Articles and Essays by Charlie Steel
WESTERN FICTIONEERS BLOG – POSTED APRIL 17, 2013
1849 GOLD RUSH, CALIFORNIA FORTY-NINERS - PART 1
In my research for the book THE FORTY-NINERS many startling revelations about this historical event came to light, disturbing facts
about the famous gold rush of which perhaps most of us are unaware. This article first appeared in Western Fictioneers blog, Part
1, on April 17, Part 2, on May 12, and Part 3, on June 15, 2013. The articles outline the events that took place in California regarding
the miners who will forever be known as the FORTY-NINERS. At the end of this narrative is a short piece explaining how California
gold was formed from the earth’s crust and then concentrated over millions of years of erosion.
Permission is given to use this article or parts of it as long as credit is given to the author.
DISCOVERY OF GOLD IN CALIFORNIA 1848
(Declaration: This article represents countless hours of research and concentrates on the main points of the California Gold Rush
of 1849 and therefore, due to its length, cannot be totally comprehensive. For more in-depth knowledge of this complicated period
in history, the sources listed at the end are recommended for reading.)
In January1848, John Sutter was having a sawmill built on the American River in the Sacramento Valley of California. An employee,
James Marshall, found gold nuggets in the river. Sutter tried to keep the discovery quiet to protect his 76 square miles of land and
crops (acquired from a Mexican land grant); however, eventually his employees leaked the information. A man named Sam
Brannan learned of the discovery and developed an idea to get rich. He bought up all the shovels, picks, axes, pans, and other
hardware in the region and then put gold in a jar and, holding up the sample, walked the streets of San Francisco shouting gold,
gold, gold discovered! This started one of the greatest gold rushes in the history of mankind. It is estimated that over 118 million
ounces of gold, about $130 billion dollars (in 2001 prices), have been taken by four various mining methods from the streams,
mountains, and hills of California—an enormous sum of money indeed. Sam Brannan ended up becoming rich selling hardware
that would normally cost less than a dollar, for as much as fifteen dollars apiece. Sutter, who used Indian labor, forcing hundreds of
Native Americans to tend his crops, livestock, and various operations, eventually was inundated by gold seekers and lost control
and ownership of his land and went bankrupt.
If history is to reveal the circumstances of the gold rush, it must also eventually reveal the costs in human suffering. In the past,
historians, reacting to the culture of its time, seemed to document the better aspects of this enormous historical event while leaving
out the grimmer aspects. During the California Gold Rush, danger and death confronted miners. In the case of California Native
Americans, theft of their land, murder, enslavement, and planned genocide took place against the Indians in the search for gold.
PRESIDENT POLK AND THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR
(The Annexation of Texas, Oregon Country, and sudden possession of California and Mexican Possessions)
At the beginning of Polk’s presidency, in December of 1845, keeping a pre-election promise, Texas entered the union as a slave
state, angering Mexico who still believed they had claim. As part of his expansionist administration goals, President Polk set out to
acquire some or all of Oregon Country, California, and New Mexico.
Following through on his agenda, Polk offered to purchase California and New Mexico from Mexico. Mexico refused to meet with the
ambassador sent by President Polk and this was seen as an affront and provocation. Manifest Destiny was a doctrine followed,
and Polk sent troops to the Nueces River and Rio Grande, an area of disputed western territory claimed by both countries. Mexico
sent their own troops in response and crossed the Rio Grande. There was a fight and Americans died. This was the excuse Polk
was looking for, and on May 13, 1846, the United States declared war. U. S. troops invaded Mexico and eventually marched on
Mexico City and bombarded the city. Mexico surrendered and on February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed,
with $15 million given by the United States as part of the treaty agreement. With the end of the war, Mexico gave up half its territory to
the United States, including California.
Also during 1848 President Polk threatened Britain with war over the Oregon Country and then negotiated with Britain. The Oregon
Treaty of 1846, dividing the Oregon Country at the 49th parallel, was finally approved by Congress in 1848 and this territory became
part of the US.
