The discovery of gold in North America initiates several gold rushes.

CAROLINA GOLD RUSH

Reed Farm

John Reed is a Hessian Soldier; a mercenary German soldier that served Britain during the Revolutionary War. Following his pardon, he builds a farm in Midland, North Carolina.

The Gold Doorstop

1799: John’s son finds a 17-pound yellow rock in a nearby creek. The family has unknowingly found the first gold in the United-States and use the large nugget as a doorstop for three years. 

Name Your Price

1802: A jeweler identifies the rock as gold and asks John Reed to name his price. John asks for a week’s worth of wages: $3.50. However, the nugget’s true value is $3,600 (over $87,000 today).

Reed Gold Mine

1803: John Reed establishes a small gold mining operation on his property.  A slave named Peter soon uncovers a 28-pound gold nugget. The Reed Family becomes very wealthy from mining gold.

The Reed Gold Mine is considered a National Historic Landmark. It includes a museum and a gold mine tunnel tour.

Local Gold Rush

Most territory in Carolina is already privately owned by local farmers. Following the news of the Reed gold find, farmers and their families begin to search their land for gold.

Placer Mining

Gold deposits and sand are mixed together due to ground erosion. Carolina farmers engage in shallow surface mining of stream beds, which is known as placer mining.

Surface Exhaustion

1820s: Surface-level deposits of gold are mostly exhausted. Farmers in Carolina are forced to dig further to access deeper gold and other mineral deposits.

Lode Mining

1830s: Deep mining requires sophisticated tools, tunnels, and ventilation. Farmers are soon required to hire or establish mining companies to dig mine shafts. Placer mining is replaced by lode mining.

The Carolina Gold Rush is the first Gold Rush in the United-States.

GEORGIAN GOLD RUSH

North Georgia Mountains

Natives have found handfuls of gold in the North Georgia mountains for hundreds of years. While no major gold source has yet to be found, a few claims begin to circulate around Georgia.

Georgia Discovery

1829: The Georgia Journal announces the discovery of gold in North Carolina. A large number of pioneers, prospectors, and miners rush to Georgia in search of additional gold sources.

Georgia Gold Belt

A massive quantity of high-quality gold, often mixed with quartz, is found in Northern Georgia and Eastern Alabama. The belt had the largest quantity of gold in the eastern United-States.

Boomtowns

Settlements rapidly form near gold sources in river valleys, deserts, and mountains. The town of Dahlonega in Northern Georgia becomes one of the first Gold Rush boomtowns in the United-States.   

Native Relocation Debate

Georgia has been petitioning the U.S. Government to relocate natives in their territory for nearly three decades. Many oppose the idea, including Christan missionaries and congressman Davy Crockett.

The Great Intrusion

Nearly 15,000 miners arrive and rapidly establish settlements in Cherokee territory in Georgia. Tensions quickly emerge between natives and gold prospectors.

Indian Removal Act

1830: Following a fierce debate, the United-States passes the Indian Removal Act with a vote of 101 to 97. It allows the government to remove natives in the south-west from their land.

Trail of Tears

1830-1850: U.S. militias force about 60,000 Natives to relocate to Indian Reservations in the west. Over 10,000 die from starvation, disease, and exposure to cold during the 5,000 mile march.

THE STATE OF MICHIGAN

Petition for Statehood

1835: The territory of Michigan petitions the U.S. government for statehood. However, Michigan includes the Toledo Strip which is disputed with the State of Ohio.

Toledo Cold War

The governors of Ohio and Michigan pass laws against each other and deploy militias to the Toledo Strip. Both sides harass each other and fire shots into the air, but there is minimal bloodshed.

Government Intervention

The U.S. Government agrees to accept Michigan’s statehood if they give up the Toledo Strip in exchange for the Upper Peninsula. However, the peninsula is considered useless and the offer is rejected.

Frostbitten Convention

1836: Michigan is nearly bankrupt due to militia expenses and is desperate to receive financial support. They decide to accept the proposal and give up the Toledo Strip during a cold winter convention.

State of Michigan

1837: Michigan becomes the 26th state admitted into the Union. The capital is initially Detroit, but it is relocated to Lansing a few years later in order to be more centralized.

Douglass Houghton

1839: Prominent Geologist Douglass Houghton is named the first professor of geology, mineralogy, and chemistry at the University of Michigan. Michigan hires him to do a state geological survey.

Copper Deposits

Houghton spends most of his time in the field surveying and mapping natural resources in the state. He discovers a large source of copper in Michigan’s recently acquired Upper Peninsula.

