Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/179

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175
GOLD MINING IN THE UNITED STATES

while to the south, the gold formation, after passing through part of Alabama, disappears under the younger formations of the lower Mississippi Valley.

The annual production in the southern states never reached much over $1,000,000, and up to 1847 the total had been $34,537,000.[1] After that time the production fell off considerably, and though it rose later under the general stimulus to gold mining caused by the California discoveries, it soon fell again. Mining still continues, however, to the present day, and the production some years reaches several hundred thousand dollars, in others only a small part of this amount. The experience people had obtained in gold mining in the south and the fact that the production of that region was on the wane, caused them to be quickly attracted to new fields when the reports of the discoveries in California reached the east in 1848.

Period from 1848-1859

The gold of California was known long before 1848, but the knowledge concerning it was too vague to attract much attention. About 1769, when California was a remote Mexican province, the Franciscan monks began to establish missions along the coast for the conversion of the Indians, and gradually extended their influence over them, employing many in rural pursuits and trading with the others. The missions became the seats of government of prosperous communities, and the Indians from the outside, who came to trade for provisions and clothes, were observed to be always well provided with gold dust for this purpose. The monks thus became aware that an abundance of gold existed on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, but they feared the effect such news would cause if it reached the outside world. They remembered the cruelties that had been practised by the early explorers of Mexico and South America in their mad rush for gold, how the land had been devastated, towns destroyed and whole tribes almost annihilated by the plunderers. They knew that there would be a rush to California if its wealth became known, and they feared that the man of their own day would be no more conscientious in his methods of securing gold than had been the man of the sixteenth century. They saw the possibility of their quiet settlements being disturbed and their power overthrown; hence they concealed their secret. In the meantime a little mining had been done from time to time by adventurous strangers who came that way, but the results were not sufficiently important to attract much attention, and the gold of California did not become generally known until it was discovered by Americans in their irresistible trend westward.

The discovery was made by James W. Marshall in the latter part of

  1. Report of the Director of the Mint, 1910.