The historical events surrounding the discovery of gold were auspicious for the United States and unfortunate for that country to our
south, Mexico. The discovery of gold happened a few days before the two year war ended. As Polk planned, victory meant all of the
land west to the Pacific Ocean suddenly became United States territory. The United States of America’s new map of 1848 then
became a vast area of land known as the Unorganized Territory and Mexican Cession (unorganized territory), as well as the
Wisconsin Territory. The USA suddenly doubled its size and land mass.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons under GNU Free Documentation License.)
President James Polk had accomplished his goal. When word of the gold discovery in California and proof was brought to the
president, he used it as further affirmation of his expansion policy and announced it in his 1848 State of the Union address. Word of
the gold discovery went round the world, and the California Gold Rush was on for certain.
Past historians have ignored President Polk’s energetic accomplishments during a short four year term. This president kept his
promise not to run for a second term. Early historians were colored by perceptions of their time and merely considered Polk a front
for southern slave holders and a pawn for northern Democrats. Modern day historians now rate President Polk as one of our
strongest presidents, a man who successfully accomplished his goals during four short years and who made the United States
what it is, a nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
The ironic element in all of this successful expansionism is that President Polk left office March 4, 1849, and three months later
contracted cholera and died. He never lived long enough to see California become a state.
THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR IN CALIFORNIA
With knowledge of the start of the war with Mexico, in May of 1846, with a handful of marines and bluejacket sailors of the Pacific
Squadron and a militia of volunteers, possession of California pueblos was accomplished. Many Californios tired of Mexican
authority and constantly changing Mexican governments, were sympathetic to American rule. There were several battles in
California but Commodore Stockton, commander of the Pacific forces, was an aggressive leader and used his men judiciously.
Los Angeles, previously taken by Stockton had been lost to the Californio militia. On January 12, 1847, Los Angeles was retaken by
Stockton and General Kearny with a force of 560 men. This was followed by the Battle of La Mesa, and by January 12, all armed
resistance of Californios ended. On January 13, 1847, the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed, thus ending all armed conflict in
REGIMENT OF NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS
Already at war with Mexico, President Polk appointed a volunteer regiment. In September of 1846, in answer to adding further
American military presence in California, President Polk appointed Colonel Stevenson and a volunteer regiment of ten companies
of 770 men to go to California. They would sail on three ships and remain active for two years and then muster out in that distant
land. The voyage to California took over 160 days and the troops arrived safely and dispersed to their commands throughout
California. By the time they arrived Commodore Stockton had successfully quelled all Californios’ resistence and the new territory
was at peace.
Colonel Stevenson’s volunteer regiment remained on duty past the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago. In October 1848 the entire
command mustered out and by that time California was an American possession. Colonel Stevenson went on to become the
Alcalde (mayor) for Mokelumne Hill and, because of many mining claim disputes, helped draw up mining laws. Polk’s volunteer
regiment and the leadership of Colonel Stevenson helped add an American presence in California during the war.
At the end of the war, when gold was discovered, there were few active US soldiers present in California to keep order, and in the
interim, few laws. Those soldiers who did exist, many quickly deserted to the gold fields to add to the growing chaos of the great
gold rush of 1849.
It is important to note however, discovery of gold and the enormous amount of wealth it brought, along with infusion of a large
American populace, certainly caused the United States, within two short years, to make California a free state in 1850.
WESTERN FICTIONEERS BLOG – POSTED May 12, 2013
1849 GOLD RUSH CALIFORNIA FORTY-NINERS - Part 2
THE FORTY-NINERS AND THE DANGERS THEY FACE
Source: Library of Congress
Just imagine, word of a great gold discovery spreads across the eastern United States and very quickly around the world. The
discovery of gold must be true because President Polk said it in his speech and the papers reported it. Young and middle-aged
men, fathers, farmers, clerks, students, those filled with the desire to change their lives, to change their destiny, dropped everything
and found money enough to start their journey. Most did not begin until six months after the announced discovery. For them all, no
matter which route they took to the far away land on the Pacific Ocean, it took them nearly six months more to reach the gold fields.