Copper Rush

The discovery of copper initiates a rush to the region, which becomes known as Copper Country. For nearly a decade, mining on the peninsula produces 90% of America’s copper.

Douglas Houghton is known as the Father of Copper Mining in the United States. He died in 1845 at the age of 36 when his boat capsized in Lake Superior.

CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH

State of Texas

1846: Texas president Anson Jones formally transfers sovereignty of its territory to the United-States government. The Texas state government is officially established in Austin.

Mexican-American War

Open conflict erupts between Mexico and the United States over territory in Texas. Despite being outnumbered, U.S. commander Zachery Taylor defeats a Mexican force in Palo Alto, Texas.

California Republic

Americans who had migrated to Mexican-controlled Upper California without permission declare their independence. Their militia soon joins U.S. forces attempting to annex the territory.

Invasion of Mexico

1847: The United-States launches a large-scale invasion of Mexico with an amphibious assault of Veracruz. Quickly capturing the coastline, they advance along aqueducts and capture Mexico City.

The attack on Veracruz is the first large-scale amphibious assault conducted by U.S. military forces.

Sutter’s Mill

1848: John Sutter Sr. plans to build a water-driven sawmill near the Coloma outpost in California. His carpenter, James Wilson Marshall, soon discovers flakes of gold in the river.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

Mexico and the United States sign a treaty that ends the war. Mexico gives up ownership of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona to the United-States. 

Boomtown of Coloma

Marshall and Sutter attempt to keep the news a secret, but a newspaper soon reports the gold find. Coloma becomes one of the first boomtowns of the California gold rush as thousands migrate to the region.

City of Sacramanto

Against the wishes of his father, John Sutter Jr. creates a new town alongside the Sacramento River. Located near a large deposit of gold, Sacramento quickly develops into a major commercial city.

Sacramento is the oldest incorporated city in California.

Town of San Francisco

The settlement of San Francisco, named after Saint Francis of Assisi, was founded in 1776 by Spanish colonists. The small town has an average population of only about 1000.

’49ers

1849: California originally had about 14,000 pioneers. However, in only one year, another 85,000 pioneers migrate to California in search of gold. They become known as the ‘49ers.

City of San Francisco

The ‘49ers rapidly turn San Francisco into a boomtown with a population of 25,000. Some sections of the city are built using wood from the many abandoned boats in the harbor.

Steamboat Service

The SS California steamboat departs from New York, rounds South America, and arrives in San Francisco five months later. Regular steamboat service soon begins between the east and west coast.

The San Francisco 49ers football team is named after the forty-niners.

Native Hunts

Tensions erupt between miners and natives in California. Miners form militias that harass and massacre natives in the region. Some communities offer bounties for the native heads, scalps, or ears.

Act of the Government and Protection of Indians

1850: The California Legislature passes an act regulating native employment and criminal punishment. It also allows for the forced labor of natives considered to be vagrants, including children.

California Forced Labor

Settlers frequently arrest natives to work in farms, mines, and homes. Native communities are sometimes raided for workers. Despite being illegal, law enforcement does little to intervene.  

California Genocide

Up to 16,000 natives are killed and up to 27,000 are taken as forced labor during the California Gold Rush. Many natives are also displaced, raped, and/or separated from their children.

The native population of California dropped from an estimated 150,000 in 1848 to 16,000 in 1900.

City Incorporations

Los Angeles and San Francisco are incorporated as official cities in California. Los Angeles has a population of 1,610, while Los Angeles County has a population of 3,530.

Compromise of 1850

Tensions emerge between states that favor slavery and those against slavery. Five bills are passed which allows states to choose their position and to resolve disputes between states. 

State of California

California officially admitted as the 31st state of the United-States. It is a free state that outlaws slavery. Sacramento is soon chosen as the capital of the newly established state.

American Express

Henry Wells and William G. Fargo merge their express mail companies. They establish their headquarters in New York City and monopolize express shipments in New York State. 

California Mother Lode

A 120 mile long vein of high-quality gold is found in Sierra Nevada, which becomes known as the California Mother Lode. Hundreds of mines are soon built to excavate the hard-rock gold deposits.

Additional Migrations

About 300,000 people migrate to California in search of gold. Some come from the Georgia Gold Rush, though many come from around the world and it creates a mixed culture.

Death Valley

Some pioneers die attempting to traverse the treacherous desert valley in eastern California, which becomes known as Death Valley. It has an average high of 116.5 °F (47 °C) in July.

