1848-1850: A Timeline

  • The Gold Rush begins in 1848 and ends around 1856.
  • More than 90,000 people make their way to California in the two years following the discovery of gold, and more than 300,000 by 1854.
  • When gold is discovered in 1848, there were only seven Chinese in California. By 1852 there are at least 20,000 Chinese and still arriving.
  • John Sutter Jr. was convinced by Samuel Brannan to lay out a new town on the banks of the Sacramento River.
  • Between 1848 and 1856 about $465 million worth of gold is taken out. The first year $10 million worth of gold is found. The remaining years $40 million to $60 million is found.
  • In 1848 California has fewer than 300,000 head of cattle. By 1860 cattle increase to 3 million head.
  • Merchants and saloon keepers provide the first banking service.
  • African Americans were among the first miners.



  • 1st - The mill frame is raised at Sutter's Mill in Coloma.
  • 1st - Non-Indian population is 18,000 and the land still technically belongs to Mexico.
  • 24th - James Marshall discovers gold in the tailrace of the sawmill in Coloma, which is being built for John Sutter.
  • 28th - James Marshall rides to Sutter's Fort to report the discovery of gold to John Sutter. After testing the gold, Marshall returns to Coloma.
  • 29th - John Sutter leaves Sutter's Fort to travel to Coloma to view the discovery site. After viewing the site he asks his workers to keep the gold discovery a secret for the next six weeks.
  • 2nd - The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed by Mexico, selling the Mexican Cession, including all of California to the United States for $15 million. The treaty is proclaimed by the president on June 19, but the news of treaty proclamation does not reach California until Aug. 7.
  • 14th - John C. Frémont resigns from military service.
  • 9th - First gold rocker is used.
  • 11th - Sutter's Mill is completed and tried, followed by another week's work on the tailrace. The mill is ready to begin operation.
  • 11th - Gold is found by Mormons on the south fork of the American River. Gold is discovered on a bar opposite a little island which becomes Mormon Island.
  • 15th - The Californian, a San Francisco newspaper, is the first to print a story regarding the discovery of gold.
  • 25th - The California Star reports the discovery of gold.
  • 12th - The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. is organized and builds three side-wheelers, the California, the Oregon, and the Panama.
  • 12th - Samuel Brannan a storekeeper at Sutter's Fort, publisher of a newspaper, The California Star, and first millionaire in California, stirs up excitement about gold. He gathers a bottle full of gold dust and rides to San Francisco.
  • Brannan runs up and down the streets shouting, "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!" And the rush is on. Two thousand copies of Samuel Brannan's special edition of his California Star reach Missouri by the end of July.
  • 16th - Claude Chana and a party of Indians discover gold at Auburn Ravine, enroute to Coloma.
  • 21st - Samuel Kyburz opens a hotel at Sutter's Fort.
  • 29th - The Californian's publication is suspended due to Gold Rush. It resumes publishing Aug. 14.
  • Sutter's Mill is shut down in the middle of May due to high water.
  • 14th - The California Star suspends publication due to lack of subscribers. It resumes its publication in November.
  • 20th - Alcalde Walter Colton describes the excitement in Monterey.
  • At Sutter's Fort 10 to 12 stores are in operation.
  • 6th - News reaches California of the conclusion of the war between Mexico and the United States.
  • 7th - Gov. Richard B. Mason officially proclaims the end of the war at the capital in Monterey.
  • 19th - The New York Herald prints an item on the discovery of gold.
  • 14th - John Augustus Sutter Jr. arrives from Switzerland in hope of trying to salvage his father's business affairs.
  • Charles Weber's mining company headquarters is located in Tuleburg. He resurveys the land and renames the town Stockton.
  • 6th - The first ship of the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. the California, sets sail from New York to California.
  • 14th - John Sutter transfers his property around Sutter's Fort to his son John Sutter Jr.
  • The first ship leaves the East Coast for California with gold seekers aboard.
  • 5th - President James K. Polk verifies the news of California's gold discovery in a speech he delivers during the fourth annual message to Congress.
  • Sacramento is surveyed and the city streets are laid out by Capt. William H. Warner and Lt. (later Gen.) William Tecumseh Sherman.
  • John Sutter, being short on funds, sells his half interest in the sawmill for $6,000 to John Winters and Alden S. Bayley. James Marshall retains his one-third interest.
  • The second Pacific Mail Steamship vessel, the Oregon, sets sail from New York to California.



  • 8th - An auction is held at Sutter's Fort for the sale of lots near the fort. Lots near the river increase in demand.
  • A meeting is held in Sacramento and a resolution is passed opposing slavery in California.
  • 8th-18th - Heavy December rains cause the American and Sacramento Rivers to crest. Buildings and merchandise sustain hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage.