Those who went by ship faced months at sea, traveling 18,000 miles, against storms, unfavorable winds, facing a poor diet, scurvy,
and disease. Those who went by land encountered an army of men all trying to survive for five months along the trail. They too
faced dangerous storms, heavily trodden trails with scarce grass, thieves, hostiles, little or no water, diseases, accident, and
malnutrition. All this before even reaching the Gold Fields.
The first to arrive were those nearest the gold fields. That would include the few 700 non-natives in San Francisco, Californios, men
from Willamette Valley, Oregon, Canada, South America, and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). The very ships bringing in Argonauts
(as they were first called) and supplies lost their crews, who deserted to the gold fields. Eventually the abandoned ships ended up
being used for storage, saloons, living quarters, and even land fill. As word spread further, soldiers deserted, clerks and workers
left their posts—all in an effort to be first to strike it rich.
Whether traveling by sea or land, they first called themselves Argonauts and then Forty-niners. They tended to be young men
between the ages of 20 and 40. Few women came, but those who did traveled with their husbands or came alone to charge high
prices for cooking food, doing laundry, or to work in saloons, gambling halls, and at prostitution.
Of the 80,000 Forty-niners who arrived in 1849, half came by sea and the other half by land. Those who came by land either took the
southern land route from Texas through Arizona, or the more famous California Trail. Two thirds were Americans who arrived in
California. The remainder of Forty-niners came from nearly every country in the world, including China.
Many of the miners, finding themselves without laws, goods or services, pushed for greater communication and contact with the
United States. The result was increased shipping, the completion of the Panama Railway (1855), and mail-carrying steamships
carrying more supplies and passengers to the miners.
After the war with Mexico, Congress argued over what to do with California, whether to bring it into the Union as a free or slave state.
Military governors ran California in the interim and in September 1849, the California Constitutional Convention met in Monterey to
write a state constitution. It was ratified on November 13, 1849. Following, came a provisional state government that formed
counties, elected senators, representatives, and a governor. This state government functioned for nearly a year, before California
was given statehood by Congress on September 9, 1850. California officially became the 31st state. It was certainly gold, and a
sudden influx of a population of a hundred thousand (within two years after the Mexican-American War), that made it possible for
California to enter the Union as a free state.
The US military did not reach into the mountains and gold fields of California and at the beginning of the gold rush, and directly after
the Guadlupe-Hildago Treaty ended the war with Mexico, there were no laws to follow and no stable government. The absence of
authority left it to the miners to follow their own volitions and whims. The prejudices of the day influenced the majority, and in many
places complete chaos and complete lawlessness reigned.
Once reaching the gold fields, miners lived in make-shift tents, crudely built shelters of boards, or sticks, and endured the changing
climate: heat, cold, and storms. There were no laws defining what a claim was, and many disputes resulted in conflict and death.
What laws that existed were those made up by the miners themselves. The mining camps formed their own kind of enforcement,
and mobs and vigilante behavior was prevalent. In the gold camps miners faced thieves, hostile Indians, exposure, meager food
supplies, malnutrition, death, and disease on a daily basis. Some reports claim that one out of twelve Forty-niners died. Other
estimates were as high as one out of five.
Placer mining for gold was excessively hard backbreaking work. Men stood beside or in cold streams ten or more hours a day,
moving and washing hundreds of bucketfuls of dirt. Some found gold, especially those who came early. Others who came later
were not so lucky. Essentially placer mining, finding gold in gravel beds near the earth’s surface, was virtually played out by 1853-
55. Only large groups of men collaborating their efforts, or the big companies (beginning hard rock mining, and later hydraulic
mining and dredging) with money to invest in large equipment, were successful at gold mining after this time period.
As the gold fields filled with miners, disputes between mining claims increased. Because there was no law defining claims,
miners made up their own rules and many disputes ended in bloodshed and death. As pressure for claims increased, Indians
were forcefully removed from their villages; the native men were killed by miners, their women and children taken as slave laborers,
and some of the women forced into sexual bondage. For as long as the gold camps existed, no Native American appeared to be
safe from continued death, debauchery, slavery, and assimilation. Those who didn’t flee or remain hidden, were subjected to
endless violence and persecution. With the flood of miners the delicate balance of sufficient food for the Indians ended and many
who did escape faced constant starvation. Their native land was taken, access to berries, acorns, game, and fish, became
impossible. Game became scarcer as miners hunted for their own needs, and the streams became polluted with silt, mercury, and
cyanide—and the fish died.
