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The Golden American Dream

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There have been many discovers that have shaped our nation as a whole. Discoveries have allowed our country to thrive and become one of the most powerful nations in the world. When we look back at our nation's rich history, it is clear to see that there was one discovery in particular that had a vast impact on the United States; the discovery was gold in California. It was in this vastly unoccupied territory that the American dream was forever changed and California emerged as a powerful state busting at the seams. The California Gold Rush shaped California into the state that it is today. California is defined by its promise of entrepreneurial success and its acceptance and encouragement of obtaining the American Dream.

During the late 1840's California did not show much promise or security. It had an insecure political future, its economic capabilities were severely limited and it had a population, other than Indians, of less than three thousand people. People at this time had no idea of what was to come of the sleepy state in the coming years. California would help boost the nation's economy and entice immigrants to journey to this mystical and promising land in hopes of striking it rich.

In 1839 a man by the name of John Sutter arrived in California. Sutter appeared to be somewhat of a drifter, and had failed to establish himself before arriving in California. However, in the land of great promise, he planned to establish an empire for himself. Sutter was granted eleven square leagues, or 50, 000 acres, in the lower Sacramento area. This was a common land grant for the times. Sutter got to work and began to improve his land. He went on to build a fort, accumulated over 12,000 cattle and hired hundreds of workers to help maintain his land. However, Sutter was plagued with debt and was unsure that his vast agricultural empire would ever take shape.

As the years went on, more and more Americans began moving to California. Sutter was enthused and saw them as opportunities to enhance his kingdom. Sutter had no idea that this was just a glimpse of the migration that was soon to come. Encouraged by the skill level of the new Americans, Sutter decided to become a mill and lumberman. Now, he just had to find the right location and a talented craftsman.

In 1845 a man by the name of James Marshall moved to California. He was a carpenter who excelled at all things mechanical. However, similar to Sutter, he had never had great success on his own ventures. Marshall knew that Sutter was looking for a site to build a mill, so he set forth to discover the perfect location. He traveled forty-five miles away from the fort and discovered a valley that appeared to be the perfect location. He knew that the spot could produce enough water power to power the mill, and it had ample amounts of timber located in close proximity. Sutter inspected the site, approved it, and began a partnership with Marshall on August 27, 1847.

The work began on the mill and Marshall continued to oversee the site.

On the morning of January 24, as was his custom, Marshall walked down to inspect the tailrace. Well down it, about 200 feet from the mill, he chanced to se a glittering particle lodged on the bedrock of the channel. He saw more, some mere flakes and others as large as a grain of wheat. He collected these specimens, held them in the dented crown of his slouch hat, and excitedly rushed up to the mill, shouting, "Boys, I believe I've found a gold mine."

James Marshall had indeed discovered a gold mine and rushed back to the fort to show his employer the great discovery. Once back at the fort, Marshall told Sutter about his discover and his findings in a private room. "I reached my hand down and picked it up; it made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold. The piece was about half the size and shape of a pea. Then I saw another." The men were fascinated; they applied every test they could find to the substance to ensure that it was indeed gold. Marshall and Sutter traveled back to the mill and Sutter soon realized that this discovery jeopardized all of his other business endeavors. Sutter asked the workers to stay for six weeks and continue to work on the mill. The workers agreed demonstrating the casual attitude toward the discovery in the early weeks.

Time passed, and rumors of gold spread throughout California and the United States. However, the news of gold failed to leave a lasting impression on the people who heard it. Many of them believed that it was simply a wise tale, or too good to be true. The Gold Rush needed someone to create a buzz and bring people to the state to mine it. That person came in the form of Samuel Brannan. Samuel Brannan was a San Francisco merchant who came up with a great business plan surrounding the gold rush. He single handedly created the buzz that began the gold rush. It was through his actions that millions of people from around the world traveled to California in search of the American Dream, in other words, to get rich...quick.

The Gold Rush only needed one more thing to spring into furry,



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