In a real sense, California was born 165 years ago today when John W. Marshall found gold in the tail race of the sawmill he was building for John Sutter in Coloma.
As Steve Wiegand wrote in The Bee's 1998 Gold Rush edition, that monumental discovery would attract some 90,000 fortune hunters to the state during the next two years. The prospectors (who numbered 300,000 by 1854) came from all parts of the world, many making the 15,000-mile sea voyage around the tip of South America or overland, 2,200 miles from Missouri or Iowa.
This vast influx of people propelled the territory into statehood in 1850. And it helped transform Sacramento into a major commercial, transportation and agricultural hub -- and eventually the state capital.
Every year, the history-minded folks in Coloma celebrate Gold Discovery Day with a day-long program of activities for the whole family, including the Sutter's Mill reenactment, carpentry demonstrations, tour of a Miwok Village, wagon rides, gold panning and Gold Rush period entertainment. Gold Rush writers will be on hand at the Museum Store to sign books, and guests can visit the Museum and Visitor Center which opens at 10 a.m.
What: Gold Discovery Day
Where: Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, Highway 49, Coloma
When: Jan 26, 10 to 3 p.m.
Cost: All activities are free. Parking is $7 per car.
For more info: call 530-295-2162, 530-622-3470 or see website
PHOTO CREDIT: Carol Timmerman, left, of Cool portrays a pioneer woman and Ed Allen of El Dorado portrays 1848 gold discoverer James W. Marshall at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. 2009 Sacramento Bee photograph by Michael Allen Jones