  • 22nd -The Alta California becomes the first daily newspaper in California.
  • The first recorded execution for murder is held in Old Dry Diggings (Placerville).
  • 1st - The steamship Oregon from the Pacific Mail Steamship Co. arrives in San Francisco, carrying the first mail, California treasures and passengers.
  • Vigilantes drive away masses of Chileans, Mexicans and Peruvians from Sutter's Mill.
  • First wagon train departure from Missouri and Iowa traveling to California for the Gold Rush. Over 20,000 people make the trip.
  • 28th - First issue of the Placer Times is printed at Sutter's Fort by Edward Kemble.
  • 28th - Ferry service to Mormon Island is started by Samuel Brannan.
  • The Embarcadero (Old Sacramento) population is estimated at 150 people. By October it is estimated at 6,000.
  • In late spring a bridge is constructed across the American River in Coloma, becoming the first bridge across a river in California, or west of the Mississippi River.
  • 18th - The sailing ship Grey Eagle with 34 passengers, arrives in San Francisco in 113 days, a record from the east.
  • 4th - The Pacific Mail Steamship Co.'s California, Oregon, and Panama establish a regular round trip schedule ferrying gold seekers and mail between Panama and San Francisco.
  • 15th - President James K. Polk dies of cholera in Nashville, Tenn.
  • 22nd - Stephen C. Massett opens a series of entertainments with a concert in the Old Police Court in San Francisco.
  • 23rd - Two nuggets, one 40 ounces and the other 25 pounds, are discovered on the north fork of the American River and are reported in The Placer Times.
  • By the end of June, 11 wholesale houses and 14 smaller stores are located at the Embarcadero.
  • 4th - Daily Alta California steam press, the first in the West, goes into operation.
  • In Sacramento during the second week of July the thermometer reaches 114 degrees at noon.
  • The City Hotel uses timbers from John Sutter's grist mill. It opens during the summer at the Embarcadero (Old Sacramento).
  • Sacramento's first City Council is elected but is opposed by city's gambling interests, who want no formal government.
  • 1st - Elections are held for delegates to California's Constitutional Convention.
  • 7th - Wright & Co. of San Francisco asks for permission to mint $5 and $10 gold coins to relieve money famine.
  • 14th - Thomas Tennent begins weather observation on the roof of the building located at the corner of Union and Dupont in San Francisco. He also records earthquakes.
  • 15th -The George Washington, the first river steamboat in California, leaves Benicia and arrives in Sacramento on Aug. 17.
  • 3rd - Delegates meet at Colton Hall in Monterey to write a constitution. The constitutions of New York and Iowa are used as models.
  • 13th - Fire strikes the city of Sacramento.
  • The first civil suit is tried by a jury of six before the first magistrate J.S. Thomas in Sacramento.
  • 13th - The state constitution is approved by convention in Monterey. The motto of the state of California is to be "Eureka."
  • 18th - Eagle Theatre opens with a production of "The Bandit Chief."
  • 29th - Candidates for election to the Legislature and Congress meet in front of Sacramento's City Hotel.
  • 29th - Rowe's Olympic Circus and the Ethiopian Serenaders perform in San Francisco.
  • People start leaving Europe for California.
  • The first brick house, the Anchor, is completed by G. Zins in Sacramento.
  • Steamboats Mint and McKim introduce a more regular service between Sacramento and San Francisco. But by Nov. 6, the Senator surpasses both by arriving in Sacramento in nine hours and sets a record on Nov. 7.
  • Chileans and Mexicans dominate the southern mines in 1849 and 1850. They knew how to separate gold from gravel by using a process called "winnowing," which involves shaking blankets filled with dirt until only gold remains. They are also experts at tunnel and shaft mining.
  • According to Dr. Logan's rain gauge, 36 inches of rain fell between Oct. 28, 1849, and March 22, 1850.
  • 8th - The trial of C.E. Pickett for justifiable homicide is the first criminal conviction of a thief. It began in January in Sacramento.
  • 13th - A state constitution is drawn up in California. It is ratified by a popular vote (12,872 vote yes and 811 vote no).
  • Peter H. Burnett is elected governor. William Sherwood and John Sutter were defeated by a wide margin.
  • Indians have no political or legal rights, according to the 1849 California constitution.
  • 1st - Six steamers sail the Sacramento River between San Francisco and Sacramento. Fare is $30.
  • 20th - Peter H. Burnett is sworn in as California's first elected governor.
  • Immediately thereafter, the legislature elects John C. Frémont and William M. Gwin to be U.S. senators.
  • 21st - Peter H. Burnett presents his inaugural speech as governor in San Jose.
