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sistant of Marshall, and occupied in superintending the Indians digging in the race. Henry W. Bigler was drilling at its head; Charles Bennett and William Scott were working at the bench; Alexander Stephens and James Barger were hewing timber; Azariah Smith and William Johnson were felling trees; and James O. Brown was whip-sawing with a savage.
They were a cheerful set, working with a will, yet with a touch of insouciance, imparted to some extent by the picturesque Mexican sombrero and sashes, and sustained by an interchange of banter at the simplicity or awkwardness of the savages. In Marshall they had a passable master, though sometimes called queer. He was a man fitted by physique and temperament for the backwoods life, which had lured and held him. Of medium size, strong rather than well developed, his features were coarse, with a thin beard round the chin and mouth, cut short like the brown hair; broad forehead and penetrating eyes, by no means unintelligent, yet lacking intellectuality, at times gloomily bent on vacancy, at times flashing with impatience.15 He was essentially a man of moods; his mind was of dual complexion. In the plain and lish pronunciation to Wimmer. Bigler, Diary, MS., 60, has Wemer, which approaches the Weimer form.
14Among those who had set out with Marshall upon the first expedition of construction were Ira Willis, Sidney Willis, William Kountze, and Ezekiel Persons. The Willis brothers and Kountze returned to the fort in September 1847, the two former to assist Sutter in throwing a dam across the American River at the grist-mill, and the latter on account of ill health. Mention is made of one Evans, sent by Sutter with Bigler, Smith, and Johnson, Bennett and Scott following a little later; but whether Evans or Persons were on the ground at this time, or had left, no one states. Bigler, Stephens, Brown, Barger, Johnson, Smith, the brothers Willis, and Kountze had formerly belonged to the Mormon battalion.
Is Broad enough across the chest, free and natural in movement, he thought lightly of fatigue and hardships. His complexion was a little shaded; the mouth declined toward the corners; the nose and head were well shaped. In this estimate I am assisted by an old daguerreotype lying before me, and which reminds me of Marshall's answer to the editor of Hutchings' Magzine in 1857, when asked for his likeness. 'I wish to say that I feel it a duty I owe to myself,' he writes from Coloma the 5th of Sept., to retain my likeness, as it is in fact all I have that I can call my own; and I feel like any other poor wretch, I want something for self. The sale of it may yet keep me from starving, or it may buy me a dose of medicine in sickness, or pay for the funeral of a dog, and such is all that I expect, judging from former kind. nesses. I owe the country nothing.'
proximate, he was sensible and skilful; in the obscure and remote, he was utterly lost. In temper it was so; with his companions and subordinates he was free and friendly; with his superiors and the world at large he was morbidly ill-tempered and surly.16 He was taciturn, with visionary ideas, linked to spiritualism, that repelled confidence, and made him appear eccentric and morbid; he was restless, yet capable of self-denying perseverance that was frequently stamped as obstinacy."7
Early in the afternoon of Monday, the 24th of
16 For example, Bigler, who worked under him, says of him, Diary, MS., 57, 'An entire stranger to us, but proved to be a gentleman;' and again, 72, in a first-rate good humor, as he most always was.' He was a truthful man, so far as he knew the truth. Whatever Mr Marshall tells you, you may rely on as correct,' said the people of Coloma to one writing in Hutchings' Mag., ii. 201. This is the impression he made on his men. On the other hand, Sutter, who surely knew him well enough, and would be the last person to malign any one, says to the editor of the Lancaster Examiner: Marshall was like a crazy man. He was one of those visionary men who was always dreaming about something.' And to me Sutter remarked; He was a very curious man, quarrelled with nearly everybody, though I could get along with him.' Pers. Rem., MS., 160.
17 Passionate, he was seldom violent; strong, he was capable of drinking deeply and coming well out of it; but he did not care much for the pleasures of intoxication, nor was he the drunkard and gambler that some have called him. He was not always actuated by natural causes. Once in a restaurant in San Francisco, in company with Sutter, he broke out: Are we alone?' 'Yes,' Sutter said. 'No, we are not,' Marshall replied, there is a body there which you cannot see, but which I can. I have been inspired by heaven to act as a medium, and I am to tell Major-General Sutter what to do.' But though foolish in some directions, he was in others a shrewd observer. Sutter, Pers. Rem., MS., 160, and Bidwell, Cal. 1841-8, MS., 228, both praise him as a mechanic; and though in some respects a fool, he is still called 'an honest man.' Barstow's Stat., MS., 14; S. F. Alta Cal., Aug. 17, 1874. To dress, naturally, he paid but little attention. He was frequently seen in white linen trousers, buckskin leggings and moccasons, and Mexican sombrero.
