“There’s gold in them thare hills!”
On January 24, 1848, in the Sacramento Valley in California, a carpenter building a sawmill for John A. Sutter, discovered gold in the running water of the stream. Sutter made each of the workmen promise to keep the find a secret, but word leaked out.
During that summer the news spread up and down the West Coast, across the border to Mexico, and even out to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii). Word also reached the East Coast, and on December 5, 1848, President Polk declared in a message to congress that there really was gold in California, and plenty of it for that matter.
In the earliest days of the Rush, claims yielding as much as $400 in a day were not uncommon – in the first year about 10 million dollars worth of gold was mined.
The area, now know as Nevada City and Grass Valley, was first settled in 1849, during the California Gold Rush. Nevada City was first know by the name Nevada (meaning “snow-covered”, a reference to the snow-topped mountains in the area). In 1850-51, it was the most important mining town in the state, Nevada County being the leading gold-mining county in the state.
Grass Valley’s history is also part of the colorful lore of the California Gold Rush. The first notations about the area are from the late 1840′s when a party of men searching for cattle came upon a “grassy valley”.
Women in the California Gold Rush played an important role in what is usually seen as a male-dominated phenomenon. The first people in the mining fields were families who had already come to California to farm. Women and children worked right alongside the men. At least 10% of the overland forty-niners were women. Women played an important role in what is usually portrayed as a male-dominated phenomenon. Women of different status, class, and race were involved in the California Gold Rush, including prostitutes, single entrepreneurs, married women, poor and wealthy women, white, Hispanic, native, Chinese, and European women.