A History Lesson
Gold mania! This is what happened during the California Gold Rush of 1849. It is such a colorful period in the state’s history that it would make the perfect background for an historical novel. I have found the topic to be fascinating given the psychological dimensions of the craze. I will fabricate authentic fully-rounded characters and feature a gold sluice (such as these) as part of a murder mystery. I hope nothing like this has been done before. I couldn’t find anything like it on Facebook. Maybe I will go out panning for gold myself to make the details more believable. This has been a good history lesson for me, and hopefully for you. See what you think.
It all happened with a discovery in the Sacramento Valley in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill. Gold nuggets were found prompting literally thousands of prospectors to flood into the area as word got out—and it didn’t take long. They came by land and sea to this northern California outpost. The magnet was the precious metal trapped by a special box called a sluice. During the Gold Rush over 750,000 pounds of it were extracted by miners. Wow! Was there enough to go around? There was at least for a few years. Picks and shovels were sold in bulk.
In case you are weak in American history, this was the time of the Mexican-American War giving the U.S, control of the territory that would later become a state of course. Meanwhile, news spread like wildfire and many amazing stories of overnight fortunes were told. This is fodder for my novel. I will have a young handsome prospector and a gorgeous saloon gal. He was one of the ‘49ers as they were called wearing that identifiable hat. He strikes it rich, turns in his gold sluice, marries the pretty lady, and retires to an enormous farm where they spend their final days. He lucked out as women were very scarce in those days. As for the murder, it is a secret yet to be divulged. I am still working on it.
Imagine out of nowhere came a bustling new economy and the growth of San Francisco into a major metropolis. My novel will include descriptions of mining camps, boom towns, lawlessness, prostitution and gambling, and of course violence. Fighting over a gold sluice is the heart of my story. It gets complicated when one of the men involved falls in love with my heroine, the saloon gal. You can see that my material is rich and vast. It is full of difficult and dangerous labor, excitement and thrills. Hydraulic mining was developed by 1853 that increased profits but tarnished the beautiful landscape. There was good and bad associated with the California Gold Rush. But it was largely over by 1852 in terms of easy to find surface gold. The state drew more population, however, as there was a lot of money available on for new opportunities. This is a true example of the American dream at work.