18 The 19th of January is the date usually given; but I am satisfied it is incorrect. There are but two authorities to choose between, Marshall, the discoverer, and one Henry W. Bigler, a Mormon engaged upon the work at the time. Besides confusion of mind in other respects, Marshall admits that he does not know the' date. 'On or about the 19th of January,' he says, Hutchings' Magazine, ii. 200; 'I am not quite certain to a day, but it was between the 18th or 20th.' Whereupon the 19th has been generally accepted. Bigler, on the other hand, was a cool, clear-headed, methodical man; moreover, he kept a journal, in which he entered occurrences on the spot, and it is from this journal I get my date. If further evidence be wanting, we have it. Marshall states that four days after the discovery he proceeded to New Helvetia with specimens. Now, by reference to another journal, N. Helvetia Diary, we find that Marshall arrived at the fort on the evening of the 28th. If we reckon the day of discovery as one of the four days, allow Marshall one
IN THE TAIL-RACE.
January, 1848, while sauntering along the tail-race inspecting the work, Marshall noticed yellow particles mingled with the excavated earth which had been washed by the late rains. He gave it little heed at first; but presently seeing more, and some in scales, the thought occurred to him that possibly it might be gold. Sending an Indian to his cabin for a tin plate, he washed out some of the dirt, separating thereby as much of the dust as a ten-cent piece would hold; then he went about his business, stopping a while to ponder on the matter. During the evening he remarked once or twice quietly, somewhat doubtingly, "Boys, I believe I have found a gold mine." "I reckon not, was the response; "no such luck."
Up betimes next morning, according to his custom, he walked down by the race to see the effect of the night's sluicing, the head-gate being closed at daybreak as usual. Other motives prompted his investigation, as may be supposed, and led to a closer examination of the débris. On reaching the end of the race a glitter from beneath the water caught his eye, and bending down he picked from its lodgement against a projection of soft granite, some six inches below the surface, a larger piece of the yellow substance than any he had seen. If gold, it was in value. equal to about half a dollar. As he examined it his heart began to throb. Could it indeed be gold! Or was it only mica, or sulphuret of copper, or other ignis fatuus! Marshall was no metallurgist, yet he had practical sense enough to know that gold is heavy and malleable; so he turned it over, and weighed it in his hand; then he bit it; and then he hammered it between two stones. It must be gold! And the mighty secret of the Sierra stood revealed!
Marshall took the matter coolly; he was a cool enough man except where his pet lunacy was touched. On further examination he found more of the metal.
night on the way, which Parsons gives him, and count the 28th one day, we have the 24th as the date of discovery, trebly proved.
HIST. CAL., VOL. VI. 3
He went to his companions and showed it to them, and they collected some three ounces of it, flaky and in grains, the largest piece not quite so large as a pea, and from that down to less than a pin-head in size. Half of this he put in his pouch, and two days later mounted his horse and rode over to the fort.19
19 The events which happened at Coloma in January 1848 are described by four persons who were actually present. These are Bigler, Marshall, and Wimmer and his wife. Of these Bigler has hitherto given nothing to the public except a brief letter published in the San Francisco Bulletin, Dec. 31, 1870. To me, however, he kindly presented an abstract of the diary which he kept at the time, with elaborations and comments, and which I esteem as one of the most valuable original manuscripts in my possession. The version given in this diary I have mainly followed in the text, as the most complete and accurate account. The others wrote from memory, long after the event; and it is to be feared too often from a memory distorted by a desire to exalt their respective claims to an important share in the discovery. But Bigler has no claims of this kind to support. He was not present when the first particles were discovered, nor when the first piece was picked up in the race; hence of these incidents he says little, confining himself mostly to what he saw with his own eyes. Marshall claims to have been alone when he made the discovery. It is on this point that the original authorities disagree. Bigler says Marshall went down the race alone. Mrs Wimmer and her husband declare that the latter was with Marshall, and saw the gold at the same moment, though both allow that Marshall was the first to stoop and pick it up. Later Mrs Wimmer is allowed to claim the first discovery for her children, who show their findings to their father, he informing Marshall, or at least enlightening him as to the nature of the metal. Marshall tells his own story in a communication signed by him and published in Hutchings' Mag., ii. 199-201, and less fully in a letter to C. E. Pickett, dated Jan. 28, 1856, in Hittell's HandBook of Mining, 12; Wiggins' Rem., MS., 17–18; and in various brief accounts given to newspapers and interviewers. Parsons' Life of Marshall is based on information