As more and more Forty-niners descended upon the gold fields, further pressure for mining claims increased and caused blatant
discrimination against foreigners. Whites pushed Blacks, Chinese, Indians, Spanish, and anyone speaking a foreign language off
their claims. Eventually, as bigger mining companies began larger scale operations and hard rock mining, discriminatory laws
were passed in favor of the company. For those non-European immigrant minors who were not murdered or pushed off their
claims, they were charged monthly fees to continue their mining claims.
Miners did well to eke out an existence in the gold fields. Those who were lucky and worked hard to move a lot of mud and gravel
could collect eight to twenty-five dollars a day. This was a lot of money for the time and miners felt rich at such a daily profit, but
prices were also astronomically high. A loaf of bread that cost 4 cents in any other city back east, cost 75 cents, coffee $5.00, apples
$1.00, eggs $1.00 to $3.00 apiece. Knives could cost $30.00, a gold pan $15.00, a meal cooked at a make-shift eatery and
prepared by a female hand, $25.00. Few individuals walked away with any kind of riches. Those who did were the early comers in
the first two years of placer mining. Later, it was the big mining companies that raked in the larger profits and many of the single
men who came for riches, ended up working as paid laborers.
WESTERN FICTIONEERS BLOG – POSTED JUNE 15, 2013
1849 GOLD RUSH CALIFORNIA FORTY-NINERS - Part 3
THE PERSECUTION OF CALIFORNIA INDIANS AND OTHER MINORITIES
Historians break down the history of California into three categories. The Exploratory Period between 1542 and 1769, where Native
Americans were left relatively alone; the Spanish Colonial Period, 1769 to 1821, which began the Mission System and virtual
capture and slavery of Indians. Followed by the Mexican Period, 1821-1848, which involved Spanish land grants and Californio
Ranchos, that essentially continued slavery and the harsh labor of Indians taken from the Missions.
Then came the gold rush starting in 1848 and the harsh treatment of California Native American Tribes continued. A few days
before the end of the Mexican-American War, gold was discovered. The United States took over California and within two years, in
1850, California became a state.
SPANISH AND MEXICAN TREATMENT OF CALIFORNIA NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES 1769-1848
To acquire any understanding of how Native American tribes were treated in California and their continued decimation, it is
important to understand what happened to the Indians before the California Gold Rush started. Namely, it is important to give a
brief history of what occurred while under the jurisdiction of the Spanish, and later the Mexicans, known as Californios.
THE MISSION SYSTEM AND RANCHOS
In 1769, it was Father Junipero Serra with a Spanish army from Mexico that reached San Diego. The first California mission was
built there, followed by twenty more reaching as far north as San Francisco.
Thousands of Indians were captured, pressed into blue uniforms to become slaves and work the missions. They were forced into
farming, caring for livestock, making bricks, tiles, shoes, saddles, candles, hide tanning, laundry, cooking, etc. The Indians were
held captive in unsanitary barracks and many suffered from malnutrition. Disease spread, killing thousands, causing the ever
pressing need to capture more and more slaves. Disease eventually spread to villages independent of the priests and such
diseases as smallpox, diphtheria, cholera, typhoid, measles, malaria, pneumonia, and venereal diseases wiped out men, women,
and children by the thousands. This was an introduction of European diseases that California Native Americans had no natural
immunity against. Those surviving slaves who misbehaved were whipped, branded, mutilated, and executed. Mission records
indicated over 87,000 Indian baptisms, and recorded 63,000 some deaths. Under the priests care, more than half of the Native
American laborers died.
