The Remarkable Year of 1848
1848 was a leap year that started on a Saturday. For the next 12 months extraordinary events took place in the U.S. and abroad. Here is just a sampling.
A host of revolutions for more liberal governments broke out in European countries, including Hungry and France and the Second Republic of France.
The potato crop failed in Ireland that year.
In Washington D.C. construction of the Washington Monument began while John C. Frémont, the Path Finder of the West was being court-martialed on grounds of mutiny and disobeying orders.
In Seneca Falls, New York, the first Women's Rights Convention took place, and a cholera epidemic in New York killed 5,000 people.
The first U.S presidential held in every state on the same day took place on November 7. Whig Zachary Taylor of Louisiana defeated Democrat Lewis Cass of Michigan.
Wyatt Earp, American lawman and gunfighter was born, but John Quincy Adams, 6th President and John Jacob Astor, died.
If all that wasn’t enough, on January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter's Mill, in Coloma, California.
Ironically, two weeks later the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the Mexican War. Mexico ceded to the United States virtually all of what is today the southwestern U.S. for a paltry payment of $15 million dollars. California became an official possession, depriving Mexico of the approximately $2 billion in gold that came out of the Sierra Nevada foothills, which today would have a value in the neighborhood of $50 billion.
In August of that year, the New York Herald broke the news to the East Coast. It reported.
“The gold mine discovered in December last, on the South branch of the American fork, in a range of low hills forming the base of the Sierra Nevada, distant thirty miles from New Helvetia, is only three feet below the surface, in a strata of soft sand rock. From explorations south twelve miles, and north five miles, the continuance of this strata is reported, and the mineral said to be equally abundant, and from twelve to eighteen feet in thickness.”
No one paid much attention to the announcement. In was in December that President James K. Polk officially told the country of the discovery.
When the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. Ship SS California weighed anchor in New York bound around Cape Horn to Panama to establish regular service from there to. Astoria, Washington, on October 6, 1848, it was unaware of the rush to the Gold Fields that started after she sailed. Gold seekers from many nations trying to cram on board for the trip to San Francisco overwhelmed her in Panama.
The California Gold Rush is the setting for my new novel of historical fiction Their Gold Dreams to be published soon. To receive an alert about the publication date use the sign up nearby. I do not share email addresses under any circumstances.