Monday, January 24, 2011

The California Gold Rush of January 24, 1848 to the Black Hills of South Dakota Neutrinos of 2011

     The California Gold Rush began at Sutter's Mill, near Coloma. On January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River Marshall brought what he found to John Sutter, and the two privately tested the metal. After the tests showed that it was gold, Sutter expressed dismay: he wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold.  However, rumors soon started to spread and were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. The most famous quote of the California Gold Rush was by Brannan; after he had hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies, Brannan strode through the streets of San Francisco, holding aloft a vial of gold, shouting "Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!"   With the news of gold, local residents in California were among the first to head for the goldfields.[1]

     The Territory of Dakota was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 2, 1861, until November 2, 1889, when the final extent of the reduced territory was split and admitted to the Union as the states of North and South Dakota.

     The Dakota Territory Gold Stampede days of 1876 started when news of gold in the streams of Dakota’s Black Hills spread like wildfire. Throngs of prospectors, restless adventurers, gamblers and entrepreneurs ventured into the wilderness in search of what only the lucky few among them would find- great wealth in the gold and all that came with it. Ore bearing streams ran through the thick, dead brush in the gulch from which Deadwood derives its name.[2]

     The first discovery of gold in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1874 by members of the Custer Expedition sparked a gold rush that helped precipitate the Great Sioux War of 1876-77.  The war culminated with the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the expropriation of the Black Hills from the Great Sioux Reservation.  The famous Homestake Mine in Lead, South Dakota, was located in April 1876 during the infancy of the gold rush.  George Hearst and other California capitalists purchased the mine in 1877.  Throughout its life, the mine produced 40 million ounces of gold before being closed in 2001.  Today the 8,000-foot-deep underground mine is being transformed into a science and engineering laboratory where scientists will conduct research on dark matter, astrophysics, double beta decay, and solar neutrinos.  Hence, the title of Steven Mitchell’s new book, “Nuggets to Neutrinos: The Homestake Story”.[3]      

Steven T. Mitchell is a native and long time resident of the Black Hills of South Dakota. He is a graduate of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology with BS and MS degrees in mining engineering. Mitchell’s career was with the Homestake Mining Company at the Homestake Mine in Lead, SD where he held various engineering and management positions.


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