Gold found in California, an eyewitness account, Part 2

By the middle of January the sawmill was given it’s first test but it was set too low and the mill wheel wouldn’t work properly. While the mill itself was being raised the gates of the force bay, at the millrace dam, were opened at night to let the water wash away loose sand and gravel while the Indians removed the larger rocks during the day. Marshall became curious about the granite bedrock in the millrace and thought it might contain gold. Brown got a pan from their cabin’s kitchen and they washed some of the sand and gravel with water but didn’t find gold. Still, Marshall seemed convinced they would find something and Brown quotes him as saying, “We will hoist the gates and turn in all the water that we can tonight, and tomorrow morning we will shut it off, and I believe we will find gold or some kind of mineral here.”

Sutter’s mill

The next morning Marshall was out early, and by the time Brown and the others had begun their workday, he had found ten to twelve small pieces of gold in the tailrace of the sawmill. The date was January 24, 1848.

After James Marshall had shown the workers building the sawmill the gold he had just found that morning, and after the men had satisfied themselves that it was indeed gold, they gathered around the lower end of the millrace to look for more. They soon learned to spot the distinctive glitter through the water and all of them were rewarded with a few small flakes that Brown called scales. This went on for several days until they had amassed three to four ounces. Then Marshall told them that if they continued their work and completed the mill and kept the gold discovery secret, he would see to it that they had the tools and supplies they needed to seek more gold on their own. The men agreed although they had been working four months already and hadn’t been paid anything for their labor as yet.

An eyewitness account of the first gold found in the California gold rush continues.


  1. Fascinating. Had to read the whole three parts. In Cripple Creek, poor Bob Womack couldn’t convince anyone there was gold there. Of course it didn’t help that he enjoyed the liquor and then there were a group that salted an area near there. Such great stories. Thank you so much for sharing them.

    • This one is fascinating to me too, Doris. I wonder why Bob Womack didn’t keep his mouth shut. Wouldn’t that mean more gold for him? Maybe he needed drinking money?

      • I think most folks are still trying to figure Bob out. So many tales about him, the truth may never be known. I think it may have been a case, because of where the gold is found, that he just wanted to be right. Here is a link to a piece written by my friend and his great niece Linda:

        • Bob’s story sounds a lot like the guy the Comstock Lode was named for except Bob may have been a little more upstanding. Comstock sold his claim for booze and died dirt poor.

  2. My thought is, each area will have its own version of a Bob, who seem to hunt for gold for the pleasure and don’t know what to do if they really find it. I do think Bob was basically a pretty good guy deep down, just not a savvy business man.

    • Bob sounds like a pretty good guy from what you sent me. Comstock on the other hand was a louse. He didn’t actually find the lode. He just wormed his way in after the men who did died. And he really sold one of the richest silver lodes in the world for drinking money. We will get to him soon enough.

  3. Looking forward to that post.

  4. Another case of selling a gold mine for drinking money was Shorty Harris, one of the two men who discovered ore at Rhyolite, Nevada. He sold out his share for $900 after getting drunk. His partner, Ed Cross, was one of the few people who prospered from the mine. He sold his share for enough to buy a ranch and retired there.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.