Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

The Discovery of El Dorado

California was so sparsely peopled, in the first half of the nineteenth century, that the Russians tried to get a foothold in it by building a trading station, and several adventurers settled in the places which best suited their fancy.

One of these men was a Swiss, john Sutter, who had been a soldier, and wanted to plant a Swiss colony in California, on the Sacramento River. He was very successful in his ventures, and soon owned large herds of cattle, sheep, and horses. Besides, his farm was thriving, and most of the Western travelers, including Fremont, visited him in the course of their journeys.

Shortly before peace was made with Mexico, and the land really purchased by the United States, a man working for Sutter saw some shiny gravel in a mill race which he was digging. The man picked up a few of these small shiny lumps, and carried them to his employer, who, examining them carefully, saw that they were pure gold.

He tried to keep his discovery a secret, but it soon leaked out. When it became known, every white man dropped his work as a herder, lumberman, or trapper, and began to dig for gold, or to wash the mud and gravel at the bottom of the streams, where sometimes as much as forty dollars' worth of gold dust was found in a panful. A few, more lucky than their companions, found larger lumps, and thus became rich in a few minutes.

Sutter's Mill


The news of the wonderful discovery spread like wildfire, passed over the mountains, reached the nearest telegraph station, and thence flashed all over the country, creating the wildest excitement. On all sides one heard of nothing else, and people remembered how the Indians had told the Spaniards, more than three hundred years before, that there was a land of gold in the West. The Spaniards had vainly sought this "El Dorado," as they called it, which had now been discovered by chance.

As soon as the newspapers began to describe how easily a fortune could be made in California by a few days of digging, hosts of men started westward. But the journey was long and dangerous, no matter what road one took to get there. Some went by sea, sailing around Cape Horn. Others sailed to Aspin-wall, and made their way as best they could across the unhealthful Isthmus of Panama, waiting on the Pacific coast until some vessel came along to carry them the rest of the way.

Both of these roads were, however, costly as well as tedious, so the majority of the gold seekers set out, on foot, in ox carts, and on horseback, across the plains. Such was the rush for the gold fields in California that before long one could see hundreds of emigrant wagons, and trains of mules, horses, and men afoot, crossing the plains. Of course, there were by this time several ways of getting to California overland, but the most traveled of all the roads was the old Santa Fe trail.

As long as people were on the grass-covered prairies traveling was quite easy, but after a time they came to the desert places and alkali plains, where the fine dust choked both men and beasts. Water was so scarce that many of the animals died of thirst on the way; and as no one stopped to bury them, the road was soon strewn with whitening bones.