In 1848, James Wilson Marshall, a carpenter from New Jersey, found flakes of gold in a river near Sacramento, California. He was building a saw mill for John Sutter. Although Sutter and Marshall tried to keep the find a secret, word quickly got out when Sam Brannon, a local shopkeeper, marched through town carrying a vial filled with gold flakes from Sutter’s Mill.
Within a year, thousands of men poured into the area. Initially, they arrived from other places in the west, including Oregon and Hawaii. Over time, word spread to the eastern United States. Men left their homes and families to seek their fortunes.
Questions and Answers
Question: Did a lot of people become rich looking for gold?
Answer: No. Most of the men who traveled to find gold ended up working for the men who owned the mines. Mining was hard, dangerous work and while these workers received fair wages, they certainly didn’t become wealthy. Both men and women became wealthy by being savvy business owners. Instead of looking for gold, they set up hotels, dance halls, and other businesses needed by the miners.
Visit Scholastic for a printable mini-book about the California Gold Rush.
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