1849 Gold Announced in California


In January 1849, President Polk announced that gold had been found in California. This set off the Gold Rush, in which 80,000 individuals headed for California to seek their fortunes. The first wave arrived on February 28, 1849, and became known as "The 49ers." These people changed the face of California.


On January 24th 1848 James Marshall who had constructed a mill for Colonel Sutter spied a queer looking bit of rock on the floor of his sluice-way. It looked like gold. He showed it to his men and then rode to Sutter Fort and handed the specimen to Colonel Sutter. They decided it was gold and hoped to keep it secret, news like this could not be kept secret. It was not the first time that any gold had been found in California, but it was the first time that a large amount of gold was found and it received wide publicity.

On March 18th 1848 the “California Star” published in San Francisco wrote that “Gold has been discovered in the Northern Sacramento Districts about forty miles above Sutter’s Fort”. Rapidly the word spread. People left their jobs their homes and their ships and headed to the gold fields. Within a year over 100,000 new comers arrived in California. They came overland and they came bay ships around the cape of Horn or across the Isthmus of Panama. They became known as the 49’s and they changed California forever.