How the Gold Rush Made a Rich Man Poor.
C’mon Benjamin. Give us a break. Maybe the gold rush didn’t make
every poor man rich…but it certainly didn’t make rich men
poor. Did it? Huh? Did it, Benjamin? Did it?
Well folks, now that you happen to ask…the fact is…it did
make a rich man poor. And a famous rich man at that. Let me tell
you how it started. Around 1848, after the conquest of Mexico,
there was a territory which became part of the United States.
This territory was then called Yerba Buena and had a population
of about 500. Some religious folks settled there, and gave Yerba
Buena the new and more saintly name of San Francisco.
It was here, in the erstwhile town of Yerba Buena, that our hero
settled. He was a business failure in his own land. So he came
here with high hopes of starting again. And start again he did,
my friends. He now had a farm, with a rose garden and 200 square
miles of land. He owned 12,000 head of cattle, 2000 horses, and
10,000 sheep. He was Swiss, and no slouch when it came to running
his affairs. Not only did our hero get along with the Indians
that lived nearby, he even had some of them working his land.
Imagine Cochise tilling the soil. Well…it wasn’t Cochise, of
course. But I like the picture.
Our hero had it all. Wealth, security, respect of his fellow
man. But then, one day in January of 1848–the twenty fourth to
be exact --gold was discovered nearby in the American River. And
that was the beginning of the end of our model citizen living a
model life. In one shot, he lost 600 workers who left him to
rollick and lurch and stumble in the river where they found gold.
They staggered into saloons, our diggers did, staggered under
the weighty burden of sacks filled with gold nuggets and dust.
And the word spread. And spread. Our gentle farmer became a
pauper. His cattle were stolen and his fields plundered and his
roses destroyed. And then…the worst humiliation…he was driven
from his own land.
I told you all in another Tidbit how gold formed a continent.
And now I tell you how it destroyed a man most have heard of. His
name was Johann August Sutter. He also had a sawmill on his
property, and it was here, near Sutter’s Mill, that gold was
first discovered in this land of San Francisco which took it’s
name from a mission which was dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi.
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
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