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in his face, that his friend confesses to have cast an anxious eye at his rifle. His sudden appearance was sufficiently curious; but Sutter thought him mad when he cried out that he had made a discovery which would pour into their coffers millions and millions of dollars with little labour. 'I frankly own,' he says, 'that when I heard this I thought something had touched Marshall's brain, when suddenly all my misgivings were put an end to by his flinging on the table a handful of scales of pure virgin gold." I was fairly thunder-struck. It was explained that, while widening the channel that had been made too narrow to allow the mill-wheel to work properly, a mass of sand and gravel was thrown up by the excavators. Glittering in this Mr Marshall noticed what he thought to be an opal—a clear transparent stone common in California. This was a scale of pure gold, and the first idea of the discoverer was, that some Indian tribe or ancient possessors of the land had buried a treasure. Examination, however, shewed the whole soil to teem with the precious metal; and then mounting a horse, he rode down to carry the intelligence to his partner. To none but him did he tell the story of his
discovery, and they two agreed to maintain secret the rich reward. Proceeding together to the spot, they picked up a quantity of the scales; and with nothing but a small knife, Captain Sutter extracted from a little hollow in the rock a solid mass of gold weighing an ounce and a half. But the attempt to conceal this valuable revelation was not successful. An artful Kentuckian labourer observing the eager looks of the two searchers, followed and imitated them, picking up several flakes of gold. Gradually the report spread, and as the would-be monopolists returned towards the mill
, a crowd met them holding out flakes of gold, and shouting with joy. Mr Marshall sought to laugh them out of the idea, and pretended the metal was of little value; but an Indian who had long worked elsewhere in a mine of the costly metal, cried : 'Oro ! oro !' and ‘Gold ! gold !' was shouted in a lively chorus by the delighted multitude. This is the account we have from Captain Sutter himself. In other narratives, the history of the discovery assumes many different forms and colours. A squatter constructing a shanty found gold in the stones employed to build it; a traveller traversing a stream fell into the water, and the precious dust glittered in the mud adhering to his clothes ; a hunter in chase of the elk lay down to sleep in a cavern shining on all sides with scales of gold--these and other accounts have been promulgated. The rumour was spread abroad, and the people of San Francisco began to leave the town and swarm to the diggings.' A large body of Mormon emigrants had just entered California through the south pass of the Rocky Mountains; they immediately encamped near Sutter's Mill, and within a few days more than 1200 men were at work, with buckets, baskets, shovels, spades, and sheets of canvas, seeking for gold in the sand of the south fork of the Rio des los Americanos.
Perhaps in no other country, at any period of its history, has so sudden and wonderful a revolution taken place as that which followed this discovery : as well over the Rocky Mountains as by sea, ceaseless arrivals from all quarters of the globe swelled the population (previously only 25,000 souls). The towns on the coast were soon almost wholly deserted, and the few residents that remained made ample fortunes by levying exorbitant sums for the entertainment and supply of the travellers who came to the port. Vessels in the harbour were deserted; the harvest was at first unreaped; and the industry of the country suddenly stopped, as though struck by a universal paralysis, while the flood of population contracted and poured into the valley of the Sacramento. Along the borders of the rivers, and in the ravines of the wild hilly country, camps were formed, and tents, bowers, mud huts, and rudely erected sheds, multiplied and covered the ground. Still, hundreds slept in the open air, and these hundreds swelled to thousands as each mail carried to the United States more glowing accounts of the gold.
A few instances of the incidental features of society after the spread of the mania among the adventurers in search of wealth may neither be out of place nor unentertaining.