Economy Boom

The gold rush brings a large increase in construction and agriculture in California. The shipments of goods invigorates the United-States economy and improves transportation from the east to the west.

Death Valley holds the record for the highest recorded surface temperature: 134 F (56.7C). 

Death Valley holds the record for the highest recorded surface temperature: 134 F (56.7C). 

Unstable Cities

Towns in California rapidly turn into large cities. However, disease is rampant due to lack of proper sanitation. Fires are particularly dangerous and occasionally burn down entire cities.

San Francisco Fire

1851: San Francisco continues to grow and reaches a population of over 35,000. However, a fire breaks out in a paint and upholstery store and proceeds to burn down nearly three quarters of the city.

Barbary Coast

San Francisco has minimal government authority and the city becomes a place of lawlessness.  The Barbary Coast develops into a red-light district with rampant prostitution and gambling.

Homosexuality

Saloons, Jazz clubs, and brothels open to serve the growing male population. Men greatly outnumber women, causing homosexuality and female impersonators to become a common feature in the district.

The California Gold Rush was the largest mass migration in United-States history.  San Francisco reached a population of 56,800 by 1860 and 149,500 by 1870.

University of the Pacific

The Methodist-affiliated California Wesleyan College is established in Santa Clara. The private school soon changes its name to the University of the Pacific. It is California’s first college.

Wells Fargo

1852: The American Express board of directors reject the idea of opening in California. Henry Wells and William G. Fargo create Wells Fargo to provide express shipping and banking services in the west.

B.F. Hastings Bank

A two-story brick bank is constructed by B.F. Hastings in downtown Sacramento California. The entrance to the second floor is on the outside of the building.  

Fool’s Gold

Many inexperienced miners think they found large deposits of gold, but in reality it is a cache of pyrite. The mineral has a metallic yellow-ish hue and it is often confused with gold.

The B. F. Hastings Bank Building was used as the western endpoint of the Pony Express and also the California Supreme Court. It is now considered a National Historic Landmark.

California Rangers

1853: A law agency is formed in California to deal with outlaw gangs harassing gold miners. It is commanded by Captain Harry Love and made up of veterans from the Mexican-American War.

Legend of Murrieta

Harry Love hunts down a Mexican thief named Joaquin Murrieta Carrillo and his gang. Many legends emerge about Murrieta, who is nicknamed the Robin Hood of the West.

Levi Strauss & Co

Jewish-German businessman Levi Strauss opens a branch of his family’s dry goods business in San Francisco. They sell kettles, blankets and sewing goods. 

Yontocket Massacre

A militia from Crescent City in northwestern California attacks the native village of Yontocket. In the early morning, they set fire to their huts and shoot villagers trying to escape.

Between 450 to 600 natives were killed in the Yontocket Massacre. It is one of the largest single-day massacres in American History.

Levi Strauss went into business with tailor Jacob Davis in 1873 to produce and sell reinforced jeans to workers.

Hydraulic Mining

Miners begin to use high-pressure jets of water to move sediment and rock to help uncover gold. However, flooding and erosion from the hydraulic mining causes severe environmental damage.

Fort Alcatraz

1853-1854: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins to fortify the small island of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. The first American lighthouse on the western coast is soon built on the island.

San Francisco Mint

1854: The United States Mint builds a branch in San Francisco to serve the gold miners. The minting office turns $4 million gold bars into coins within its first year. 

Mining Companies

1855: Easily accessible gold is exhausted in California. Gold mining is increasingly taken over by large companies with industrial equipment. Many miners find employment in other sectors.

About 750,000 pounds of gold was extracted during the California Gold Rush, which would be worth about $10 billion today.

NEVADA SILVER RUSH

The Grosh Brothers

1857: Brothers Ethan and Hosea Grosh, veteran mineralogists, discover silver samples in Western Utah. However, before claiming the find, both brothers die from separate injuries.

Henry Comstock

Henry Comstock, a caretaker for the Grosh family, claims the brothers’ property as his own. He uncovers the silver find and claims the silver ore deposit as his own.  

Carson City

1858: Abraham Curry purchases Eagle Station ranch and trading post in Eagle Valley. He develops it into a city and names it after the Carson River, which is named after explorer Kit Carson. 

Silver Boomtowns

1859: The Comstock Lode is made public and attracts thousands of prospectors and miners to Western Utah. Carson City, Virginia City, Nevada City, and other settlements see a major population boom.

The Comstock Lode was the first silver deposit found in the United States.

