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[1] (1803-1880).
Sutter's Fort Area

236. Captain Sutter and his fort; how the captain lived.—At the time when Professor Morse sent his first message by telegraph from Washington to Baltimore (1844), Captain J. A. Sutter, an emigrant from Switzerland, was living near the Sacramento River in California. California then belonged to Mexico. The governor of that part of the country had given Captain Sutter an immense piece of land; and the captain had built a fort at a point where a stream which he named the American River joins the Sacramento River.[2] People then called the place Sutter's Fort, but to-day it is Sacramento City, the capital of the great and rich state of California.

In his fort Captain Sutter lived like a king. He owned land enough to make a thousand fair-sized farms; he had twelve thousand head of cattle, more than ten thousand sheep, and over two thousand horses and mules. Hundreds of laborers worked for him in his wheat-fields, and fifty well-armed soldiers guarded his fort. Quite a number of Americans had built houses near the fort. They thought that the time was coming when all that country would become part of the United States.

1 Sutter (Soo'ter).

2 See map in this paragraph.

237. Captain Sutter builds a saw-mill at Coloma;[3] a man finds some sparkling dust.—About forty miles up the American River was a place which the Mexicans called Coloma, or the beautiful valley. There was a good fall of water there and plenty of big trees to saw into boards, so Captain Sutter sent a man named Marshall to build a saw-mill at that place. The captain needed such a mill very much, for he wanted lumber to build with and to fence his fields.

Marshall set to work, and before the end of January, 1848, he had built a dam across the river and got the saw-mill half done. One day as he was walking along the bank of a ditch, which had been dug back of the mill to carry off the water, he saw some bright yellow specks shining in the dirt. He gathered a little of the sparkling dust, washed it clean, and carried it to the house. That evening after the men had come in from their work on the mill, Marshall said to them, "Boys, I believe I've found a gold mine." They laughed, and one of them said, "I reckon not; no such luck."

Sutter's Saw Mill

3 Coloma (Ko-lo'ma): see map in paragraph 236.

238. Marshall takes the shining dust to Captain Sutter; what he did with it, and how he felt about the discovery.—A few days after that Marshall went down to the fort to see Captain Sutter. Are you alone? he asked when he saw the captain. Yes, he answered. Well, won't you oblige me by locking the door; I've something I want to show you. The captain locked the door, and Marshall taking a little parcel out of his pocket, opened it and poured some glittering dust on a paper he had spread out. "See here," said he, "I believe this is gold, but the people at the mill laugh at me and call me crazy."

Captain Sutter examined it carefully. He weighed it; he pounded it flat; he poured some strong acid on it. There are three very interesting things about gold. In the first place, it is very heavy, heavier even than lead. Next, it is very tough. If you hammer a piece of iron long enough, it will break to pieces, but you can hammer a piece of gold until it is thinner than the thinnest tissue paper, so that if you hold it up you can see the light shining through it. Last of all, if you pour strong acids on gold, such acids as will eat into other metals and change their color, they will have no more effect on gold than an acid like vinegar has on a piece of glass.

For these and other reasons most people think that gold is a very handsome metal, and the more they see of it, especially if it is their own, the better they are pleased with it.

Well, the shining dust stood all these tests.[4] It was very heavy, it was very tough, and the sharp acid did not hurt it. Captain Sutter and Marshall both felt sure that it was gold.

But, strange to say, the captain was not pleased. He wished to build up an American settlement and have it called by his name. He did not care for a gold mine—why should he? for he had everything he wanted without it. He was afraid, too, that if gold should be discovered in any quantity, thousands of people would rush in; they would dig up his land, and quite likely take it all away from him. We shall see presently whether he was right or not.

4 Tests: here experiments or trials made to find out what a thing is.

239. War with Mexico; Mexico lets us have California and New Mexico; "gold! gold! gold!" what happened at Coloma; how California was settled; what happened to Captain Sutter and to Marshall.—While these things were happening we had been at war with Mexico for two years (1846-1848), because Texas and Mexico could not agree about the western boundary line[5] of the new state. Texas wanted to push that line as far west as possible so as to have more land; Mexico wanted to push it as far east as possible so as to give as little land as she could. This dispute soon brought on a war between the United States and Mexico. Soon after gold was discovered at Coloma, the war ended (1848); and we got not only all the land the people of Texas had asked for, but an immense deal more; for we obtained the great territory of California and New Mexico, out of which a number of states and territories have since been made.[6]

US in 1848
Map showing the extent of the United States in 1848, after Mexico let us have California and New Mexico.
Washing Dirt

In May, 1848, a man came to San Francisco holding up a bottle full of gold-dust in one hand and swinging his hat with the other. As he walked through the streets he shouted with all his might, "Gold! gold! gold! from the American River."

