JANUARY 24, 1848 ~ James Marshall, construction boss of Sutter's mill in Coloma, discovers what appears to be gold in the tailrace on this winter day. His preliminary test involves dropping the metal into a pot of boiling soap, which has no effect on the metal. Marshall believes he has found gold. He is soon off to see John Sutter in the Sacramento Valley.
JANUARY 28, 1848 ~ Marshall arrives at Sutter's Fort, where Sutter further tests the gold and proves that it is, in fact, real gold.
FEBRUARY 2, 1848 ~ The Mexican War officially ends with the signing of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty. The United States formally obtains possession of the California territory.
FEBRUARY 6, 1848 ~ Mill workers become the first argonauts, though pledged to secrecy about the discovery. They sneak off to pry nuggets out of the rocks.
MID-FEBRUARY, 1848 ~ Sutter sends Charles Bennett to Monterey to secure land rights (particularly mineral rights!) at Coloma. It was supposed to be a secret mission, but that turned out to be a mission impossible! Bennett told everyone he met about the gold.
MARCH 1848 ~ Mormon Island is the first mining camp set up outside Coloma. Sutter, who kept a daily log of events, reported that he was losing all his men to the gold fields.
MARCH 11, 1848 ~ Marshall completes the sawmill and it is operated for about five years before miners tear it down for its lumber. They had exhausted the timber supply there and needed the wood from the mill to build cabins.
MARCH 15, 1848 ~ A San Francisco newspaper prints the first story of the gold discovery, but most people ignore it.
LATE MARCH 1848 ~ John Bidwell visits Coloma and reckons there's more gold in the Sierra foothills. He begins mining.
APRIL 1848 ~ John Bidwell makes a rich strike at Bidwell's Bar.
APRIL 1, 1848 ~ A messenger from San Francisco leaves for the East coast with the gold discovery "rumor".
MAY 1848 ~ There are 800 miners in Coloma, Mormon Island, Kelsey's Diggins, and other areas around Sutter's Mill. Daylor, Sheldon, and McCoon make one of the biggest strikes at Dry Diggins (which became Hangtown and Placerville). Gold is also discovered at the Yuba River near Long Barn. Claude Chana and company make a strike at North Fork Dry Diggins (which became Auburn). George Angel builds a trading post on Calaveritas Creek (which became Angels Camp). Drytown is established. San Francisco is finally convinced that "there's gold in them thar hills" and the mass exodus to the foothills begins.
JUNE 1, 1848 ~ There's an estimated 2,000 miners working in the foothills, just a little over four months from Marshall's discovery.
JUNE 14, 1848 ~ San Francisco is virtually deserted. Businesses have been suspended due to lack of customers and proprietors.
JUNE 20, 1848 ~ A messenger arrives in Monterey with a pocketful of nuggets found at Coloma. Peninsula residents "head for the hills" en mass.
JUNE 24, 1848 ~ A Hawaiian newspaper reports the gold discovery, and the first ships leave the islands in June, loaded with argonauts.
JULY 1848 ~ An estimated 4,000 miners are now working the foothills. Colonel R. B. Mason, Military Governor of California, tours Coloma and confirms the richness of the placers. Los Angeles hears of the discovery and the first miners head north. John Sutter and a company of Native Americans make a strike at Sutter Creek, his only serious mining effort. Murphys is settled by none other than the Murphy brothers, John and Daniel.
AUGUST 1848 ~ Rumors reach the East coast without confirmation. News reaches Valparaiso and several thousand Chileans head for California. The ships from Hawaii stop in Oregon before heading for San Francisco, and this starts a string of wagon trains south. Jackson, Woods Crossing, Tuttletown, Fiddletown, and Timbuctoo mining camps are started. James Carson is lead to gold on Carson Creek by friendly Indians. Sonora (Sonorian Camp) is the southern most camp settled this year.
SEPTEMBER 1848 ~ Washington, D.C., gets official confirmation of Marshall's discovery. Some miners abandoned the diggins and settle in the Sacramento Valley due to heat and sickness at the mines.
OCTOBER 1848 ~ July's estimated population of 4,000 miners is doubled to 8,000. Word of gold hits Mexico and a mass migration is planned for Spring of 1849.
NOVEMBER 1848 ~ Mokelumne Hill is established. Winter forces many miners to leave. Ships loaded with greenhorn miners leave for California from major East coast cities.
DECEMBER 5, 1848 ~ President Polk delivers a message to Congress confirming the discovery and showing evidence with a box of gold dust that's put on public display. Sutter and Marshall sell most of their interests at Coloma when miners come flooding in.
DECEMBER 23, 1848 ~ An Australian newspaper prints the gold discovery story and hundreds of fossickers set sail for California.