Native Starvation

The native Paiute people are starving due to poor weather. Carson City offers help, but the Paiute refuse believing an evil spirit is angered by the influx of white immigrants and that the food is poisoned.

Williams Station Massacre

Possibly searching for missing children, a Paiute band burns down Williams Station trading post and kills five Americans. In response, a militia is formed to capture the attackers.

Pyramid Lake War

 The American militia attacks the Paiute around Pyramid Lake. While the natives defeat the militia in the first major battle, they are defeated in the second. A truce is soon made between the two sides.

Sarah Winnemucca

Paiute native Sarah Winnemucca and her family find success as traveling stage performers known as the Paiute Royal Family. However, they often struggle with the brutality of the local military.

Square Set Timbering

Silver mines in Nevada are often soft and prone to collapse. German engineer Philip Deidesheimer invents a method to reinforce mine shafts by filling timber cubes with waste rock to form a strong pillar.

Nevada Territory

1861: Due to the population boom from the silver and gold mining in Western Utah, the territory is separated from Utah. It is renamed Nevada after the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Bonanza Period

Prospectors finding new silver and gold deposits in Nevada nickname their discoveries a Bonanza. Bonanza derives from a Spanish term meaning smooth sea, which came to mean good fortune among sailors. 

American Civil War

A civil war breaks out between anti-slavery northern states and pro-slavery southern states. While Nevada is mostly isolated from the war, its silver income helps finance the north.

Six major bonanzas occurred in the first five years of the Nevada silver rush.

State of Nevada

1864: President Lincoln accepts Nevada as the 36th state to help support his re-election. The state is nicknamed the Silver State and Battle Born state. Carson City is designated as the state capital.

Civil War Ends

1865: After desivively loosing a major battle in Virginia, the pro-slave southern states surrender to the anti-slave nothern states. The American Civil War comes to an end.

Las Vegas Ranch

American prospector Octavius Gass moves into an abandoned Mormon fort in Las Vegas Valley. The property is renovated into a ranch and becomes a popular stopover for travelers.

Millionaire Mackay

Irish-American miner John Mackay uses his savings to purchase his own mine. He soon hits a bonanza and suddenly becomes worth over $1.6 million ($28 million today). Mackay invests in other mines.

A page detailing the American Civil War is under development.

Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens moves to Nevada and attempts to find precious metal. However, when his mining efforts fail, he writes for the Virginia City newspaper under the pen name of Mark Twain.

Reno, Nevada

1868: A community has been growing around a popular toll bridge crossing in Nevada. A railroad station is built and Reno is officially founded. The city is named after Civil War General Jesse L. Reno.

Black Friday Gold Scandal

1869: Investors Jay Gould and James Fisk attempt to corner the gold market. When the government responds, it causes a market panic and crashes the economy for a few months.

Yellow Jackat Mine Fire

A fire breaks out in Yellow Jacket Mine. Firefighters attempt to enter the mine, but smoke and flames push them back. About 35 miners die in the fire and some bodies are never retrieved.

The Big Bonanza

1873: John Mackay and three Irish-American partners purchase a mine and soon discover a huge silver deposit. Nicknamed the Big Bonanza, the businessmen become the richest men in America.

Coinage Act of 1873

The U.S. government passes an act which makes gold the only precious metal that can be directly converted into coins. The controversial law slightly reduces the value of silver.

Peak Year

1877: Silver and gold ore extraction peaks in Nevada. The mines produce over $14,000,000 of gold and $21,000,000 of silver (about $356,000,000 and $534,000,000 today). 

End of Bonanzas

1880: There is a sharp decline of silver in Nevada and the bonanza period comes to an end. While exploration and deep underground mining continues in the state, it is increasingly sporadic.

Adjusted for inflation, the Big Bonanza was worth about $181 billion.

KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH

Northwest Territories

Natives have extensive trading networks in the massive Northwestern Territories of Canada. A small number of fur traders and missionaries also reside in the cold rugged region.  

Northwest Climate

The Northwest Territories climate is mostly subarctic with short and cool summers. Temperature can dip to -35 °C (-31 °F) during winter days, with nights sometimes reaching -50 °C (-58 °F).

Yukon River

The Yukon is the longest river in the northwest. Its name is derived from the Native word Yuk Han, which means the white water river. The river is a prominent passageway to the northwest territories.

Early Prospectors

Rumors of gold emerge among fur traders in the Yukon region. A few hundred prospectors gradually arrive to explore the cold and distant region, but only find trace amounts of gold.

