The Start of the Rush
January 24, 1848 - Today was the day that James Marshall found gold in California. The discovery kicked off a Gold Rush that would bring over 300,000 people to California.
Marshall's find was an accident. He had been widening a drainage channel for his employer's mill. Upon close inspection he noticed some shiny flakes in the excavated riverbank. He immediately knew he'd found gold. After further testing and validation, it turned out his gold was of very high quality.
Marshall never got rich from the discovery. In fact, the sawmill he as working on failed when all the employees abandoned their jobs to search for gold.
For the next four decades he bounced around California as a prospector and mine owner, but none of his ventures ever panned out.
Marshall was living in a one-room shack when he died in 1885.