In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain. The Mission System replaced Spanish Priests with Mexican Priests, and with the
escape or death of so many Indian laborers, the Missions continued to decline. Mexico abolished the Mission System in 1834 and
began to redistribute its land holdings. (It appears that Mission records were transferred to Santa Barbara, making Mission Santa
Barbara the only Mission where Franciscan Priests have maintained an uninterrupted presence.) Promises to return Indian land to
the Native American tribes were never kept. Mission lands went to friends and families of the Californios. Land grants gave away
large tracks of land, Mexican Ranchos were formed and they absorbed the thousands of Indians slaves. Once again Native
Americans were held captive and forced to labor without pay—they tended crops, cared for cattle and horses, cooked, cleaned, etc.
While the Indians labored, the Californios played. They rode their horses, had rodeos, roundups, fandangos, large weddings, and
entertained each other lavishly by traveling from Rancho to Rancho. Again, diseases and harsh labor further decimated the
declining Indian population.
Sources vary, but it is estimated the Native American population in California, before the Spanish arrived was above 300,000. After
the introduction of the Mission System and Ranchos, the California Indian population decreased by more than half to 130,000.
1848-1855 THE ARRIVAL OF THE FORTY-NINERS, CALIFORNIA STATE GOVERNMENT, AND THEIR AFFECT UPON THE CALIFORNIA
Then came the gold rush. By February 1848 the United States acquired California from Mexico a few days after discovering gold.
Many scholars believe the practices and policies of the miners and the California State Government, to be genocide. Genocide
defined as, the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial group.
The Indian tribes that resided in California suffered the brunt of the sudden teaming influx of armed miners. Because there are so
many different tribes in California, due to the rich environment for subsistence, bands of separate Indian villages proliferated most
of California. Some villages numbered as high as one thousand members. The many California Native Americans remained
independent of each other and these different Native American tribes and subgroups numbered over a hundred separate tribes.
For an exact break-down of California Native Americans go to: http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/california/.
The miners came to take what gold they could find. When they arrived by the thousands, they discovered limited resources for food
or supplies and rising prices. They also encountered no rules for mining claims other than what the miners themselves agreed to.
Pressure over time seemed to reduce the size of claims and disputes broke out, sometimes ending in death. This caused miners
to turn to Indian land to explore and claim.
Miners realized there were few laws and no one to enforce them. Men brought their own moral code and prejudices. Indians were
seen as an encumbrance and to be treated as miners saw fit. Indiscriminately they pushed Native Americans off their land, took
their food sources, and if the Indians resisted they were killed. Encountering slavery of Indians by the Californios, some miners
began the practice of enslaving women and children as workers, and killing off the Native American men who resisted. Some
women were captured and used as sexual slaves.
California’s first governor, Peter Burnett, publicly called for a war of extermination and suggested conflict would not end until the
entire Indian race of California was exterminated. Newspapers of the time heralded the war of extermination calling for the death of
every redskin and of all the tribes. Newspapers extolled death and declared any man who called for treaty or peace, a traitor.
In 1850, the Act for the Government and Protection of Indians virtually assured the continued slavery of California Indians. This was
followed by the California Legislature in 1851-52, granting $1,500,000.00 in payments for the suppression of Indian hostilities. This
prompted the formation of volunteer militias that traversed the land, seeking to wipe out Native Americans wherever found. Militias
put in lists of expenses and were reimbursed thousands of dollars. Severed heads and scalps were brought in as a means of
collecting bounties, and depending on the county, five dollars down to twenty five cents was paid. These laws further encouraged
the killing of males and the capture of women and children as slaves. This also prompted some to make a profession of capturing
Indians to sell into slavery for profit. Many such captives remained slaves their entire lives.
The story of the persecution of the Native American tribes in California is a long and complicated one. It began with the Spanish and
continued with the Mexican Californios, through the gold rush, and into the 21st century. The many legal disputes with the United
States over stolen land and discrimination of Native Americans continue to this very day.
Research varies as to Native American populations throughout the invasion of the Spanish and before and after the great American
California Gold Rush. The Indian population at the time of the arrival of the Spanish in 1545 was estimated at 300,000-350,000
Indians. After the advent of the Spanish Mission system and the Spanish land grants resulting in the great Rancho’s, Indian
populations are said to have declined to 150,000 to 130,00 Native Americans. After the California Gold Rush, Native American
populations are believed to have further declined to 30,000, nearly another 100,000 California Native Americans disappeared.
