The California Gold Rush

Migration of People, Culture, and Ideas

By Heidi Bowerman & Suzanne Jenkins

History Day Computer Technology Demonstration Project

[4th Grade]


The Gold Rush occurred in 1849, although the first gold flake was discovered by James Marshall in 1848 at Sutter's Mill in Sacramento, California. Marshall then took the flakes to the cook to do tests on, and when the flakes were proven to be real, they were then presented to John Sutter. Instead of being pleased, Sutter was upset, and forbad Marshall to tell anyone. Despite the order, the word spread of easy riches, and that is the way gold fever was spread. The population of California increased from 15,000 to 250,000 in just four years, between 1848 and 1852, as the "49'ers" came for the gold! As stated in the Sacramento Bee, more than 300,000 migrated here by 1854 -- or one of about every 90 people then living in the entire United States. Tourists today may visit Coloma, California on the American River and go to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park where they can see a replica of Sutter's Mill and imagine what it was like to be a 49'er.

Some migrants came to California overland. Most of the gold miners chose to go to California the overland route. That was a two thousand mile road that was scheduled to take five months, but sometimes took more than a year. The people were expected to take a long journey across unbroken territory.

View a map
of the
overland route here

View a map
of the
sea route here

Some migrants came to California from many different countries across treacherous waters. Food and water were scarce. Many of the passengers got seasick, and some got ill and died. The people of course had no idea that this was going to happen to them when they first started out. There were many ads for ships that promised an easy journey, but it usually never happened that way. Some ships took a full year to arrive, particularly when they came around Cape Horn.

Come explore with us, and read about the people who came, and the culture and ideas they brought to California.

.People Culture Ideas
Annotated Bibliography

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