  • 24th - A large fire destroys most of San Francisco.
  • California's first Legislature is located in San Jose. By 1858 San Jose became the center of trade.


  • 5th - The California Exchange opens.
  • 16th - San Francisco's first dramatic entertainment, "The Wife," presented at Washington Hall.
  • 16th - Several earthquake shocks felt in San Francisco.
  • 18th - A minor gold rush occurs in the streets of Sacramento when shiny flakes are discovered at the foot of J Street.
  • Ten days of flooding wipe out the town.
  • 27th - The city of Sacramento is incorporated.
  • Nevada City is organized as a town.
  • 4th - Another fire strikes Sacramento.
  • 9th - The State Library is founded.
  • 13th - A foreign miners' tax is passed by the California Legislature. Foreign miners have to pay a monthly license fee of $20 to give them the right to mine for gold.
  • 1st - The Panama sails for the East with $1,500,156 in gold dust.
  • 4th - Fires devastates San Francisco second time.
  • 6th - District Court is opened in Sacramento. By October of 1850 some 450 cases are on the docket.
  • 4th - A fire department is formally organized in San Francisco. The first engine is the Empire Engine Company No. 1.
  • 14th - Third fire destroys San Francisco.
  • Fire departments have become some of the most efficient organizations of their kind.
  • The first recognized discovery of gold quartz is made in Grass Valley.
  • 1st - The first overland mail delivery west of the Mississippi begins between Independence, Mo. and Salt Lake City.
  • 9th - President Zachary Taylor dies in office in Washington, D.C. Millard Fillmore succeeds Taylor as president.
  • 23rd - Stockton is incorporated as a city.
  • By the summer the "Long Tom" was widely used as a mining tool. It supplemented the cradle.
  • 6th - Marysville Herald is published.
  • 13th - Bill for the admission of California passes the Senate. Vote is 34 to 18.
  • 14th - Squatters riot in the streets of Sacramento.
  • During August and September a financial crisis involves the leading banks and merchants in Sacramento.
  • From 15,000 to 20,000 Mexicans and perhaps as many Chileans, prepare to leave or have left California for their own countries.
  • 7th - House of Representatives passes the California bill. Vote is 150 to 56. All the votes against it come from Southerners.
  • 9th - California is admitted as a slave-free state. It becomes the 31st state. First 27 counties are formed. More than 120,000 people live in the state.
  • 10th - Levees are constructed in Sacramento.
  • 11th - California delegation presented in Washington, D.C.
  • 17th - The fourth great fire strikes San Francisco.
  • 7th - Second general election under the state constitution takes place.
  • 15th - The riverboat New World arrives in Sacramento.
  • 18th - Steamer Oregon arrives in San Francisco with news that California has been admitted to the Union.
  • 20th - A cholera plague kills off 15 percent of the population in Sacramento, more than 500 people. Many of the deceased are buried in a mass grave in the City Cemetery at Broadway and 10th Street. The outbreak begins Oct. 20 and ends Nov. 12.
  • 23rd - The first national women's rights convention is held in Worchester, Mass.
  • 29th - A new star is added to the flag.
  • The Settlers and Miners Tribune is established by James McClatchy and two others.
More on 1850:
  • Flooding and fires occur in Sacramento in 1850.
  • A flood destroys the Eagle Theatre.
  • A temporary town is established near where California State University, Sacramento, is today.
  • More women have arrived at the camps but men still outnumber women 10-to-1.
  • During 1850 the female population in California is less than 8 percent of the total population. In the mining towns the proportion falls below 2 percent.
  • W.P. Fuller Paint Co. and Rivett's Carpet Cleaning Works begin as one store: the John Rivett and W.P. Fuller carpet and upholstery business at 128 K St., Sacramento.
  • San Francisco introduces street lamps.
  • The town of Coloma is surveyed and Main Street is laid out.
  • The first quartz mill is located in Grass Valley.
  • Two flour mills are established in Sacramento.
  • In the spring a foundry is established as the Cal. Steam Engine Works.
  • Machine shops start.
  • The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 provides for the return of escaped slaves who have crossed state lines. This law is a threat to those fugitives who found refuge in the North.
  • The Sacramento Jockey Club is established. A quarter-mile track is located in Brighton.
  • Beginning in 1850 and lasting until 1863, Indians and other non-whites could not testify against whites in California courts.
  • P. Kadell begins brewing.
  • The Rev. Peter Augustine Anderson is the first American priest in California. Mass is said at 5th and L streets.
  • St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church, established in 1850, becomes the focal point of African American political and social activity in Northern California.
  • Sacramento Transcript is founded in 1850.
  • The census of 1850 finds that 73 percent of California's population is between the ages of 20 and 40, and 92 percent is male.