In an effort to stop the genocidal killings and conflict with California Indian Tribes (those still remaining), the US Government sent
three commissioners to negotiate treaties. This was a monumental task given that over one hundred tribes and sub-tribes existed.
Consequently, many were never contacted. Nevertheless, eventually the three commissioners negotiated eighteen treaties with
many promises of protection and 7.5 million acres to be granted to the Indians. The U.S. Senate did not ratify the treaties as the
people of California refused to allow the Native American population any compromise. They simply wanted them exterminated or
totally removed from the state.
Eventually, those who could be found, were rounded up and the remainder of Native Americans were forced onto tiny reservations.
Life for California Indians was tenuous at best, treaties and promises were never ratified and the land promised to the Indians never
materialized. Consequently, those remaining Native Americans did their best to hide their presence and, whether on small
reservations or not, they continued to suffer further starvation and deprivation. It is believed eventually the California Native American
population, after the Gold Rush further declined to 16,000.
The gold fields were a dangerous, chaotic place, and violence prevailed. There were no laws or anyone to enforce them. Forty-
niners faced a perilous journey to the gold fields (whether by ship or by land), thievery, claim jumping, murders, angry Native
Americans, heat and cold, starvation, diseases such as venereal disease, cholera, typhus, pneumonia, and all types of accidents
endangered miners. Death confronted miners daily and it is estimated one in twelve died. The history of the California Gold Rush
is a violent and disturbing one.
In the pursuit of wealth, in part, the story of the gold rush is one of genocide of Native Americans, the taking of Mexican and Indian
land, suppression of minorities, and a bloody story of greed and violence. Only a few men and companies such as Wells Fargo,
became truly wealthy. Most of the Forty-niners did well to keep their lives and many benefited most by settling in the more moderate
climes of California and eking out a meager living. Any romantic notion about the Forty-niners and the Great California Gold Rush of
1849 is certainly, in part, a myth. This is not only a story about pioneers and risk-takers who sought wealth for a better life, but it is
also a story of discrimination and death to Native Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, and other non-European immigrants.
However there were positives. With the large amount of gold discovered, and the sudden increase in populace, California quickly
became a state. The American Pacific Navy became an increased presence. The Gold Rush itself stimulated the American and
worldwide economy. Large amounts of supplies, food, goods and services were purchased by the miners from everywhere in the
world. The increase in population and wealth caused a building boom of businesses, houses, churches, towns, farms, bridges,
increased shipping, etc. Bringing in California as a free state helped the Union during the Civil War. Such growth and wealth on the
Pacific side caused the need for a transcontinental railroad. The Homestead Act was brought about by this expansionism. Finally,
the Gold Rush caused a varied group of people from all over the world to settle in California, forming a rich culture of new ideas and
thoughts that would have far reaching consequences to its future. The discovery of gold made Americans forever believe that
California was the Golden State, the place of dreams, the land of promise, where any man could rise out of poverty into fame and
GEOLOGICAL INFORMATION - PART 4
HOW CALIFORNIA GOLD WAS FORMED INTO CONCENTRATED DEPOSITS
Without large concentrations of gold, the Great California Gold Rush of 1849 would not have been possible. To better understand
what occurred geologically speaking, enclosed is a brief explanation of what caused concentrated deposits of gold in California.
Gold is everywhere on planet earth. In minute proportions it permeates the earth and floats in its oceans. It is not economically
viable to mine gold unless it is concentrated by nature. What draws in and concentrates this rare metal in larger proportions is heat
and volcanic action. Everyone knows that California is setting on an active tectonic plate known as the St. Andreas fault. In the
process of collecting gold, as the magma cools, solidifies, comes in contact with water, minerals having the same melting point
form together. The minute particles of gold are concentrated and deposited in veins along with quartz that has a similar melting
point. With tectonic movement of the plates, the minerals and rock were raised to the surface, mountains were formed and
eventually the hydrological cycle began to take place. Wind, rain, ice, and snow began to wear away rock and gold, the denser
material begins to further concentrate. Gold then gathers in the gravel along rivers and streams. Over time, many streams dry up
and leave rich deposits. Over hundreds of millions of years newer rivers and streams form and wear away at these gold deposits
creating even more concentrated gold, and this process repeats itself over and over. In the beginning of the Gold Rush, this is what
the Forty-niners labored at, gathering gold from these rich concentrations deposited on the earth’s surface over millions of years.
