The Rush is On

The etymology of the name CALIFORNIA is uncertain. Some writers have pretended that it comes from arabic and relates to the caliphate ??? Others say it has a derivation from the two Latin words calida fornax, or, in the Spanish language, caliente fornalla -- “a hot furnace.” This story, however, is doubted by Michael Venegas, a Mexican Jesuit, in his Natural and Civil History of California (2 vols. Madrid, 1758). In his opinion, the early Spanish explorers did not name new-found lands in such a pedantic fashion. “I am therefore inclined to think,” says he, “that this name owed its origin to some accident; possibly to some {native} words spoken ... and misunderstood,” as happened in many other situations, {including the name of the Hightower Trail}.  found at

We do know, however, that California is called the Golden State. The famous bridge in San Fransisco is known as the Golden Gate Bridge. These names apply because a Swiss born immigrant at Sutter's Mill found gold in a stream on January 24th 1848.

Before gold was discovered in 1848, there were vineyards as far north as Napa and Sonoma counties. However, the Gold Rush brought a wine boom which was enhanced by the state of California in 1859 when it exempted new vineyards from taxation. Even France acknowledged California had a climate that made it capable of someday “becoming a serious competitor” to France in fine wine production.

Why go to California? In that ridge lies more gold than man ever dreamt of. There's gold in it ! -- GA Gold Rush Tunnel diverts Etowah River

Jay, Roger, Mac & Bob

The original When & Why the graphic: The first Cub Scout Gold Rush Day in the Hightower Trail District was October 30, 1999, at Stone Mountain Park. The graphic above shows our then District Director, District Executive and District Chairman working a claim. Our District Commissioner runs to join them.

Georgia Gold Rush (1828) -- Western Gold Rush Links -- Gold Rush Search

Gold was the primary reason for Hernando De Soto to visit the North Georgia region in the early 1540's. Native Americans along the Chattahoochee River north of present day Atlanta routinely panned for and found significant amounts of gold. Spanish miners formed small mining settlements that operated almost continuously in this region until the early 1700's. Since that time, too, the Chestatee River has been panned, dammed, logged, and dredged into a different river than the Cherokees once knew.

Real Audio History of the Gold Rush of 1848 Goldrush Trail

California as I Saw It

Many people are surprised to learn for centuries, gold, silver, copper and diamonds have been found in northern Michigan. In particular, gold has been found in over 100 places. Douglass Houghton, the first state geologist, initially discovered it, while camped near the present site of Negaunee in 1845. Houghton returned from a solo excursion with rock specimens carrying enough free gold to fill an eagle’s quill {not a protected species then}. Fearing that his men would desert him to search for gold, he kept the find a secret, although Houghton showed the metal to a trusted associate, Samuel Worth Hill, (the veteran mineral explorer whose penchant for spicy language has been immortalized in the euphemism What the Sam Hill !). Houghton drowned later that year (1945) when his canoe capsized in a storm near Eagle Harbor. The exact location of his gold find died with him.

March 1, 1848: Irish born, Augustus Saint-Gaudens entered this world in Dublin Ireland, but immigrated to New York City before the year was out. Five weeks before his birth, on January 24, 1848, a Swiss-born immigrant at Sutter's Mill, California, found a gold nugget in a fast-flowing waterway. Among his many accomplishments, Saint-Gaudens designed the last regularly issued, and many would argue most beautiful, of the U.S. $10 and $20 gold pieces (1907) -- called eagles and double-eagles. While he had already become a world-famous sculptor and designer during the 19th-20th Century, his coin designs truely culminated the art of a gilded age. see (ignore Insurance promo)

A few years earlier, sometime in late 1848: Some of the first gold shipments from California arrived at the mint in Philadelphia. This event resulted in some coins minted with the letters Cal in the back; however, a Gold Medal of Zachary Taylor's victory at Buena Vista (February 23, 1847) is the only object that can be traced to the very first shipment. Once thought to be lost, it was rediscovered and was auctioned in October 2006. It broke records for a medallion, because of its uniqueness and tie with the first California gold. In case you missed the symbolism on the reverse -- The Rattle Snake (USA) is about to bite Kukulkan/Quatzequatel of the Mexican Empire & Republic.

We get mail - January 2015: "Thanks for making your page - available - with information on the California gold rush! As a retired Social Studies teacher (32 years!) I'm keeping busy by volunteering at my local library. We hold after school tutoring sessions open to kids of all grade levels. Your page has been a big with the gold rush resources...Westward Expansion has always been one of my favorite subjects!

"One of the kids found this video when doing some studying: America the Story of Us: Gold Rush - Everyone loved it - including me! The video was short and sweet. This page also had a ton of information on general California history that you might like, too -

"I know you're probably busy, but could you take a minute to include a link to it on your page? If there is anything that I've learned in my years of working with the youth, it's that encouragement is such a powerful thing! I'd love to show my helper that he's on the right track! I'll be meeting with the group tomorrow!"

October 30, 1864: Toward the end of the War Between the States, the town of Helena, Montana, is founded when four Georgia prospectors discover gold at Last Chance Gulch. Lewis and Clark's travels brought them close to the bonanza -- Soon, fires would be lighted in Georgia to mark the event.
August 16, 1898: Gold was discovered at Bonanza Creek in Alaska, more specifically, the Klondike region of this US Territory. North to Alaska, the rush was on to strike it rich, a dream realized by just a few. The postcard to the left is one I got in Alaska in 1960. Click on it to view full-size.

In the same year, John Wayne would help portray the life and times of the men who went way up north, in a fairly light-hearted way. Featured in the film was a song by Johnny Horton, of the same name as the movie, which was his last single before death (peaked at #4 on the Pop Chart and #1 on the Country Billboard list). Horton perished in a car wreck in November 1960, shortly after the release. It is claimed that he forsaw the accident caused by a drunken driver. Columbia Records distributed his greatest hits compilation post-mortem in 1961, which included 13 of his more folk-oriented songs, rather than his country western contributions, including the now famous North to Alaska. For those of you interested in all of his artistry, Johnny Horton Live at the Louisiana Hayride - (released 2006) is the latest compendium, which includes many of his country tunes. Big Sam left Seattle in the year of ninety-two, with George Pratt, his partner, and brother Billy too. They crossed the Yukon River and found the bonanza gold, below that old white mountain, just a little southeast of Nome. The song was performed over the movie credits. Interestingly on this date in 2006, Google provides free wireless access to the World Wide Web for everyone living in its hometown, Mountain View -- a little nugget of California gold.

An interesting phenomena of the last few years are the Gold Mining shows about surface mining in Alaska (and in the Canadian Yukon), as well as dredging off its coast (water and ice). The get rich schemes are never quite as easy as they seem on paper. A lesson learned in an entertaining way.

Revised last: 01/29/15 @ 0823 EST