Ohio History Journal

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Social Studies Instructor, Pleasant Township High School,

Marion County, Ohio


On January 24, 1848, James Wilson Marshall discovered

flakes of gold in the tailrace of a sawmill he and John Sutter were

erecting about fifty miles northeast of Sutter's Fort in Upper Cali-

fornia. As news of Marshall's discovery spread along the Pacific

coast and then to all sections of the nation, thousands of Ameri-

cans rushed by land and by sea to the new E1 Dorado in quest of

quick fortune. By September 1848, Ohio newspapers had con-

firmed reports of rich gold deposits in California, and an army of

Buckeye citizens, infected by the gold fever, joined in the mad

rush for material gain in the Far West.

The exact number of Ohioans who went to California in

search of gold during 1849 and 1850 of course is not known. The

editor of the Ohio Statesman estimated that at least twenty thou-

sand Ohioans thronged to Pacific shores in 1849.1 Cist's Weekly

Advertiser (Cincinnati) of March 14, 1849, believed that "the

emigration to California from the State of Ohio, will not average

less than one hundred and twenty persons from each of the coun-

ties, or ten thousand individuals from the entire state."  In the

light of federal census statistics, both of these estimates appear

to be excessive. According to the Seventh Census, which was

taken in 1850, there were 5,500 Ohioans in California.2 This

figure represents approximately six percent of the total popula-

tion of California in 1850. Applying this percentage to the total

California population of 1852 as derived from a state census and


* This article, slightly revised, is taken from a chapter in the author's unpub-

lished master's thesis, The Impact of the California Gold Rush on Ohio and Ohioans

(Ohio State University, 1949).

1 Ohio Statesman (Columbus), April 6, 1849.

2 Seventh Census of the United States: 1850 (Washington, 1853), xxxvi.