Reed Travel Features
COLOMA, Calif. -- "Monday 24th this day some kind of mettle was
found in the tail race that looks like goald first discovered by
James Martial the Boss of the Mill."
In that ill-spelled and -punctuated statement, Henry Bigler, a
member of a building crew headed by James Marshall (not Martial),
recorded in his diary an event that would transform California. The
date was Monday, Jan. 24, 1848. The "mettle" that Marshall picked
out of the bedrock exposed by the rush of water over the sluice
was, indeed, "goald." Its discovery, by a man who was sent to the
area to build a logging mill for John Sutter, a Swiss entrepreneur
with a trading empire in the U.S. West, led to the California gold
stampede -- the trail of the 49ers.
The community of Sutter's Creek was named for the Swiss
businessman, as was Sutter's Fort State Park.
Marshall, whose hand first touched the gold that led,
ultimately, to statehood for California, never had a town named
after him; his name lives on, though, in Marshall State Park.
The gold find is being celebrated throughout the state this year
in the form of special events sanctions by the California Gold
Discovery to Statehood Sesquicentennial Committee.
The activities officially kicked off last month with the opening
of a "Gold in California" exhibit at the Oakland Museum, a series
whose three parts are called "Gold Fever," which includes artifacts
and documents of the period as well as gold specimens; "Art of the
Gold Rush," the watercolors and oil paintings of the era, and
"Silver and Gold: Cased Images of the Gold Rush," a display of
The series will travel to other museums in the course of the
next year. For more information, call (510) 238-2200. For
information about other sesquicentennial activities, write to the
Division of Tourism at Box 1499, Sacramento, Calif.,