On January 24, 184Gold Mining8, John Marshall and John Sutter discovered gold at a sawmill construction site near Sacramento, California.

When James Marshall told Sutter of the gold discovery, his first thought was not of the potential of vast wealth, but of how it would adversely affect an empire he was developing called New Switzerland.

Even though Sutter owned 50,000 acres of land, the mill was on public land.  At that time, California was in the process of being transferred from Mexican to U.S. ownership.  With no government authority, Sutter and Marshall exchanged clothing and other trinkets with local Indians for a lease of land surrounding the site.  Even though they tried to keep the discovery a secret, in no time the whole world knew about it.

As men were panning for gold, Marshall was busy cutting lumber, and Sutter was tending his crops.  Within a year, both of their businesses failed.  Without a clear title, James Marshal was eventually run off the land where the mill was located.

John Sutter’s 50,000 acres came from two Spanish land grants.  One was declared void, and squatters took over the other.

Eventually, both men tried mining for gold.  But they failed.  John Sutter died penniless in 1880…And James Marshall did the same in 1885.

Although Sutter and Marshall, the discoverers of gold, never saw a profit from the discovery, during the first 25 years following the discovery, over 978 million dollars worth of gold was taken from the area of Sutter’s mill.

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