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The Forty-Niners

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The Forty-Niners

By 1849, the gold rush was on. Strangers from all parts of the earth - East, Europe, Latin America, and Asia - were thrown together with only one common of interest, GOLD. These early gold-seekers, called "forty-niners," traveled to California by sailing ship and in covered wagons across the continent, often facing substantial hardships on the trip. People caught "Gold Fever" in the hope of striking it rich. Many gold seekers arrived expecting to find rivers overflowing with gold. Unfortunately, most found riverbanks crowded with miners.

Most prospectors were previously storekeepers, cooks, carpenters, teachers, farmers or some other trade before heading to California in search of gold. By 1850, the mining country had become quite populated. Many of the immigrants ended up started businesses, trading posts, importing goods to sell to miners, farming and ranching. They took advantage of the skills they brought with them.

Many people came to California by covered wagon. This was a long, difficult journey. Travelers needed to travel across difficult land. They needed to cross the desert and climb the mountains with their wagons, mules and oxen. It was very important that the travelers left early enough so not to get caught in the Sierra Mountains during the winter.

Coming by land with covered wagons had its advantages. Travelers could pack a lot more gear. They would pack a cooking stove, plates and cups, and forks and knives. They would carry enough food and supplies for a 6 month journey. Food was usually bacon, ham, rice, dried fruits, bread, flour, sugar, rice, molasses, butter, coffee and tea.

Others preferred coming by sea. There were two water main routes to California. A 17,000 mile route around the South America and Cape Horn took 5 to 7 months. Travelers had to deal with fierce storms, and lots of sickness due poor living conditions and limited fruit



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