I10037 - Sutter's Mill
“This is a curious rock, I am afraid that it will give us trouble,” and as he probed it a little further, he said, “I believe that it contains minerals of some kind, and I believe that there is gold in these hills.” James S. Brown's recounting James Wilson Marshall's reaction to discovering gold
On January 24, 1848, carpenter James Marshall discovered gold while building a water mill owned by John Sutter.
“It made my heart thump, for I was certain it was gold.” said James Marshall. A discovery that started off as a flew flakes turned into $2 billion of gold being extracted from the area during the Gold Rush.
Sutter and Marshall tried to keep the discovery quiet. However, the mill's workers were paying for their purchases from Sam Brannan's store with gold.
Brannan spread the word of the discovery by running up and down the streets of San Francisco, shouting "Gold! Gold on the American River!"
Brannan not only started the California '49 Gold Rush, he became the first Gold Rush millionaire. Understanding the concept of supply and demand, Brannan immediately began buying up all the picks, shovels and pans he could find. He would then substantially markup the price before selling to the miners.
The population of California boomed as potential miners, known as '49ers, traveled from around the world to make their fortune. In the process, Sutter's dream of building an agricultural empire was destroyed.