In May 1848, the negro waiter at the San Francisco Hotel, before the mania had reached its greatest height, refused to serve his master at the rate of less than ten dollars, or about two pounds a day. But the universal rage was so strong, that the 'mineral yellow fever, as it was termed, left San Francisco at first almost wholly deserted ; and at the same season a large fleet of merchant-vessels lay helpless and abandoned, some partially, others wholly deserted. One ship from the Sandwich Islands was left with no one but its captain on board; from another the captain started with all his crew, replying to an observation on his flagrant conduct, that the cables and anchors would wear well till his return, and that as every one was too busy to plunder, he ran no risk by deserting his duty. The Star and Californian newspapers, published at San Francisco, ceased appearing, as the whole staff
, from the editor to the errandboy, had gone to dig for gold; and among the most active workers in the valley was the attorney-general to the king of the Sandwich Islands. The influence of this wonderful excitement extended all over the world, but was felt most powerfully in the neighbouring regions of Oregon and Mexico. There, during the early period of the excitement, the public roads—and especially the nearest way over the hills—were crowded with anxious travellers, each face bent towards the ridges of hills dividing their adopted country from the gold regions. Whole towns and villages were left peopled by scarcely any other than women, while the men were devoutly on the pilgrims' path to the shrine of mighty Mammon.
The population that was suddenly gathered together in the valley of the Sacramento was among the most motley and heterogeneous ever collected in any spot on the surface of the globe. Californian Indians, with their gay costume in gaudy mimicry of the old nobility of Castile; rough American adventurers, lawyers, merchants, farmers, artisans, professional men, and mechanics of all descriptions, thronged into the scene. Among them were conspicuous a few ancient Spanish dons in embroidered blue and crimson clothes, that in their own country had been out of fashion for forty years. A few gentlemen, and numbers of women, were among the delvers ; while, after some months had elapsed, even China opened her gates to let out some adventurous house-builders, who took junks at Canton, sailed across ten thousand miles of sea, arrived at San Francisco, and there betook themselves to their calling, and made large fortunes by the construction of light portable buildings for the use of the gold-finders in the hot and populous valley.
Within eighteen months, 100,00o men arrived in California from the United States, and settled temporarily in the valley ; though, after a short period, the return steamers were as well laden with life as the others. Nine thousand immense wagons came through the pass of the Rocky Mountains, with an average of five persons to each vehicle ; 4000 emigrants rode on horseback through the same route; and of the others, many crossed the Isthmus of Panama, where the passengers were sometimes so impatient, that the government packets were pressed into their service, and compelled to start on their voyage before the arrival of the mails. Others made the sea-voyage of 17,000 miles round Cape Horn. In a New York paper, sixty sail of ships were advertised to sail for the gold region in one day. The route by the emigrant trail was at first one of the utmost weariness and peril. The road, rough and broken as it was, was thronged with an almost perpetual stream of caravans; whole armies appeared to be marching to the gold regions; and each of these, as it passed, opened an easier way to its successor by levelling the mounds, throwing bridges across the water-chasms, filling up ravines, and hewing shorter routes through the woods. Yet numbers fell by the way, and died of hunger, or thirst, or sheer fatigue, though many were relieved at the settlement of the Mormon Saints, on the shores of the Great Salt Lake.
Arrived at their destination, their first care was to provide themselves, if not already prepared, with implements--pots, kettles, crowbars, colanders, baskets, and cradles. These and other instruments, various and multiplied, constituted the wealth of the gold-seeker. The towns on the coast were in a continual bustle ; every remnant of their population was engaged in working at high rates of remuneration to supply the wants of new-comers. Captains were compelled to handcuff their men, to prevent their yielding to the attraction of the magnetic mineral lying in the valley. Labourers could only be induced to remain with their employers for a week or two at ten dollars a day; carpenters and blacksmiths were paid with a daily ounce of pure gold : laundresses received about thirty-five shillings for every dozen of articles they washed; cooks commanded thirty guineas a month; and houses recently bought for a barrel of 'strong water,' sold for 20,000 dollars. One speculator spent £45,000 on the erection of a three-story frame hotel, and immediately found a tenant, who paid him 20 per cent. on the outlay, and let some of the rooms, each at the rate of 400 dollars a month, for gambling purposes. The whole place was a theatre of excitement, and in the delirium of the mania, persons even far removed from the scene of enthusiasm committed acts of the utmost folly. They shipped whole cargoes of fine calicoes and rich silks to a land where there was hardly a female population at all; they transported immense consignments of costly furniture to towns where the habitations were mere nud hovels or timber-frames; they brought in one mass tobacco enough for several years' consumption ; paper, which, as the Americans said, "the stupendous wastefulness and extravagance of all the Congresses since the Union could not have consumed since the Declaration ;' and a number of magnificent pianofortes, which sold for their value as cupboards !
