The California Gold Rush Gold was first discovered in California by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill near the city of Coloma, California. The story goes back to 1848. James was building a sawmill for John Sutter… …when he saw something shining in the river. They both tested the metal– it was gold. Soon, the word got out; it was no longer a secret. Not many Americans lived in California, but that soon changed. By 1849, thousands upon thousands of people arrived in search of gold. The journey to California was dangerous. Some would go by sea from the east coast… …or on land along the California Trail. These people would become known as the 49ers. One way to find gold was to pan for it. Miners would sink the pan into the water and shake the dirt away to reveal any gold. Miners needed a lot of equipment, including a mining pan, a shovel, a pick, and food supplies. Businesses who sold this equipment to the miners often became richer than the miners could ever be themselves. Wherever gold or silver was discovered, miners would move in and set up camp. These would often grow into boom towns, which would become deserted once all the gold opportunities had dried up. So, was the gold rush worth it? Some became wealthy, but most returned home empty-handed. Subscribe to see more fun history videos. Get Simple History: The Wild West today.