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After watching “Gold Rush”, I learned a lot about how the Gold Rush affected not only the past, but the present. The discovery of gold in California affected immigration/migration, ethnic relations, and social and political developments in the United States in the mid-1800s. Watching Gold Rush really opened my mind and it made me appreciate how it made economic and structural impacts to our society today.
On January 24th, 1848 a carpenter named James Marshall discovered gold in a California River. Within a decade, over a quarter million people descended on California making it one of the largest migrations of its kind. It was rush of people immigrating around the world on behalf of greediness. In December 1848, President James Polk made the announcement that gold had been discovered in America’s California territory, newly one of the Mexican American war. IT was believed that California’s population had no Indians. There was not one bridge, school, or hospital.
William Swain was typical of the thousands of ordinary Americans lively by the discovery of gold would come to be known as 49ers. It took months to get from New York to the edge of the American frontier, then Missouri. For many coming from the east this is where the real journey would begin. Thousands of people camped out for miles around these towns preparing themselves, anxiously waiting to depart. Sarah Royce was a woman of cultivation and refinement religiously. They traveled over 15-20 miles a day. In 1849, 25,000 people were all leaving at pretty much the same time. It was a journey that took 5-6 months. It was hard to get lost because the trail was a half a mile wide. When there was a river crossing, there would be a traffic jam. Sometimes you had to wait 2 or 3 days for 50+ wagons to cross. William Swain set up for unknown territory along the Santa Fe Road, which was crowded with immigrants and their wagons.
There were very harsh conditions when traveling to California. The trail and an ending line of immigrants and their wagons grew thick with cast off debris including old food. A few sources of water were often unclean and collar broke out. By the time the gold seekers had reached Fort Laramie, not yet halfway to California, 1,500 of the 25,000 migrants would die from Cholera and yellow fever. There were also accidents and gunshot wounds. The Indians were living in the areas for a long time. The people had no clue what they were getting themselves into. The weather was an issue, and they didn’t have a lot of food supply.
The migrants had to deal with Sierra Nevada, which was the great barrier behind which California laid, with the arrival of October came the danger of getting trapped in the snow. They were exhausted, and suffered because they had to climb up to the mountains and come back down. Unfortunately, Sarah Royce took the wrong path leading them to the desert. The search for her to find gold just got more difficult. In late October, the Royces finally made it to the top of the Sierra Nevada’s and arrived in California. William Swain arrived as well. Both parties eventually made it through barely escaping threat of winter. They still had no idea if they would see a speck of gold.
The first miners arrived in Oregon, Mexico and South America, then 90,000 people by ship from the east. Within five years a quarter of a million would arrive. They didn’t realize that a bunch of people would go picking up gold from the ground. Obtaining gold was the most difficult. People had to dig rocks and sand to find the gold. It was difficult picking gold from the gravel. Gold was very worthy word that people would keep searching for. People wouldn’t expect California to hold the riches. Five years before James Marshall’s discovery, gold has been successfully mined in Southern California. On September 9, 1850, California became the 31st American state. It was never done before, and it was all due to the gold rush, but it wasn’t all about the gold, there was a unique culture in California. The Californians left an important part of culture and society.
A man named Mariano Vallejo was the most famous of the Californians. He had 66,000 acres of land. He was very powerful, optimistic and wanted a stable government with unjust laws. He wanted California to grow strong. Vellego wanted the people will be prosperous, happy, and free. Californians were shocked because all kinds of people were building on their land. There were a lot of mining camps in California. They had names like blue tent, and one called ladies crevice. Sarah Royce describes frontier men as ignorant, weird, reckless bravado’s. California Gold was drawing people from all over the world from 30 states and as far away as China. Merchants were really rich, and the people who created businesses. They sold accessories, and built restaurants. Eventually, Sara Royce’s husband gave up on the search for gold and opened up a business in Weaverville, and Sarah helped him run it.
The gold rush created a booming real estate market, towns sprung up overnight. There were real estates at every town. In 1849, everyone describes San Francisco as the city of tents. In the end of 1853, more than 600 brick stone buildings. 12 daily newspapers, 9 insurances companies, 27 government foreign councils. In 4 years, it was the city of the world. Ships were docked at San Francisco unload what they need. It was a port city as well. People wanted to be there, but it was violent and lawless. James Casey from the vigilance committee killed a journalist who exposed him. Girls had a role as they would play the piano and entertain, the gentlemen would pay a lot for champagne. San Francisco had sheriffs.
The vast numbers of men descending on California had soon depleted its rivers of their gold deposits. The search now turns to the gold hidden in the landscape. Gold was buried 10 or 15 of gravel rock and sand. Hydraulic mining was using pressure by damming the river higher up, bringing the water down under pressure to iron pipes, and releasing it with great nozzles against gold barring banks, and it would wash all of it away. It took a lot of risks. Millions of gravel and sand were washed by hydraulic mining in river beds and creeks where they accumulate.
The 49ers devastation of the land was matched by the destruction of California’s Native American tribes in the rush for gold. Many were anxious to stealing their gold rich lands. Chief Tenaya decided to withstand, which they fought that became known as the Mariposa war. In the end, they were outmatched. The Yosemite’s were the last to surrender. The treaties never ratified because the land was too valuable for Indians, so that left the people overwhelmed by minors. Without land, there food source was gone, the rivers were ruined, which in the people were starving. They turned into beggars.
After two years of frustrating hard work William Swain gave up the search for gold. Swain went back East to see his family and farm. He had 500 dollars worth of gold, which was nowhere near rich he wanted to be. What the Gold rush did was it brought 100s of thousands of people. Because of that it becomes populated, people from the East moved to the west, and California became the center of population. A railroad was needed to connect the country together. On June 20, 1862 congress authorized the building of a transcontinental railroad. It was a huge undertaking project with risks. Gold rush banker Charles Crocker and merchants Mark Hopkins, Leland Stanford, and Collis Huntington joined forces to create the Central Pacific Railroad and the men became known as “the big four”. The railroad was important for California’s growth and for the countries.
Charles imported 1000s of Chinese men to make the railroad to work at the minimum cost. The Chinese workers were fearless, they set up an explosives to create room for the tracks. It was an extremely hazardous trade, and it took 6 years to happen. On May 10th, 1869 at Utah, Stanford drove for the ceremony complete the transcontinental railroad. This was known as the Golden Spike. It made industrial production on the nation scale. Transporting goods was made easier. Mariano Vallejo spent years and tens of thousands of dollars in court after court trying to protect his property with little success. He went poor because of this. In 1890 the US government officially declared the closing of the American frontier. The Westward Expansion had come to an end. The 1848 Gold Rush set the largest and growing economies and gave birth to a new nation.
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