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So here we are, snug as schoolmarms, working at our race and dam. If there is no gold, we shall be off to another place, for there is an abundance of gold here, and if we are blessed with health, we are determined to have a share of it.

William Swain. Of the tens of thousands of men who swarmed into California in , more than half of them were in their twenties -- "a grey beard was almost as rare as a petticoat," one man remembered -- and most hurried to one of the small settlements that grew up almost overnight wherever gold was found -- Coyote Diggings and Grizzly Flats and Mad Mule Gulch; Bedbug; Shinbone Peak, Poker Flat and Murderer's Bar; Whiskey Diggings, Delirium Tremens; Slumgullion; Shirt Tail Canyon, Cool, and You Bet.

Roughly two-thirds of the Forty-niners came from the United States and two thirds of them were from New England. But the miners also included slaves, free blacks, even Cherokees, forced out of Georgia twenty years earlier when gold had been found on their land. The rest of the miners, one American wrote, "came from every hole and corner in the world. One of the first gold-seekers was a Cantonese man named Chum Ming. He struck it rich near Sutter's Mill and wrote home to say so. Soon more Chinese were setting sail for California.

In , twenty thousand Chinese would come -- two thousand in a single day. George, I tell you this mining among the mountain's is a dog's life. A man has to make a jackass of himself packing loads over mountains that God never designed man to climb, a barbarian by foregoing all the comforts of civilized life, and a heathen by depriving himself of all communication with men away from his immediate circle.

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Digging for gold was hard, monotonous -- and mostly unrewarding. It combined, one miner said,"the various arts of canal-digging, ditching, laying stone walls, ploughing and hoeing potatoes. That was the word, the diggings. And why, because that's what they were doing. When we think of mining we think of a mine shaft. But that's later. These are river banks, river bars, dried creeks, rocks, rocks, by the millions, and the gold is beneath those rocks.

Now this is placer gold, that means that for eons of time, the gold has been abraded, has been separated, by the action of water and rocks, so that the pieces of gold are pure. You pick 'em up, and that is gold. That's all there is, but just plain gold. You're working in freezing water up to your waist for hours at a time.

You're reaching down, moving rocks, bringing in the rock and the gravel and working it all the time, with your hands, with the shovels. Moving always this debris, to get rid of the debris, to pull out the little tiny samples of your future, the little tiny pieces that are going to make everything possible for you. Going to buy you the means to get rid of your mortgage, that are going to make it possible to buy some more land in Iowa, in order to move, and then pack up and go to some new place.

All of that is built into every effort you're making, every single day. But everything in the diggings cost too much: a dollar a pound for potatoes, eggs at fifty cents apiece, twenty dollars for a bottle of rum. My dear William, How often -- O! O my dear you cannot be too cautious -- not that I distrust you, but rather on the contrary, perhaps, I place too much confidence, knowing that we are all fallible creatures.

California, from its earliest times, was seen in homes and cities, in traditional places of America, as a sinful place. In these mining camps, there are gambling halls. Sometimes they're tents, sometimes they're buildings, sometimes they're just a table under a tree. They're ubiquitous. And these gambling halls were places where the men by the hundreds and the thousands went to escape their haunting fears that maybe they'll fail.

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The Gold Rush

This is where you can make a fortune, having failed on the turn of hundreds and hundreds of shovels, maybe on the turn of a card, you can make what you failed to make up there in those dirty canyons, in those hot or cold canyons, where you poured your heart out. And they walk into these great big places, and there's excitement, and there's hope, and there's a sense of sin.


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He soon comes in sight, reaches the house and all three enter and partake of their evening meal. The husband takes from his pocket a newspaper which tells in glowing terms of the discovery of rich veins of gold in California.

The Gold-Seekers : A Tale of California

The item makes a strong impression on the mountaineer, and after discussing the project with his wife they decide to try their fortunes in the new land. Preparations are quickly made, the little family bids farewell to their happy home and starts on their long journey. The last stop before crossing the Arizona desert is made, a stock of preparations and water laid in and the journey across the desert begins.

Here their hardships commence. The water tank springs a leak and the water is soon lost, one of the horses drops dead, the other is unhitched, the woman and child put on its back, Written by Moving Picture World synopsis. Start your free trial.

The Gold Rush - California History [ep.5]

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