This is an interesting read, and presents some startling statistics I had never seen before. Of those traveling to California over the California trail perhaps as many as 4000 people died on the trip. This is understandable, as it was a very hard road. Also many people traveled this route; in 1849 alone over 20,000. Most died from disease, especially cholera.
The fact that is even more remarkable is the number of the gold miners who also died. “One of every five forty-niners died from disease or accident the first six months of arriving in California.” That is a significant statistic.
The story starts with the journey to California, around South America, over the Isthmus of Panama, or the California Trail. It talks of some of the hardships with these options, but the goal was to arrive at Sacramento.
Although most of the miners were Yankees, not all. A quarter were mixed ethnic backgrounds, mostly Chinese. Those of other ethnic groups were not treated well. Eventually a miner’s tax was imposed on foreigners, and many returned home.
Native Americans were treated even more poorly. They were expelled by mining communities, and often succumbed to new diseases brought by the miners. Many towns offered a bounty for them, so many were murdered.
Only a few people made a fortune in the gold mines. By 1852 most of the mining was done by large companies with large machines, which ended to gold rush. Even so 300,000 people arrived in California during this period. Those who did become wealthy, mostly did so in merchandising rather than in mining.