Then the rush for Coloma began. Every man had a spade and a pick-axe. In a little while the beautiful valley was dug so full of holes that it looked like an empty honeycomb. The next year a hundred thousand people poured into California from all parts of the United States; so the discovery of gold filled up that part of the country with emigrants years before they would have gone if no gold had been found there.

Captain Sutter lost all his property. He would have died poor if the people of California had not given him money to live on.

Marshall was still more to be pitied. He got nothing by his discovery. Years after he had found the shining dust, some one wrote to him and asked him for his photograph. He refused to send it. He said, "My likeness ... is, in fact, all I have that I can call my own; and I feel like any other poor wretch:[7] I want something for self."

Mirror Lake

5 Western boundary line: the people of Texas held that their state extended west as far as the Rio Grande River, but Mexico insisted that the boundary line was at the Nueces River, which is much further east.

6 Namely: California, Nevada, Utah, and part of Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

7 Wretch: here a very unhappy and miserable person.

240. How we bought more land; our growth since the Revolution.—Long before Captain Sutter died, the United States bought from Mexico another great piece of land (1853), marked on the map by the name of the Gadsden Purchase.[8] A number of years later (1867) we bought the territory of Alaska[9] from Russia.

US in 1853
This map shows the extent of the United States in 1853 after we had added the land called the Gadsden Purchase, bought from Mexico; the land is marked on the map, 1853.

The Revolution ended something over a hundred years ago; if you look on the map in paragraph 187, and compare it with the maps which follow, you will see how we have grown during that time. Then we had just thirteen states[10] which stretched along the Atlantic, and, with the country west of them, extended as far as the Mississippi River.

Next (1803) we bought the great territory of Louisiana (see map in paragraph 188), which has since been divided into many states; then (1819) we bought Florida (see map in paragraph 218); then (1845) we added Texas (see map in paragraph 230); the next year (1846) we added Oregon territory, since cut up into two great states (see map in paragraph 235); then (1848) we obtained California and New Mexico (see map in paragraph 239). Five years after that (1853) we bought the land then known as the Gadsden Purchase (see first map in this paragraph); last of all (1867) we bought Alaska (see second map in this paragraph).

US in 1867
This map shows the territorial growth of the United States from the time of the Revolution to the present day.
Coast of Alaska

8 See first map in this paragraph. It was called the Gadsden Purchase, because General James Gadsden of South Carolina bought it from Mexico for the United States, in 1853. It included what is now part of Southern Arizona and N. Mexico.

9 Alaska: see second map in this paragraph.

10 Thirteen states: see footnote 4 in paragraph 102.

241. "Brother Jonathan's"[11] seven steps.—If you count up these additions, you will see that, beginning with Louisiana in 1803, and ending with Alaska in 1867, they make just seven in all. There is a story of a giant who was so tall that at one long step he could go more than twenty miles; but "Brother Jonathan" can beat that, for in the seven steps he has taken since the Revolution he has gone over three thousand miles. He stands now with one foot on the coast of the Atlantic and with the other on that of the Pacific.

11 "Brother Jonathan": a name given in fun to the people of the United States, just as "John Bull" is to the people of England.

One explanation of the origin of the name is this: General Washington had a very high opinion of the good sense and sound judgment of Governor Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, when no one seemed to know where to get a supply of powder, General Washington said to his officers, "We must consult Brother Jonathan on this subject." Afterwards when any serious difficulty arose it became a common saying in the army that "We must consult Brother Jonathan," and in time the name came to stand for the American people.

242. Summary.—In January, 1848, gold was discovered at Captain Sutter's saw-mill at Coloma, California. Soon after that, Mexico let us have California and New Mexico, and they were added to the United States. Thousands of people, from all parts of the country, hurried to California to dig gold, and so that state grew more rapidly in population than any other new part of the United States ever had in the same length of time. Before Captain Sutter died we added the Gadsden Purchase and Alaska.

Who was Captain Sutter? Where did he live? Tell how he lived. What did he begin to build at Coloma? Tell what Marshall found there, and what was said about it. Tell how Marshall took the shining dust to Captain Sutter, and what the captain did. What made them both certain that the dust was gold? Was the captain pleased with the discovery? What did he think would happen? What is said about our war with Mexico? What did we fight about? What did we get at the end of the war? What happened in May, 1848? Then what happened? How many people went to California? What happened to Captain Sutter? What is said about Marshall? What land did we buy in 1853? What in 1867?

How long ago did the Revolution end? How many states did we have then? [Can any one in the class tell how many we have now?] What land did we buy in 1803? In 1819? What did we add in 1845? In 1846? In 1848? What did we buy in 1853? In 1867? How many such additions have we made in all? What could the giant do? What has "Brother Jonathan" done? Where is one foot? Where is the other?