With Striking Up Gold Mountain:Stories & Songs of the California Gold Rush Peggy Reza and I have tried to do our best to tell the diverse stories of California’s history. The quest for gold had been going on since the 1700’s with little success. Surely a few nuggets were found earlier, teasing the Spaniards to keep searching. But in the meantime, the explorers gave way to the colonists, who brought Europe’s modern world and its values to this pristine natural paradise. Instead of mining for precious minerals, building outposts and churches, ranching, and farming became the focus.
In 1990 I heard my first story about how the Californios discovered gold much earlier than James Marshall’s 1848 “Eureka!” moment at Sutter’s Mill on the American River. I was taking a class in California’s ethnic diversity while a student at California State University, Stanislaus. The professor shared the story in class one day, and I had my own “Eureka!” moment. I was completely amazed! I certainly had not learned that version in Mrs. Jones’ 4th grade class at Jefferson Elementary School in Riverside.
But it made so much sense. I had spent most of my childhood in Southern California, living near the arroyos and playing in the sand bars of dry riverbeds. As I learned more about geology, I began to understand how the precious gold would have sifted down into valleys, along riverside beaches from the erosion of our mighty mountains for eons! The Californios, Mexican citizens living in Alta California in the early 1800’s.
Our story “Lost Cows!” presents our own version of what happened when Francisco Lopez dug up a cluster of wild onions. We hope you enjoy the story and the chance to learn another side of our California Story! And here are some resources for the Californios’ early discoveries of gold:
Learn more about the Californios:
Take a look at this map. It was etched in 1858 for a British newspaper. Make it bigger and follow the trail from the mountains of Sonora, Mexico, (just south of present-day Arizona) to Pueblo de los Angeles off the coast of today’s Southern California. Then trace your finger to follow the hills and mountains that lead north along the ridge of the Sierra Nevada. Write your own story about how the Sonorans would have traveled to Alta California to look for gold. These sojourners would have traveled for weeks through the Sonora Desert. Read about that harsh environment! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anza-Borrego_Desert_State_Park.