The Gold Rush and Western Travel

My latest Proxy Bride book released recently. Some of what inspired by a recent trip to hike in Death Valley which gave me so many ideas!! Have you ever heard of the California 49ers? Yes, they are a sports team, but it also refers to the peak year of influx of people moving to California searching for gold (1849). One group who were looking for a shortcut to the gold fields got a wee bit lost and ended up wandering around the desert for a couple months. Finally they burned their wagons and ate their oxen and walked out on foot. Death Valley National Park has several monuments to their adventures and losses. I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying that must’ve been! At least that story has a happy ending (except for the oxen).

The trains only went so far West but were a whole lot faster than travelling by wagon. You could get almost halfway across the country in a week by the late 1840s. But then, if you didn’t get lost, it would take about another month to get all the way to California from New York or Boston.

The California Gold Rush brought a sudden influx of gold into the money supply and reinvigorated the American economy. The population boom vastly altered California, leading it to become a state in 1850. Agriculture and ranching expanded throughout the state to meet the needs of the settlers. Roads, churches, schools, and other towns were built throughout the state.

Hamilton, the groom in my story, made his wealth through some of these exploits. It’s quite fascinating to read about the massive shift in fortunes during the 40s and 50s. We’re so used to stores, and roads, and hotels today. People must have been truly intrepid back then!

Tell me, would you have liked to explore the new world back then?

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