James Wilson Marshall

Descubrió El Oro , 1848 gold discovery, California Gold Rush

James Wilson Marshall (October 8, 1810 – August 10, 1885) was an American carpenter and sawmill worker. He reported finding gold at Coloma on the American River in California on January 24, 1848. This started the California Gold Rush. The mill was owned by John Sutter. Marshall had been hired to help build it.

James Wilson Marshall
James Marshall2.jpg
James Marshall, c. 1884
Born(1810-10-08)October 8, 1810
DiedAugust 10, 1885(1885-08-10) (aged 74)

Gold discoveryEdit

The actual spot where Marshall first discovered the gold that started the California Gold Rush.

On the morning of January 24, 1848[1] Marshall was fetching water for his new-built water-powered sawmill by the river when he suddenly saw gold flakes in the water. He later said:

I picked up one or two pieces and examined them attentively; and having some general knowledge of minerals, I could not call to mind more than two which in any way resembled this, sulphuret of iron, very bright and brittle; and gold, bright, yet malleable. I then tried it between two rocks, and found that it could be beaten into a different shape, but not broken. I then collected four or five pieces and went up to Mr. Scott (who was working at the carpenters bench making the mill wheel) with the pieces in my hand and said, "I have found it."

"What is it?" inquired Scott.
"Gold," I answered.
"Oh! no," replied Scott, "That can't be."
I said,--"I know it to be nothing else."[2]


  1. Different sources list different dates. Although according to William Bigler's diary, a companion to Marshall, "something like gold" was found on January 24, 1848.
  2. "James W. Marshall's account of the first discovery of the Gold". www.malakoff.com. Retrieved 16 June 2015.