Gold Rush Paper

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One moment the California creek beds glimmered with
gold; the next, the same creeks ran red with the blood of
men and women defending their claims or ceding their bags
of gold dust to bandits. The “West” was a ruthless territory
during the nineteenth century. With more than enough gold
dust to go around early in the Gold Rush, crime was rare,
but as the stakes rose and the easily panned gold dwindled,
robbery and murder became a part of life on the frontier.

The “West” consisted of outlaws, gunfighters, lawmen,
whores, and vigilantes. There are many stories on how the
“West” begun and what persuaded people to come and
explore the new frontier, but here, today, we are going to
investigate those stories and seek to find what is fact or
what is fiction. These stories will send you galloping through
the tumultuous California territory of the mid-nineteenth
century, where disputes were settled with six shooters and
the lines of justice
were in a continuous chaos.
Where’s the West
How and where did the West begin? This is the question
that is asked most often and there is never a straight
-forward answer. Everyone has their own opinion on the
subject: “Oh, it started sometime in the nineteenth century,”
or “The west is really just considered to be Oklahoma,
Texas, and Kansas.” Whatever happened to California
actually being considered the “West?” With all honesty,
even into the twentieth century, California is not thought of
as being the “West,” or the “West” in the manner in which
Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas are thought of. Cowboys,
horses, and cattle are only considered to be in the central
states, but what about California? To give a straight-
forward answer on where and how the “Real West” or
even the “Wild West” began; it began by a millhouse
worker named James Marshall. On the morning of January
24, 1848, Marshall was working on his mill and looked
down in the water and saw a sparkling dust floating along
the creek bed (Erdoes 116). Assuming it was gold, he told
his fellow workers what he had found and they began
searching for the mysterious metallic dust as well. Four
days later Marshall rode down to Sutter’s Fort, in what is
now Sacramento, and showed John Sutter what he had
found. They weighed and tested the metal and became
convinced that it was indeed gold. John Sutter wanted to
keep the discovery secret, but that was going to be
impossible. The rumor flew and Sutter’s mill workers,
which were Mormon, caught wind of it and began
searching for their own fortune. Shortly after they fled, they
too found gold. The site in which they found their fortunes
became known as Mormon Island, the first mining camp to
be established after the discovery of gold at Marshall’s mill
(Erdoes 119). From that moment on, the west began to
boom in population and prosper in every direction.
First Blood
Gold fever caught on in a hurry, and this attracted many
different people to the new frontier. Dreams of gold and
success sparkled in the eyes of every cotton picker, farmer,
and blue- collar worker west of the Mississippi. Once the
fever spread across the nation and throughout the
territories, bloodshed was going to be inevitable. Greed
takes a toll on the mind of many and convinces people to
do things that aren’t even logical. People become very
protective of their property and are willing to do anything to
protect it, even defend it to their death. The violence must
have started somewhere and at sometime over
something…. But when? On the night of October 1, 1848,
eight months after James Marshall’s discovery, several men
were sleeping in James Marshall’s sawmill, originally owned
by John Sutter (Erdoes 137). Peter Raymond began
banging on the door of the mill. Raymond, a twenty- one
year old sailor from Dublin, Ireland, was drunk and irritated
for not striking his fortune as fast as he planned. Raymond
staggered in demanding more liquor from the now
awakened men. John Von Pfister, arose and as a
precaution shoved his knife into his waistband. Von Pfister
managed to quiet the drunken sailor down and set him
down on a bench to rest. Von Pfister leans over and says
“Rest now my friend and we’ll be laughing about this in the
morning” (Brown 13). Raymond sticks one hand out for a
shake and with his other he strips Von Pfister of his knife
and buries the blade into his heart. It is ironic that the first
murder in the Gold Rush, the first of many that would
follow, took place at the

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