Women arrive in the gold mines

A gold rush woman

Before the discovery of gold in California many American settlers married the daughters of the old California families. Many were beautiful, cultured and refined women who made excellent partners, but there were still far to few to satisfy the overwhelming influx of miners that began as early as the spring of 1848. A lot of these men, especially the Americans, had left wives or girl friends back east and planned on returning to their homes once they had made their fortune in the mines, but when they learned that California was such a superior country to the one they had left, filled as it was with rich, fertile farm land, natural harbors, powerful rivers and as such presented endless prospects for advancement, their plans to return home changed. Many of these men sent for their wives or sweethearts to come west and join them and many did.

While this great scarcity of women prevailed in California any woman who was here had her pick of the men around her. And many a pretty servant girl managed to marry into incredible wealth and then successfully enter into a new and vibrant aristocratic society that was growing in the state. By the same token some of the women who were here caused problems for the men in their lives just by their mere presence. A man named Crockett, who owned a roadhouse between Sacramento and Salmon Falls, was lucky enough to have married a beautiful woman. But due to the nature of his business there would often be a dozen or more unruly, unwashed miners around waiting to catch a glimpse of his wife. Crockett carried a large revolver and was known to draw it during frequent fits of jealous rage.

When the Panama Railroad opened in 1855, eliminating a brutal and dangerous jungle crossing and providing a safe link between steamship service on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it made travel to California much more available to women. That, coupled with the increased improvements along the wagon trail to the west, allowed in the course of time many more women to come to California. A lot of the men then married and settled down; gardens were laid out, flowers planted and homes established. The tastes and habits of the crusty miners changed. There was less drinking and gambling, men dressed neater and exhibited better manners. But the ardor and gallantry of the miners toward their women remained. Nowhere else on earth were women so highly valued and treated with such respect and consideration as they were in the California of the 1850s.

US Mail Steamline docks at Aspenwall 1855


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