold.

    The next thing Sam Brannan did was go through the town and fill every one on the wonderful news and started a booming business from one day to the next; he obviously got rich due to this well thought up plan. 

    John Sutter’s story was totally different though. He travelled to America in 1834 and left his wife and children behind in Germany. His original name was actually Johann August Sutter but he wanted a name that sounded a bit more American so he changed it to John Sutter. He turned into a trader on the Santa Fe Trail and had been told stories about the rich land that was in the west in California and had been told a man could own as much land as he desired.

    When he found out about this he decided to leave his trading post and set out to California and became a rancher in 1838. It took him about a year before he actually got to California. In 1839, July 5 the govenor of California who was Mexican gave John Sutter permission to choose a tract of land located on the east of the San Francisco Bay to settle down in.


    By 1841, Sutter became a Mexican citizen and was given 49,000 acres of land. He decided to settle in an area where the American and Sacramento Rivers joined. He decided to build his fort on a hill that over looked the rivers. His fort was eighteen feet high, the walls were three feet thick and he placed cannons on the corners. The fort he had built was similar to a little city and had a tannery, distillery, gristmill, blacksmith, carpentry and a blanket weaving shop.

    The only thing that Sutter did not have was lumber. However there were a great amount of trees in the mountains to the east, so he decided to build a saw mill on the American River on a site that was called Coloma so that he could get lumber for the fort. James Marshall was a carpenter that worked for Sutter and Sutter asked Marshall to build and operate the mill and that if this were done they would divide the profits.

    On the 24 of January, John Marshall made the discovery that ended up changing the history of America. Marshall had directed the water from the millpond into the tailrace so that it could get washed and cleaned from the dirt it had on it. The next morning when he was checking the tailrace to see if it was clean, he noticed there were a lot of little pieces of bright yellow metal shining. He picked up these shiny pieces of yellow metal and studied it a bit. Then he decided to test it to see if indeed it was by pounding on the metal with a hard rock; when he saw the metal flattened out with no trouble, he knew it was gold.