Friday, May 16, 2008

Chit-Chat Over Coffee Swirls (16)

Topic: The Gold Rush

In 1848, a Swiss trader by the name of John Sutter, who was the owner of over 18,000 sheep, oxen, horses and cows, was living quite comfortably on his large land grant in the Sacramento Valley. According to historical facts,on January 24, Sutter hired a carpenter by the name of James Marshall, to help build a sawmill, Sutter's Mill, on the American River. There Marshall discovered grains of gold. Sutter's workers quit to look for gold and before long, word got out and other local gold seekers squatted on his land, ruining Sutter within a few years. Territorial governor R.B. Mason reported that there was enough gold in the country drained by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers to pay for the Mexican War a hundred times over and that up to $50,000 in gold was being taken every day. President Polk addressed this issue in his message to Congress on December 5, 1848. Soon every one had gold fever and the gold rush was on. San Francisco's waterfront area was notorious for its brothels, bars and gambling houses. In 1849 It was named the Barbary Coast. By 1850 San Francisco was a bustling city of 25,000 and California became a state. By 1853 San Francisco had a population of 50,000.

The gold rush to California attracted immigrants from every part of the world. Much of America's workforce twas on the east coast, and before long the workers left the factories and industries to seek their fortunes out west. Everyone was looking for a piece of the action as America expanded. Steamship companies, railroad companies, state immigration bureaus, as well as industrial firms and private enterprises, turned to workers in Europe. Ruthless businessmen hired unscrupulous agents to work on commission. They were sent to Europe with a collection of enticing pamphlets, advertisements, drawings and pictures. "Remember promise them anything, just get them over here. There's big bucks in it for you."

After the California gold rush, gold and silver began to be discovered in large quantities in Colorado, Nevada, and Montana, then elsewhere in the West, and finally in Alaska. In 1877 prospector Ed Schieffelin made a major gold discovery in Tombstone, Arizona. It is said that he called the site Tombstone because soldiers scouting the Apache had told him if he went off prospecting alone in this Indian country all he would find would be his own tombstone. By 1881, 7,000 people lived in this boom town of shacks, tents, saloons, and dance halls where feuds were common. Boot Hill was the name given to Tombstone, Arizona's cemetery, because those that were buried here, died with their boots on, as a result of the frequent violent confrontations between the ethnic groups.

Then there was the Klondike/Yukon/Alaskan gold rush which started in August 17, 1896, when George Carmack, his Indian wife, and their relatives discovered a large quantity of gold in the gravel of a creek three miles from Dawson; he then named the creek Bonanza (it's a tributary of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers in the Yukon territory of Canada.


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