On This Day: Gold Discovered at Sutter's Mill in California
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#1 Feb 22, 2013
#2 Feb 22, 2013
In 1848 a major gold strike occurred in the Sacramento Valley, in California. Word soon got out, and a steady migration of settlers rushed to establish their claims. By the following year, California was besieged by tens of thousands of “forty-niners”—fortune-seekers who came from all parts of the world. California’s population increased from about 26,000 in 1848 to about 380,000 in 1860. Farmers abandoned their lands, sailors jumped ship, soldiers deserted the army—just to make the trek to seek their fortune in gold. Some were described as being “bloodthirsty rogues.” With this melting pot of humanity came a wave of crime and violence. Those caught up in the lure of gold but not willing to work for it turned to robbery, pillaging stagecoaches and trains.
In 1851, on the heels of the California gold rush, came the news that large deposits of gold were being discovered in Australia.“The yield was truly fantastic” was the report. For a short time, Australia became the greatest producer of gold in the world. Some who had migrated to California soon packed their bags and descended on the land down under. The population of Australia skyrocketed—from 400,000 in 1850 to over 1,100,000 in 1860. Farming and other work came to a virtual standstill as many rushed to find their fortune in gold.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the mad stampede to find gold moved to the Yukon and Alaska, following the discovery of gold in those areas. Thousands of people made their way to the Far North, to the Klondike region and Alaska, fighting the bitter cold to stake their claims on land rich in gold.
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