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Gold Rush Adventures
Class set order code: 5912S
The stories in this book examine the various ways in which people traveled to California to find gold, as well as the discoveries they made along the way, which often included insight into the kinds of riches they truly wanted from life.
In the year 1848, the United States had been an independent nation for almost three quarters of a century, and yet much of the American West was still unsettled. Explorers had reached the Pacific Coast and had established settlements in Washington, Oregon, and California, but many of them traveled by ship because the 3,000-mile overland route was dangerous, winding through treacherous terrain (not the least of which was the Rocky Mountains) and the territories of hostile Native American tribes. As a result, West Coast settlements like San Francisco and Sacramento were generally small and sparsely populated.
That changed when James Marshall found gold—by accident—while overseeing construction of a mill near Sutter’s Fort, a thriving colony established by John Sutter, who hoped to turn the region into a booming metropolis of prosperity and peace, with himself as governor of it all. At first Sutter was thrilled with the find, but as soon as word got out about it, nearly all productivity ceased, and people turned from whatever it was that they were doing to gold digging instead.
By the next year, gold fever had swept the nation, and people headed out to California in droves, getting there any way they could. Many of these Forty-Niners were ill-prepared for the journey, their heads too full of dreams of easy wealth to see the struggle that would be required both to get to California and to strike it rich once there. But they came in such numbers that California became a state only one year later, in 1850.
Of course, not everyone who dug for gold found enough to head back home and live the easy life of the wealthy, as they’d hoped. In fact, some of the Forty-Niners discovered that the real money was in business and trade with the miners. And many of them had scratched enough gold from the earth to establish businesses and build a life for themselves right there in California. The small settlements in the region ballooned. By the time the gold fever subsided and the gold dust settled, the western landscape had changed forever.
This book is also available as a series of dyslexia-friendly books. (See below.)