Bitter Endings

James Wilson Marshall, the renowned discoverer of California gold, never profited from his find.  For a time he retained a one-third interest in the sawmill he had originally built for John Sutter,  until a series of altercations with miners, and lawsuits filed by his new sawmill partners, forced him to sell his other real estate holdings to pay creditors. From there, his fortunes steadily declined as each new venture ultimately proved unprofitable: a vineyard, a speaking tour, and intermittent years of prospecting. In 1872 he moved into the Union Hotel in Kelsey, a few miles east of Coloma, and used the small pension the state legislature awarded him to invest in a local quartz mine (which never paid off) and open a blacksmith shop. He died in Kelsey in 1885, aged 75, without a will and no relatives in California. Auctions of his few personal assets, held at Kelsey and Placerville, barely covered his funeral expenses. Among the items advertised by the public administrator of his estate were three writing desks, household and kitchen furniture, 15 bushels of coal, boots, compasses, a pair of gold scales, a six shooter, 70 books, and various mining and blacksmithing tools. He was buried on a hilltop overlooking the Coloma gold discovery site, as some of his friends claimed he had requested.


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