Trapped at an Alpine Lake

The Donner Party was a group of several families who decided to leave the main caravan of westward-bound wagons in order to follow a “short-cut” to California. They weren’t the only company that followed Lansford Hastings’ route across the blazing Great Salt Lake Desert, and the other companies made it to safety. But Continue reading Trapped at an Alpine Lake

Spectacular Mormon Island

After gold was discovered in January 1848 at Coloma, the site of John Sutter’s sawmill-building project, crew-member Henry Bigler wrote to his fellow discharged Mormon Battalion friends who were engaged in erecting a grist (flour) mill for Sutter about fifteen miles downriver. Curious, Bigler’s friends Levi Fifiel, Continue reading Spectacular Mormon Island

The Coloma Gold Discoverer

James Wilson Marshall was a skilled carpenter and general jack-of-many-trades who spent his early adult life in Missouri before ill health convinced him to move west.  He traveled to Oregon Territory in 1844, but he found the winters too wet for his liking. The following year, he arrived in California’s Sacramento Valley in mid-July. There, Marshall quickly found employment at Sutter’s Continue reading The Coloma Gold Discoverer

Sacrificed to Gold

Jared Dixon Sheldon, a Vermont native and carpenter by trade, is thought to have arrived in California, then a province of Mexico, in 1839. When authorities at Monterey, the capital, hired him to build a customhouse for them, he asked for payment in the form of a future land grant at such time as he found land he wanted.   Continue reading Sacrificed to Gold

The Quest for Gold

When Christopher Columbus returned home with news of his discovery, ships of many nations set sail for the New World with various agendas. Spain, quite unabashedly, went in quest of gold.  They found it in Mexico—where the natives who came out to greet Hernan Cortez were wearing it. It is ironic, then, that neither Continue reading The Quest for Gold