There are essentially four types of gold mining, placer and hard rock mining being the most well known and first used. It was placer
mining that forty-niners first applied on the surface, near rivers and streams, and on the earth itself. Gold nuggets were found lying
on the ground, and by washing gravel and gold-bearing earth, nuggets and gold dust were found in its streams. It was only after the
first year or two, when most of the surface gold was washed and taken, that large mining operations began and hard rock mining
took place. Tunnels were dug, and large amounts of ore were placed in rock crushers or stamping mills where machinery, water,
and chemicals removed gold from earth and crushed rock. Also invented in California’s rich gold fields was hydraulic mining,
using high pressure hoses to wash away gold-bearing gravel beds that passed over sluice boxes and was collected. Lastly,
dredging technology developed, recovering many more millions of ounces of gold. With these four combined techniques of mining,
in total, so far, the California mining industry removed an estimated 118 million ounces of gold worth $130 billion at 2001 prices.
In 1849, gold went for about $21.00 per troy ounce. As of the date of this finished article, (3-19-2013) gold is valued at $1611.30 per
troy ounce. The upsurge in the value of gold has caused many of the mines in California to reopen and to again move large
amounts of earth and rock for the precious metal. All over the United States and around the world, due to the high price of an ounce
of the yellow metal, increasing numbers of modern day prospectors as well as professional miners are once again searching for
gold. Mining companies are expanding and developing new techniques for finding and processing large amounts of earth and rock
into gold. This has already led to a large increase in pollution as well. In anticipation of a further rise in the price of the rare metal,
mining companies are buying up land and filing claims on large tracks of land that contain different amounts of gold within its soil.
Some companies in the future anticipate processing tons of low grade ore daily, planning to sift miles of land, to process and collect
fine particles of gold. Investors in gold have been leery (2013) and stocks have declined; however, today gold mining has increased
and is far from an extinct activity.
Charlie Steel, PhD
A list of SOURCES for further examination of the history of California Gold Rush of 1849
Access Genealogy, http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/california/ Retrieved March 10, 2013, a free on-line source for genealogy, funded by
Ancestry and Footnote and other contributions of its users.
Rush for Riches: Gold Fever and the Making of California, J. S. Holiday, University of California Press, (1999)
A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, Harper and Row, (1980)
Gold, Greed and Genocide, Unmasking the Myth of the 49ers, Project Underground pamphlet, (1998)
A Golden State: Mining and the Development of California, James J. Rawls, and Richard J. Orsi, Editors, University of California Press, (1999)
Americans and the California Dream: 1850-1915 Kevin Starr, Oxford University Press (1973)
Rooted in Barbarous Soil: People, Culture, and Community in Gold Rush California, Starr, Kevin and Orsi, Richard J., Editors, University of California
Hausel, Dan. California-Gold Geology & Prospecting: http://califroniangold.blogspot.dk/ Retrieved March 18, 2013
California: A History, (Modern Library Chronicles) Kevin Starr, Random House (2005)
The Destruction of California Indians, University of Nebraska Press, Robert F. Heizer, (1974)
Genocide in Northwestern California: When our world cried, Indian Historian Press, Jack Norton (1979)
The California Indians: A Source Book, Robert F. Heizer (Editor) M. A. Whipple (Editor) (1971)
The Annals of San Francisco: Containing a Summary of the History of…California, John H. Gihon (Author), Frank Soule’ (Author), Jim Nisbet (Author),
(2010) (Copy of D. Appleton & Co. New York and San Francisco 1855)
Seventy-five Years in San Francisco, William Heath Davis, (Author) Douglas S. Watson, (Editor), Published by John Howell,434 Post Street, San
Francisco, (1929) http://www.sfgenealogy.com/sf/history/hb75yidx.htm (Retrieved March 10, 2013)
Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, Walter R. Borneman, Random House Trade Paperback (2009)