January 24: The Gold Rush Begins

marshall-monumentPoor James Marshall. There he was on the morning of January 24, 1848 checking in on the construction of a sawmill he co-operated with Johann Sutter on the banks of the American River in Coloma, California. It was just supposed to be a nice normal day at the office…and then his whole world changed.

That morning, Marshall was checking the creek outside of Sutter’s Mill to make sure everything was going well. He soon noticed that there was something shimmering in the water. He bent down and picked up the shining  object and said “I have found it.” It was gold. Now, there had been rumors of the discovery of gold in California prior to this, so tests were run. Meanwhile, Marshall continued focusing on the construction of the mill, allowing his employees to keep looking for gold in their spare time.

Eventually, it was determined that not only had Marshall found gold, but it was 23 karat gold! The news of the discovery spread around the globe and soon the world came to California to strike it rich. Of course, for Marshall and Sutter, the gold rush ruined them: The mill was never completed because all of California’s able bodied men were focused on finding gold. Marshall later try his hand at starting a vineyard and became co-ownership of a gold mine. Both business ventures were failures and eventually left him bankrupt.

In 1872, the California State Legislature awarded Mashall a two year pension for his involvement in such a major moment in California history. That pension was renewed in 1874 and then again in 1876, only for it to lapse in 1878. Marshall eventually dies penniless in 1885. However, the next year, the Native Sons of the Golden West decided that the “Discoverer of Gold” deserved a monumental final resting place. So, with the approval of the State Legislature, a monument and tomb was constructed near the site of Sutter’s Mill. On top of the monument stands a statue of Marshall, pointing to the spot where he found gold.

Of course, to commemorate Marshall’s discover, we should drink a Gold Rush. It’s a fairly basic cocktail with a nice golden hue.

Gold Rush

  • 2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce honey syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice filled rocks glass.

Tomorrow: Around the world in 72 days.


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