obtained directly from the discoverer, and must ever constitute a leading authority on the subject. P. L. Wimmer furnished a brief account of the discovery to the Coloma Argus in 1855, which is reprinted in Hittell's Mining, 13. Mrs Wimmer's version, the result of an interview with Mary P. Winslow, was first printed in the S. F. Bulletin, Dec. 19, 1874, though the substance of a previous interview with another person in 1852 is given in the Gilroy Advocate, April 24, 1875. Another class of authorities, as important as the foregoing, is composed of those who were the first to hear of the discovery, and appeared on the ground immediately afterward. Foremost among these is Sutter. This veteran has at various times given accounts of the event to a number of persons, the best perhaps being those printed by J. Tyrwhitt Brooks in his Four Months among the Gold-finders, 40-71, in the Gilroy Advocate of Apr. 24, 1875, and in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 17, 1875, the latter taken from the Lancaster Examiner. Sutter's most complete printed narrative appears, however, in Hutchings' Mag., ii. 194-8. But more important than any of these, because more detailed and prepared with greater care, is the version contained in the manuscript entitled Sutter's Personal Reminiscences, which I personally obtained from his lips. The same may be said of those given in the manuscripts of John Bidwell, California 1841-8, and of Gregson, Historical Statement, both of whom were at New Helvetia when the news first reached there, and at once visited Coloma. Provoked by an article in the Oregon Bulletin, with not very flattering reflections, Samuel Brannan made a statement in the Calistoga Tribune, which changed matters in no important particular. To attempt to give a list of all who have touched upon
Great discoveries stand more or less connected with accident; that is to say, accidents which are sure to happen. Newton was not seeking the law of gravitation, nor Columbus a new continent, nor Marshall gold, when these things were thrust upon them. And had it not been one of these, it would have been some one else to make the discovery. Gold fevers have had their periodic run since time immemorial, when Scythians mined the Ural, and the desert of Gobi lured the dwellers on the Indus; or when Ophir, the goal of Phoenician traders, paled before the splendor of Apulia. The opening of America caused a revival which the disclosures by Cortés and Pizarro turned into a virulent epidemic, raging for centuries,
the discovery of gold in California would be of no practical benefit to any one. Next in importance, but throwing no additional light upon the subject, are those in Alta Val., June 26, 1853, May 5, 1872, June 26, 1873, and Aug. 18 and 19, 1874; Hayes' Col. Mining Cal., i. 1; 8. F. Bulletin, Feb. 4, 1871, Jan. 12, 1872, Oct. 21, 1879, May 12, 1880; Scientific Press, May 11, 1872; Browne's Resources, 14-15; Balch's Mines and Miners, 78; Farnham's Cal., 354-6; London Quarterly Review, xci. 507-8; California Past and Present, 73-105; Weik, Cal. wie es ist, 29-51; Brooks' Hist., 534; Mason's Official Rept; Larkin's Letters to Secy State; Robinson's Gold Region, 33-46; Foster's Gold Regions, 17-22; Shinn's Mining Camps, 105-22; Wiggins' Rem., MS., 17-18; Frost's Hist. Cal., 39-55; Jenkins' Ü. S. Expl. Ex., 431-2; Oakland Times, Mar. 6, 1880; Revere's Tour of Duty, 228-52; Schlagintwrit, Cal., 216; West Shore Gaz., 15; San José Pioneer, Jan. 19, 1878; Pfeiffer, Second Journey, 290, who is as accurate as excursionists generally are; Frignet, Hist. Cal., 79-80; Merced People, June 18, 1872; Mining Rev. and Stock Ledger, 1878, 126; Barstow's Stat., MS., 3; Buffum's Six Months, 67-8; Treasury of Travel, 92-4; Leavitt's Scrap-Book; Nevada Gazette, Jan. 22, 1868; Holinski, La Cal., 144; Grass Valley Union, April 19, 1870; Sacramento Illust., 7; Saxon's Five Years within the Golden Gate; Auger, Voyage en Californie, 149-56; Annals of S. F., 130-2; Cal. Assoc. Pioneer, First Annual, 42; Capron's California, 184-5; Bennett's Rec., MS., ii. 10-13. I have hardly thought it worth while to notice the stories circulated at various times questioning Marshall's claim as discoverer; as, for example, that Wimmer, or his boy, as before mentioned, was the first to pick up gold; or that a native, called Indian Jim, observed the shining metal, a piece as large as a brass button, which he gave to one of the workmen, Sailor Ike, who showed it to Marshall. Even men away from the spot at the time do not decline the honor. Gregson writes in his Statement, MS., 9, ‘we, the discoverers of gold,' and in his History of Stockton, 73, Tinkham says: To those two pioneers of 1839 and 1841, Captain John A. Sutter and Captain Charles M. Weber, belong the honor of discovering the first gold-fields of California, and to them the state owes its wonderful growth and prosperity.' These men were neither of them the discoverers of gold in any sense, nor were they the builders of this commonwealth. Some have claimed that the Mormons discovered the gold at Mormon Island, before Marshall found it at Coloma. Bidwell says that Brigham Young in 1864 assured him that this was the case. Cal. 1841-8, MS., 214. Such manifest errors and misstatements are unworthy of serious consideration. There is not the slightest doubt that Marshall was the discoverer.