California Gold Rush

There are two Gold Rush events that dominated the western United States early in the 19th Century. The first one took place in California, the second in Alaska. However, there are two others that have been overlooked; both took place in the eastern part of the United States, one in North Carolina, the other in the North Georgia Mountains.

In 1799, the Reed Gold mine in North Carolina is the first known commercial gold mine discovered in the United States. The Georgia Gold rush is the second in 1828, in what is today Lumpkin County

Early Gold Rush (1799-1845)

1560 French & Spanish settlers engage in gold mining in North Georgia up until 1690.
1799 – Conrad Reed finds a “yellow rock” weighing about 17 pounds near their farm in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Conrad gives it to his father, John Reed. It served as a very reliable door stop for three years.
1802 The “yellow rock” is later identified by a Fayetteville jeweler as a large gold nugget. The actual value was the time $3600, although John Reed only asked for $3.50, a week’s worth of wages.
1803 John Reed starts a gold mining operation. A 28 pound nugget is found by a slave. They continue through placer mining for many years.
1828 Discovery of Gold in Georgia and news about it spreads throughout the United States.
1829 Aug 1. The Georgia Journal publishes the first public report of the gold find.
1830 An estimated 4000 miners worked on the Yahoola Creek in Lumpkin County, Georgia. More than 300 ounces of gold were being mined each day.
1831 John Reed begins to try his hand in underground mining.
1832 The Gold Lottery of 1832 is instituted. Land owned by the Cherokee is awarded to the winner, the size of the land given was 40 acres.
1845 Reed dies a rich man because of all the gold harvested from the property he owned.
1840’s In Georgia, the “easy gold” had been harvested, moving the efforts to find more gold in other known deposits.
Historic Note: Because of the start of the Civil War, mining activity stopped. 1896 was the last time a large piece of gold nugget was found. The state of North Carolina established the Charlotte Mint in order to manage the gold found in the area and the state.
The Reed mine is today a historic site that is open to the public. A museum was built to display the advent of North Carolina gold; in addition, some of the tunnels of the mining operation has been restored for people to explore.

California Gold Rush (1848-1855)

1848 Jan 24. A shiny metal is found by James Marshall near Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California.
Feb 28. The Mexican-American War ends. California becomes a territory of the United States through the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. California operated and functioned under military rule. People received mixed messages when it came to maintaining order, they end up applying American and Mexican rules in addition to using their own preferences.
Mar 15. Reports of the discovery of gold is published in San Francisco by a newspaper. People do not immediately believe the reports.
May 12. Samuel Brannan, a merchant, runs up and down the streets of San Francisco raising a bottle full of gold crystals shouting “Gold, gold, gold from the American river!” This leads to most the men in San Francisco to leave the city in search for gold.
The store of Samuel Brannan profits from the exodus of the men through the sale of all types of equipment that outfits the prospective miners. This includes pans, picks, shovels, and lamps.
Jun. Native Americans represent most of the miners who worked the fields of gold.
Aug 19. The east coast reports, through the New York Herald, the potentially rich deposits of gold in California.
Nov 28. The first shipment of gold heads for the US Mint, the value of the shipment was estimated to be at about $500,000
Dec 5. President James Polk announces and confirms to the rest of the young nation that gold has indeed been found in California. This leads many people to migrate west in hopes of sharing in the wealth gold represents.
1849 Jan 11. On the editorial of east coast newspaper, the New York Herald, calls the discovery of California gold having “set the public mind almost on the highway to insanity.”
Mar. Waiting for the spring thaw, nearly 30,000 people or gold rushers, converge in Missouri preparing for the journey west. They wait for the prairie to be stable enough for a wagon to pass through.
The “forty-niners”, nearly ninety thousand migrants, reach California to partake of the Gold rush. The demographics were mixed, although ninety-seven percent of those migrants were men. In addition to white Americans, who represented two-thirds of the migrants, there were Australians, Chileans, Chinese, Europeans, Mexicans, and Peruvians.
Aug. Delegates meet near Monterey, a small town along the California coast, and draft a state constitution. This leads the people in California to ask for admittance into the Union.
It has been said that in 1849, more than ten million dollars worth of gold had been mined in California.
1850 Mar. In an effort to dissuade the competition, the legislature of California imposes what they called Foreign Miners Tax. Twenty dollars a month is the cost to a foreign miner if he wished to continue to work on his claim.
Apr. More than 15,000 Mexican miners leave the fields of gold in California. The burden of the Foreign Miners Tax and the threat to their lives by anglo miners become too much for them.
Aug. Statehood becomes inevitable, the Congress in Washington D.C. admits California as a free state and a member of the new Union. This is also known as the Compromise of 1850.
California mines 41 million dollars worth of gold in 1850. San Francisco sees a jump in its population from 1,000 people in 1848 to more than 30,000 since the gold rush.
1851 California delivers more than $75 million dollars worth of gold from its mines in 1851.
1852 Word of the gold rush reaches beyond the pacific, this brings 20,000 Chinese to California to take part in the much talked about “gold mountain” bonanza.
The Gold Rush sees an all time high in extracting gold from the California mines, $81,000,0000 in 1852.
A second version of the Foreign Miner’s Tax is passed, this one is intended to assuage the impact of the Chinese miners.
The Gold Rush was seen as the precursor to the true meaning of the American dream. With hard work, creativity, and daring entrepreneurship, and some say with a little of good fortune, wealth and riches that come with it was possible.