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Shortly after the acquisition of California from Mexico a man by the name of John Sutter arrived in East San Francisco Bay in 1839 Born in Germany he had to leave because he was unable to pay his creditors With plenty of charm and letters from friends he convinced the Mexican governor of California to award him a land grant of more than50000 acres John Sutter built a stockade and a fort and soon after became referred to asCaptain Sutter and his riverbank establishment Sutters Fort Sutter chose a location on the south fork of the American River 50 miles to the south of his fort to build a sawmillPic 1 A millrace was dug and wooden gates were opened periodically so that the current would widen and deepen the channel During his inspection on January 24 1848 James W Marshall found the first piece of gold at the end of the race Over the next decade his discovery would have a profound effect on the experiences of hundreds of thousands of individuals their families their communities and ultimately the nation as a whole By the winter of 1848 whispers of a gold strike had drifted eastward across the country but few easterners believed it The gold discovery needed validation and President Polk was just the one to deliver it In his opening address to Congress on December 5 1848 Polk said that at the time of the California acquisition it was known that mines of the precious metals exsisted to some extent Recent discoveries render it probable that these mines are more extensive and valuable than was anticipated The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief were they not corroborated by authentic reports Johnson 38 With Polks address making headlines around the world Gold Fever had begun The future forty-niners now under the influence of Gold Fever had to overcome a
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