Saturday, January 19

We Were There with the California Forty-Niners

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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!  

Access the complete unit in the 'We Were There' Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes THIRTY-SIX unit studies covering World & American History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning the the ancient world through post-WW2.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.

These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

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