Yet the prices paid for merchandise and commodities really wanted were extraordinary : blankets at eight guineas each, fresh water at a shilling a bucket. Wines and liquors were consumed in profusion, though to be procured only for extravagant sums. Golddust, doubloons, and dollars were the only money accepted; and a traveller has declared that many of the miners fíung away showers of small coins, rather than be troubled with the possession of them! But this feverish fit, like all other paroxysms, was temporary, though, while it lasted, San Francisco was worthy to be the capital of a gold region. In the cafés, you were charged, for a small slice of ham, two eggs, and a cup of coffee, twelve shillings; and all other provisions sold at equal rates. Powder was very costly, and yet intoxicated men rushed through the streets discharging guns, pistols, and revolvers, through mere recklessness; while others, mounted on horses hired at several guineas a day, galloped wildly without purpose along the beach. The whole town was a Babel, and in its outskirts the scene was no less confused, and still more picturesque. A vast camp stretched around it, and along the shore, to a considerable distance on either side. Tents of all sizes, shapes, and colours crowded the mist-covered hills, and piles of merchandise obstructed the passages between. Immense fires burned in all directions, and uncouth groups were busy round them, engaged in the various processes of cooking or preparing their clothes, arms, implements, or equipage for the journey to the valley of the Sacramento. Such is a sketch of the gateway of this region as it appeared under its new aspect in 1848.
The early processes of gold-finding at California may now be described The gold flakes were found impregnating the sand or shingle, either actually below water, or left dry by the absorption or diversion of some current from the hills ; though in the gullies and ravines large lumps were plentifully discovered in the crevices of rocks, in cracks in the ground, or among the roots of trees. The sand in the streams was usually worth, in the gross, from one to two shillings a poundweight. The soil was composed largely of gravel, full of small stones like jasper, fragments of slate, and chips of basalt, evidently washed down from the mountains. At first, the simplest method was employed to collect it. Tubs, pails, and tin pans were filled with mud and water, which was rapidly stirred, allowed to settle for a moment, and then poured off, leaving the heavy portion precipitated to the bottom. This was found a tedious and incomplete process. Sieves of woven willow-twigs were next tried, and for the same reason abandoned by all who could procure more serviceable utensils. Some ingenious miner invented the “rocker,' a wooden cradle raised more at one end than at the other, and thus forming an incline. Across the bottom are nailed some broad laths, and over the top is placed a grating or perforated plate of tin. Some are small, and worked by one man, who first piles the auriferous earth on the upper tray, and then with one hand rocks the machine, while with the other he bales water into it with a tin pan. Some of them, however, occupy four men, whose division of labour is complete : one with a suitable spade shovels the earth into his pans; the next carries it to the cradle, and Aings it heavily on the close grating; the third rocks the machine ; and the fourth continually pours water upon the mass inside. A heavy sediment, rich in gold, is left at the bottom, while all the light substances are washed away. In the upper districts, the gold was principally found in the bed or dry beds of mountain torrents, between rocky and precipitous channels, in a yellowish-red soil. The finer dust was found in the lower region, the rough lumps in the more elevated. Massive pieces were discovered only in the upper country:
The scenes presented in the gold region by the busy multitude toiling in it were thus described at that period : 'In one spot may be seen a party of newly arrived emigrants, each armed with a shovel, a tin pan, a sieve, or a colander, and all standing in the water scooping up the sand into buckets, stirring the contents with their bare arms, and watching the result with glistening eyes, as the water is poured off, and the precious sediment revealed ; in another, men are busy in collecting the gold-dust, after passing through the first rough process of cleansing, in small
, closely woven baskets of Indian manufacture, which are arranged on the ground in the full glare of the sun; in another, a large party is labouring with the immense rockers-or gold-canoes, as the Indians term themgravely, as though accustomed to their task; in another, scattered individuals are groping with knives, crowbars, and even common sticks, in the dry ravines, expecting by this desultory labour to earn