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.

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