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Although the first Europeans came to California from Spain in the 1700s, California didn’t become a territory until 1847 as a result of the Mexican-American War. Within months, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, on the banks of the South Fork of the American River in Coloma. The finding of gold was really a matter of happenstance. Captain John Sutter had hired someone to build him a sawmill, and while using water from the American River, that builder, James W. Marshall, noticed flakes of metal in the water channel below the water mill and realized the flecks were gold. Apparently, Mr. Marshall was not very good at keeping secrets, because though he tried to keep it under cover, the news spread fairly quickly, and the California Gold Rush of 1849 was on. More than 80,000 people poured into the territory in the first year, and by 1850, they were coming from all over the world, including Europe, Australia, South America, and China. California was admitted into the Union, on the fast track, it would seem, in 1850 and has as its capital, the city of Sacramento. Had it not been for the Gold Rush, it would have taken 20 or even 30 years to achieve statehood. By 1852, California’s population had skyrocketed from 14,000 to 250,000, and in the decade of the 1850s, more than 28 million ounces of gold were mined. When the War Between the States broke out, California supported the Union by sending gold and supporting several combat units. In 1862, the California Column, a unit of Union volunteers, marched east across Arizona and New Mexico, some 900 miles, in order to expel the Confederates from those two territories, turning then to fighting hostile Indians in the region for the rest of the war. Agriculture has a firm hold in here, and these days, about half of the fruit produced in the entire country is grown in California.

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