The great California gold rush was the largest internal migration in American history, it brought about 300,000 people to California to dig one of the most prized possessions back then, gold. The California gold rush gave California there nick name as the “Golden State”. Many of the once inhabited gold rush towns soon turned into ghost towns as gold miners went north to find new gold. I will be talking about when and where the migration took place, why people went there, the many problems and difficulties they had to overcome to get there and survive, and many more but those are just a couple of examples.
The California gold rush took place at the beginning of 1848 when a man by the name of James Wilson Marshall was building a water powered sawmill in the American river near the Sierra Nevadas. In the town Coloma,California which would later be known as today as Sacramento,California. When he found flakes of gold in the river, the word spread fast, but the first to hear and arrived where people from Oregon, other parts of california and other neighboring states. People also came from all over American and some from other countries such as Europe. It ended in 1855 when most of the easy to access gold was all dug up and then most of the gold diggers went home, if they survived that long. 1 out of 5 people died within 6 months of getting there, so it was either you went there and got rich or went there and lost everything you had.
During the 7 years from 1848-1855 750,000 pounds of gold was taken out of California. Map Of The California Trail There where many difficulties and problems they faced while they were there and while they were getting there. Some of them were, most of them went by foot, and by foot it could take up to 9 months to get there but it depends where you where from. One of the harder ones they had to face was they had to leave many loved ones and valuables behind. The big down fall from walking by foot or by horse is they were limited to what they could bring. Also with the harsh winters there horses could just up and die on them and then they would be stuck there to die. Leaving everything behind was a big gamble because they could get there and find nothing. Another hardship they had to deal with was with everyone traveling over there food started to be scarce. With them leaving everything behind if they could not find and if they didn’t have any more money to by food there chance of living soon went down.
One of the most well know and gruesome stories about the California trail was when a group known as the Donner party left Springfield, Illinois in 1846. They were led by 2 brothers by the name of Jacob and George Donner. They led the group down a new and supposably shorter trail called Hastings Cutoff, but that wasn’t the case. They ended up getting snowed in high in the Sierra Nevadas, they soon became short on food. The Donner party was so hungry they started to eat there dogs and other animals, then some members started eating bones, animal hide, twigs and string. In the final days of being snowed it went to the extreme in some cases that people started eating each others dead bodies. The California gold rush was a pull factor because they heard that there was plenty of gold to make about a 6 year wage in about 6 months of digging gold.
The gold rush was also a voluntary migration, because people came there for wealth and economic reasons. Also because they came to California on their own free will and they were not forced to dig gold. In a primary source letter from William Swain to Sabrina Swain, it talks about how he had just left the celebration dinner table to write this letter while everyone one else is drinking toasts. He talked about how he sent most of the letters with traders and other people to take them to the post office and about how he wasn’t sure that they made it to her. He said that he had to pay twenty five cents on a postage stamp to send the letter to sabrina. The people that came to the California gold rush did not face any discrimination because most of them were from the United States. Although there were some people but not very many that came from Europe, China and a couple other countries. The migration was in the country because people mainly moved from a state in the United States to California.
The big impact that the California gold rush had on the country was that there was not that much gold left in the rivers and mines. Another impact that the people had on the country was that people made small towns and as soon that all the gold was gone from that spot they would leave all the buildings behind and just let them rot into the ground. During this time California did not have much trees in some parts of the state a lot of the trees were getting cut down to build small towns, houses, gold mines etc. Also waterways and tributaries where being damaged or destroyed from the miners. California also started getting boomtowns from all the migrants coming, before the gold rush there was about two thousand non native people but then by 1853 the population boomed to three hundred thousand people. During the California gold rush people were willing take jobs as little food store businesses, supply stores, working at bars, going into the mines and many more. Although people made quite a bit of money from the gold itself the people that sold the supplies such as shovels, gold pans, pickaxes etc.
Made most of the money because people did not and could bring that kind of heavy stuff with them because they had such a trek across the Sierra Nevadas but if they did it would slow them down and make it take longer. People that also worked as bar tenders made a lot of money because if someone came in and asked for a drink they did not have money on them expect for gold so most people would be paying way more than they should have since instead of paying a couple of dollars for a drink they would be paying fifty dollars. The way that people survived during the gold rush in the new place was that they built small towns/settlements to live in temporarily. Theses helped them survive because it gave them a place to dry of get warm after out mining all day. It also kept them out of the elements at night so that they would not get hypothermia. They also learned how live in the environment although most of them came from a coldish environment that they now had to live in so it wasn’t that much of a climate change.