Gold Rush Influence on Western America.

Essay by aznXsa2587 October 2005

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In the early 1840's, California was a distant area that only a few Americans had seen. San Francisco had barely a few hundred residents. One of the wealthiest people in the region was John Sutter. He was a Swiss immigrant who came to California in 1839 to build his own private empire. He built a fort, gathered 12,000 cattle, and took hundreds of workers. He owed money to creditors but still had a dream of owning a "vast agricultural domain." By the mid 1840's, more Americans were entering the west by wagon and ship. In 1847, Sutter sent men to the river to build a sawmill to provide lumber for Sutter's empire. On January 24th, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold in the river that they were working near. Marshall brought the gold back to Sutter's fort to test the metal. They concluded it was gold and within weeks the Gold Rush of California brought people from all around.

Sam Brannan, a San Francisco merchant, knew exactly how to earn a profit. Just as people were pouring into California, Brannan purchased pick axes, pans, and shovels for twenty cents apiece and sole them for about fifteen dollars each. In just nine weeks, Brannan made 36,000 dollars.

By the winter of 1848, rumors of gold had drifted eastward across the country, but few easterners believed them. The gold discovery needed validation and President James Polk delivered that in early December of 1848. "The accounts of the abundance of gold in the territory are of such extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by authentic reports of officers in the public service"- Polk. Polk's confirmation caused farmers, merchants, and soldiers to begin their western voyage for gold. By early 1849, gold fever was an epidemic. Every family within the...