Geology Home Page physical geology historical geology planetary gems
Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Joel DunnSmith
sleepy valley in California dreams were about to come true. It was the all
American dream, to get rich and get rich fast. Gold was the way for many
people around not just the United States but the world. They came from China,
Germany, and many other far reaching place’s in the world. All with the
hope that they would strike it rich and claim there mark on the gold market.
Instant wealth was there for the taking all anyone would have to do is go out
and mine it and have the determination to stick with it. Too bad that
nothing like this is around in this day and age.
It was in the
early 1840’s that California was still only a small populated area; in fact the
great port of San Francisco had only a few hundred people living within its
borders. California to most people was still abundant in wild untamed
land, and fraught with dangers. It was in the mid 1840’s that James
Marshal and about 20 other men that worked for Sutter, a huge agriculture mogol,
were sent to a river to build a sawmill. It was there that Marshal first saw
something glint in the sun. After making probably one of the most
important discoveries in the American West, they went back to work.
However, they kept coming across more and more gold. The men knew what
would happen if people found out about the gold, so they decided to keep it a
secret, and so it stayed for a time. It was not until a man named Braumen ran
through the streets of San Francisco telling everyone about the gold that those
men had found that is when the true gold fever started. Braumen was a
smart man, a few days earlier he bought every mining tool in the surrounding
area. He quickly made a fortune. The gold rush needed validation and
in the winter of 1848 in early December President Polk gave it just that. “The
accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory are of such extraordinary
character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by
authentic reports of officers in public service.” By 1849 The gold fever
was in full bloom men left there families and headed west. The craze was
on with everyone trying to get a piece of the action an make a quick fortune.
west was not an easy one; Americans traveled the path of Oregon-California trial
to get out west. They were confronted by hostile Indians, savage weathers, and
bandits just waiting to take advantage of the travelers heading for the gold.
For the people that live outside the United States the Journey was even made
more difficult. They had to endure a long ship ride south of the United States
going through the Panama canals only then to have to make there way north
through dense jungles. Then when they finally did reach the southern coast
line of California they were stuck there in small towns waiting for ship that
were heading north.
California knew what hit her she was overflowing with richness in gold.
There was plenty of it and little of everything else. San Francisco within
2 years became the largest populated city in California. People came from
all over to live within the golden city and sell there wares to miners and other
rich entrepreneurs that made their fortunes with the gold.
By mid 1849
Gold was becoming harder and harder to get. No long was there gold on the
surface and within the bed streams. They would mine for 10 hours a day, a
very grueling ordeal to say the least. But they would have less and less to
show for themselves. People had to dig deeper and deeper into the earth to
get to the gold. This is when strip mining took place. And it had some
very adverse effects on the environment. By 1850 strip mining was the way to do
mining. No longer could a man strike out for gold on his own. They
would join small companies and use technology to get to there gold. In
1853 the worse menace to the environment started … hydraulic mining. The blast
from the lines could kill a man up to 200 feet away. It was an
exploitation on the land. And it was not until 1860 that California banned
the use of hydraulic mining to protect there environment.