As this New Year 2018 ushers in new opportunities and world-wide concerns, it is well to remember that history-making events don’t occur in a vacuum; they’re instigated by men and women chasing other ambitions or escaping from unsatisfactory conditions. Christopher Columbus was looking for a sea passage to India in 1492. Hernan Cortez was seeking (and found) gold for the Spanish king when he conquered Mexico in the 16th century. In the 19th century, Germans looking for a better social and economic climate, and Irishmen suffering the Great Famine, immigrated to America in droves, expanding the population and pushing the American frontier farther westward to the Missouri River. President James Polk wanted the North American continent all the way to the Pacific Ocean to belong to his nation and no other. The Mexican-American War he instigated in 1846 resulted in America’s acquisition of another third of the continent, including California. John Sutter needed board lumber to construct improvements on his Sacramento Valley land grant. His solution was to build a saw mill, which led to the unplanned discovery of gold in 1848, and the greatest population migration in peacetime the world had ever seen.