Gold found in California, an eyewitness account, Part 1

James S. Brown, a member of the Mormon Battalion that had come to California during the Mexican War and who was at the sawmill on the American River when gold was first found in 1848, wrote his account of what happened there 46 years later. The following articles are based on his recollections.

Mormon Battalion

On August 26, 1847 about 150 members of the Mormon Battalion, with the intent of traveling east across the Sierra Nevada to the new Mormon settlement at the Great Salt Lake, camped along the American River some two miles from John Sutter’s fort. The war was over and Sutter wanted to build a gristmill and a sawmill but lacked the skilled labor. It was late in the summer for a large party to start across the mountains and the Mormons were under-supplied anyway. An agreement was reached that about 100 members of the battalion would stay and work for Sutter until the next summer. In return he would provide them with what they needed for their journey.

John Augustus Sutter by Stephen W Shaw

James Marshall

Sutter had already entered into an agreement with James Marshall to build the sawmill in unsettled foothills up the American River from his fort. Alexander Stephens, Henry W. Bigler, James Berger, William Johnson, Azariah Smith, Israel Evans and Mr. Brown were hired to work on the mill and accompanied Marshall there in early September, a few days after William Scott and Peter Wimmer, with his wife Jenny and their family, had gone to the site with two wagons of tools and supplies driven by several Indians who worked for Sutter. The mill would be built where the river made a wide bend to the north, and what seemed to be the old riverbed was dug down for a millrace to run water through and so provide power for the mill wheel.

An eyewitness account to the discovery of gold in the California gold rush continues.


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