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What you are about to read was a discovery that would change not only the state of California but the entire world as we see it on a crisp morning of Jan. 24th of 1848. James Marshall a carpenter living in Missouri at the time left for the west due to illness. Some of us sometimes leave far from home in search of something I truly believe that this was that mans destiny that their was a reason behind the first gold ever discovered in California which led to a Gold Rush. Towns nearby such as Hangtown, Mormon Island and Salmon Falls rose up a short time later as miners followed the American River.

James Marshal preferred to reside in California as after visiting Oregon he found it to be to rainy and cold. He would meet a man by the name of Captain John A. Sutter where he would get hired on as his carpenter. This would not last long as Marshall would in 1845 serve the American forces for a year only to return back to Sutter looking for work.

Sutter came to United States in 1834 from Switzerland and by 1839 found his way into California. In 1841 he had received a land grant of 48,000 acres along the Sacramento River purchasing cattle and other commodities
found at the Russian Fort called Fort Ross . Back in the day the government would hand out plots of land as long as you built a feasible business. Business meant taxation which meant that the government could benefit from this opportunity. It was a Mexican Governor of California that granted him this land thus history was in the making.

The Sutter Ranch was one of the first ranches in the Central Valley of California. Near his ranch he would also soon began to build an adobe fort which was called "Sutters Fort" if you remember members of the Donner Party sought salvation here as it was one of the only signs of civilization after crossing the high sierras.

Sutters dream was to establish a colony where the American and Sacramento Rivers met in what is known today as Sacramento. As some of you are aware this is one of the largest cities in the country as it has its own county and over 3 million residents. When James Marshall arrived back from serving the military by then this tract of land would be called New Helvetia which was built using Indians. However in the valley lumber was scarce to continue to build his fort he would need more wood. By 1847 he would send James Marshall out to the east to do so and by 1847 the construction of a sawmill camp had begun. The camp would be built within a small valley on the South Fork of the American River in an area called by the Nisenan Natives called Cullumah who lived in a nearby
Southern Maidu Indian Village. It was an area rich with pine trees and a river so that water power could be generated. Sutter would provide the laborers and materials to have it built meanwhile Marshall was the foreman in the project.

The laborers were digging a ditch which would carry the river water through the sawmill. Ditches such as this were called millraces. The trail race which is the lower end of this ditch was to shallow so they began deepening it so that water could flow through without any stoppages. The water flowing would carry away sand and dirt as well as lighter materials. But the heavier material such as rocks, ore and other heavier metals would accumulate in this ditch. The workers who hit bed rock at the end of the tailrace didn't realize it but they struck gold within the bedrock. James Marshall who was inspecting this ditch looking down and seen a what appeared to be gold flakes. When he reached down into the water he pulled out a gold nugget and a few flakes. News of his find would spread quickly as he told his laborers of this discovery that he had hit a gold mine. After about 4 days of various testing which includes using Lye Marshall was almost sure what he had was pure gold. He would then ride on off to share this discovery with Sutter.

When Sutter was presented with the gold he ran quite a few more test which confirmed Marshall's discovery. Marshall and Sutter would ride back to the sawmill where they had sworn everyone into secrecy. However it didn't matter as the laborers had shared there finds with the world thus the Gold Rush of 1848 and began. By the summer of 1848 over 300 structures were built and Coloma became the first gold rush mining town. Sadly thousands had poured into the area stripping this location of nearly all its gold. You had by 1849 over 80,000 plus pioneers that had converged at that site. You had thousands panning the American River....men were digging holes everywhere and at times some buildings were decimated as people from all over the world were looking to strike it rich. Some people did actually strike it rich while others didn't make it at all going penniless. The home to the Nisenan people was overrun a place they lived for centuries was no more.

Sadly Sutter and Marshall were not able to obtain mineral rights for Coloma reason being is that there were so many pioneers squatting and mining here it left them powerless. There wasn't a legal thing they could do about it. It would not take very long for the two men's lives to head downhill. Sutter had left California broke meanwhile Marshall never struck it rich. As a matter in face in 1849 there was a dispute between the local native Nisenan's and some very aggressive gold miners from Oregon. The miners ended up murdering Marshall's friends as he tried to defend them then things turned real bad as he was forced to flee for his life. You have to understand that many miners were greedy for there gold enough to even kill someone over it. Back in the day those that had claims were often killed for there claims.

By 1850 Coloma had a big hotel it was a booming town however it was extremely remote which meant prices skyrocketed. Most materials and commodities sold for a dollar per pound. If you wanted a shovel or a pick you were paying $50 for each one same with the wool shirts. Which meant that today that shovel would have cost you or I over a $1000 it was madness and many of the people just could not afford to live here. However that same year was when El Dorado County was created and Coloma held the first county seat. California also would become the 31st state in the Union just 7 months after this due to its growing interest from many immigrants who would come here to strike it rich. By 1854 the county seat would be transferred to Placerville a very large town just outside of Coloma and also one of my favorite places to visit in Ca.

By the later 1850's Marshall came back to Coloma after things quieted down for a bit. He spent ten years in a cabin on a hill where he would grow grapes and make wine from it. California's other great commodity is its wine even today vineyards are seen from hillsides throughout the state especially in the foothills where Coloma is located. By the later 1860's Marshall would move to a nearby town called Kelsey only a few miles down the road living in poverty. He stayed within town only to see it die down to about 200 residents in 1870 as many prospectors moved onto the Mother Lode and the Comstock Lode of Virginia City NV. Thousands of mines would come to be throughout California and Nevada as the wild west would grow into hundreds of camps which eventually grew to towns and sometimes even major cities.

James Marshall would die in 1885 only to be buried behind his hilltop cabin. By 1890 a monument was erected by the state where a ceremony was held where finally James Marshall would be registered into the history book as his grave site overlooks the site of his discovery. What should have made Marshall and Sutter wealthy instead made them suffer bigger losses then what they already had such tragic irony. Which also leads me to believe that many of the sites surrounding the town are surrounded by centuries of life and death. With that in mind it may just be one of the most logical locations to search for the dearly departed.

Today the town has about 200 residents with allot of worthy historical sites of structures which were part of the town. The old jail ruins truly show the 150 years of history that this town has endured as it sits today in ruins. The world had changed on that day in 1848 which leaves many unanswered question as to what if the gold was never discovered at all? Would cities like Sacramento exist? Would California be less populated? Would the town I currently reside in ever be here? All it ever takes is one small discovery to rewrite history and James Marshall did just that which is far more valuable then any precious metal! The second camp to rise up in the Gold Rush after Coloma was Hangtown aka Placerville which was only 8 miles away.
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Lord Rick ~ AngelOfThyNight

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