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Roger Weller, geology instructor

Gold Rush
by Joel DunnSmith
Physical Geology
Fall 2007
                                                                                                                               Gold Rush   

            Within a 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.

            The journey 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.

            Before 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.


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