Saturday, January 19

We Were There with the California Forty-Niners

***Pick up your FREE Activity Pack***

In January 1848, an overseer at Sutter’s Mill in northern California saw gold flakes.  Even without social media, the word spread rapidly, and his discovery led to more than 300,000 prospectors flooding into the region!  These people came from all over the world; they came by ship, rail, horse, and foot.  What they found wasn’t exactly the expected dream….

Lack of housing and sanitation, as well as lack of law enforcement, led to dangerous living conditions.  Thievery and murder were on the daily menu.  The work was backbreaking, and few actually struck it rich.  For those who came from someplace other than America, including the many Chinese who crossed the Pacific, xenophobia and prejudice made life even more dangerous.

A lucky few were able to find gold nuggets lying on the ground early into the rush, but it quickly became a line of folks trying to find the best technique to pan for gold.  The most money, however, was to be had in banks, restaurants, saloons, and stores…those who catered to the miners.  It’s said that the amount of gold uncovered in the few years of the rush would be equal to tens of billions of dollars today!

Impacts of the Gold Rush include :
  • Development of the Transcontinental Railroad
  • California earning statehood in 1850
  • Creation of a stronger legal system
Want to go panning for gold?  Here's a short list gear you'll need:
  • Folding chair or bucket to sit on
  • Waterproof boots
  • Prospecting pan (deep base and side ridges)
  • Tweezers (to pick out the flakes)
  • Glass vials (to store your gold)
  • Strainer / classifier to sift debris
Keep in mind that gold panning isn't a get-rich-quick scheme!  Small amounts of gold, such as flakes, are considerably more common to find, but even those tiny amounts of gold add up to a nice chunk of change.  Be sure to lookout for the tiniest flecks of gold, as they do add up quickly!  


Make / Do


Define / Identify
  • Alluvial deposit
  • Assayer
  • Bonanza
  • Boom town
  • Cholera
  • Commodity
  • Cutthroat
  • Greenhorn
  • Freewheeling
  • Hydraulic mining
  • Lode
  • James Wilson Marshall
  • Mercantile
  • Panning
  • Pay Dirt
  • Placer mining
  • President Polk 
  • Prospector
  • Sluice box
  • Trommel
  • Unscrupulous
  • Vein
  • Vicinity
  • Yield
  • How did the Gold Rush reshape the demographics of California?
  • If you had lived in this time period, would you have participated in the Gold Rush? Why or why not?
  • Read this article.  Which fact surprises you the most?  Why?