California Gold Rush
In the cold morning hours of January 24, 1848, James Marshall
, a construction foreman at Sutter’s Mill, was inspecting the water flow through the mill’s tail race. The sawmill, on the banks of the American River in Coloma
, was owned by John A. Sutter
, who desperately needed lumber for the building of a large flour mill. On that particular morning, Marshall
not only found the water to be flowing adequately through the mill, but also spied a shiny object twinkling in the frigid stream. Stooping to pick it up, he looked with awe at a pea-sized gold nugget lying within his hand.
He immediately went to visit Elizabeth Jane "Jennie" Wimmer, the camp cook and laundress, who had grown up in a prospecting family.
Ms. Wimmer used a lye soap solution overnight to verify that the 1/3 ounce nugget Marshall
had found was true gold. Dubbing it the Wimmer Nugget, which was later appraised at $5.12, Marshall
gave it to her on a necklace. It would later be displayed at the Columbian Exposition of 1893.