Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Full size reproduction of Sutter Mill

GOLD! We had a great time exploring the ghost town of Coloma where the California Gold Rush began. Coloma grew up around Sutter's Mill where gold was discovered. The name Coloma comes from the original Native American name for the valley, Cullumah, meaning "beautiful." Coloma is on the South Fork American River that runs through the valley, and was built on the site of an original Native American village of Koloma.

Original site of Sutter Mill
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park site is situated where the Gold Rush began in 1848.Coloma is where John Sutter sent his foreman, James Marshall, to build a mill and process timber for his fort in Sacramento. As Marshall was building the mill on January 24, 1848, he looked down into the water in the tailrace (ditch) and picked up 4 pieces of metal that looked like gold. He took the metal flakes to back to Sutter who privately tested it and confirmed that it was gold. There’s a full size reproduction of Sutter’s Mill standing at the park now.

Original Sutter Mill in 1850. James Marshall standing in front
Sutter and Marshall tried to keep the discovery secret but rumors soon started to spread and were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. After Brannan had hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies, he then strode through the streets of San Francisco, holding a vial of gold, shouting "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” People heard that cry and came from all over the world to grab some of that easy gold.

Actual trailrace (ditch) where gold was found January 24, 1848
The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. The entire world was focused on the gold in California and it was one of the largest human migrations in history as a half-million people from around the world descended on California in search of instant wealth.

James Marshall's cabin in Coloma
Today, The Marshall Gold Discovery Park has a museum and a few well chosen buildings that give a sense of what life was like in those times. Now It’s a quiet, peaceful area along the beautiful South Fork of the American River. This is truly the very spot where the California Gold Rush began and where the history of California and the world was changed forever. Truly fantastic place!

Highly recommended!
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