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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Friday, January 24, 2014

There's gold in dem dar hills!

This Day in History: January 24, 1848
Sutter's Mill
Source: en.wikipedia.org

GOLD!! The treasure of treasures second only perhaps to diamonds! 

Can you imagine the reflection, reaction in a man's eyes as they mirrored shiny gold flecks embedded in a rocky creek bed? What if the nugget itself turned out to be pure gold?

In 1848, it happened...someone struck GOLD!! James W. Marshall was employed to build a sawmill on property owned by Johan (John) Sutter. On this early January morning, Marshall stopped to examine the channel below the mill when he noticed some shiny flecks in the channel bed. 

As later recounted by Marshall:
I picked up one or two pieces and examined them attentively; and having some general knowledge of minerals, I could not call to mind more than two which in any way resembled this, sulphuret of iron, very bright and brittle; and gold, bright, yet malleable. I then tried it between two rocks, and found that it could be beaten into a different shape, but not broken. I then collected four or five pieces and went up to Mr. Scott (who was working at the carpenters bench making the mill wheel) with the pieces in my hand and said, "I have found it."
"What is it?" inquired Scott.
"Gold," I answered.
"Oh! no," replied Scott, "That can't be."
I said,--"I know it to be nothing else."

Source: en.wikipedia.org
Panning for gold
on the Mokelumne River
Source: en.wikipedia.org
So it began and it did not take long for the news to travel around the world even back in the day before the telephone and Internet. [There was the telegraph, of course, precursor to the communications of today.] The find was of the finest quality, of at least 23 karat [96% pure]. The gold rush was on! At first, the gold nuggets could be picked up off the ground. Later, gold was recovered from streams and riverbeds using simple techniques, such as panning. The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. San Francisco grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of about 36,000 by 1852. The rest is history!

Marshall's cabin in Coloma, California.
One would think the discoverer of gold would end up being a wealthy man. Not so for James Marshall nor for Sutter, the owner of the property. The horde of gold seekers turned everyone's attention away from the mill which eventually fell into disrepair and was never used as intended. Neither Marshall nor Sutter ever profited from the gold discovery. After other futile attempts, Marshall, penniless, eventually ended up in a small cabin.

California State Parks
James Marshall died in 1885. The following year the Native Sons of the Golden West, Placerville Parlor #9 felt that the "Discoverer of Gold" deserved a monument to mark his final resting place. And, so it was to be ... five years later a monument and tomb were constructed, which are still present today. This was the first such monument erected in California.

Rest in peace, James Marshall. While you may not have enjoyed any of the luxuries or wealth brought about by your discovery of gold, it certainly impacted the course of history! What a totally different world this would be had gold never been discovered...