Snow-Shoe Thompson

In the mid-1850s, the search was on in earnest for a better wagon road over the Sierra Nevada. Rough roads were built, and used, but all wheeled travel was necessarily suspended during the snow-packed winter months. However, except in the worst weather the mail did go through, by pack mule and horse—and the spectacular efforts of a lone man on skis. His name was John A. Thompson, aka “Snow-shoe Thompson,” and in January 1856 Continue reading Snow-Shoe Thompson

Known as the Golden State

Gold is California’s official state mineral, so designated in 1965.  The gold discovery in January 1848 rapidly transformed a pastoral landscape with less than 10,000 Mexican citizens into a societal melting pot, as prospectors came from all over the world to seek their fortunes. Between 1850 and 1859, miners extracted Continue reading Known as the Golden State

171 Years Today

Today marks the 171st anniversary of the gold discovery in California. The discoverer was a carpenter named James Wilson Marshall, who was building a sawmill on the South Fork of the American River for his employer, John Sutter. The pair tried to keep the discovery a secret until the mill was finished—but word soon got out. The California Gold Rush, which drew thousands from all over the globe and energized the world’s economy, effectively began in May 1848.

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