Klondike Region

Natives call a tributary of the Yukon river Tr’ondëk, which means hammerstone water. Prospectors, mispronouncing the name, call the river and the surrounding region the Klondike.

Bonanza Creek

1896: American prospector George Carmack rests by Rabbit Creek and accidentally finds a nugget of gold. The creek, a tributary of the Klondike river, becomes known as Bonanza Creek.

Eldorado Creek

Prospectors in the Yukon quickly descend on the area and take claims around the Bonanza Creek. A richer source of gold is soon found in a nearby creek, which becomes known as Eldorado Creek.

Dawson City

Dawson City is established where the Yukon and Klondike rivers converge. Initially a small settlement of 500, the city gradually grows into a larger boomtown. 

Gold News

1897: Some Klondike prospectors return to San Francisco and Seattle with their gold. Newspapers report the gold haul to be worth over $1 million (about $35 million today).

Quitting Your Day Job

Thousands quit their jobs and, despite having no experience in mining, prepare to make the long journey to the Klondike region. There is a shortage of workers on the west coast.

Klondike Journey

The Klondike region is remote and can only be reached by the Yukon river. Prospectors must either sail up the Pacific Ocean and/or hike the cold rugged mountain passes to reach the river.

Canadian Checkpoints

The Canadian government requires all Klondike travelers to acquire a year’s supply of food. Mounted police set up checkpoints to enforce the rules, check for illegal weapons, and enforce customs.

Slow Arrival

1898: It takes nearly a year for gold prospectors to sail up the Pacific coast, gather supplies, hike the mountain passes with heavy equipment, and sail down the Yukon river to the Klondike region. 

The Klondikers

About 100,000 prospectors attempted to take the long cold journey to the Klondike Region. However, only about 30,000-40,000 actually arrive. They are nicknamed the Klondikers.

Dawson City Growth

Dawson City grows to a boomtown of nearly 30,000, but Canadian Mounted Police keep the city mostly peaceful. However, the makeshift town struggles with fires and epidemics.

Han Natives

Canadian Mounted Police forcibly move Hän natives near Dawson City to a small reserve downriver. When Dawson City becomes overpopulated, prospectors move into their empty village.

Port Boomtowns

 Most prospectors sail up the coast of the Pacific ocean to reach the Klondike region. The Alaskan towns of Skagway and Dyea become popular rest stops.

Lawless Skagway

Skagway grows to a population of over 15,000 and becomes the largest city in Alaska. However, the remote community also becomes a haven for gambling, prostitution, and other illegal activities.

Soapy Smith

Soapy Smith becomes a dominant con-man and crime boss in Skagway. He tricks customers into purchasing soap that may hide a money prize, but only his gang members actually win.

Shootout on Juneau Wharf

When Soapy Smith and his gang swindle a miner’s gold in Skagway, American soldier Frank H. Reid organizes a vigilante group to confront the gang. Soapy and Reid both die in a shoutout.

Films and shows set during the Klondike Gold Rush often feature a villainous character based on Soapy Smith.

Yukon Territory

The Northwest Territories is governed in Regina, but they struggle to administer the distant Yukon region. The Canadian government splits the territory and creates the separate Yukon territory.

Sled Dogs

Most gold camps are only accessible by dogsled during the winter. Mailmen, doctors, and traders also require dog sleds. There is a high demand for sled dogs, especially Alaskan Malamutes.

Limited Opportunities

The best creeks are already claimed by the time most Klondikers arrive in the Yukon. Less than 20,000 become prospectors, less than 4,000 find gold, and only a few hundred find a rich deposit.

Return Home

Klondikers spend an average of $1,000 ($35,000 today) to reach the Klondike region. However, many are forced to return home empty handed within the year.

Nome Gold Rush

1899: Gold is discovered near the city of Nome in west Alaska. More prospectors leave the Klondike region for the newer and more accessible coastline goldfield. 

Heavy Equipment

Due an improvement in transportation, heavy mining equipment is brought to the Klondike region to help extract gold from difficult terrain. There is a short-lived revival in Klondike mining.

Riches-to-Rags

With the Klondike gold rush in rapid decline, Dawson City and other boomtowns are gradually deserted. Many Klondike saloon owners and businessmen lose their fortunes and go bankrupt.

Native Struggles

Due to the miners, Klondike natives struggle with contaminated water supplies and smallpox. Hydraulic mining further ruins the environment. There is a drastic reduction in native populations.

Dawson City dropped to a population of 2,000 by 1912.

EPILOGUE

The short-lived Klondike Gold Rush is the last of the major gold rushes.