James Wilson Marshall
Marshall, James Wilson, 1810–85, American pioneer, discoverer of gold in California, b. Hunterdon co., N.J. Migrating to California for his health, he arrived at Sutter's Fort (site of present Sacramento) in 1845 and soon acquired land and livestock. After fighting in the Mexican War, he returned in 1847 to find his livestock gone. Having sold his land, he undertook to build a sawmill for John A. Sutter. In Jan., 1848, while supervising the digging of the mill race, Marshall discovered gold. This discovery launched the famous gold rush of 1849. The claims of Marshall and Sutter were ignored, the sawmill failed, and Marshall ended his days, embittered and misanthropic, working as a gardener.
See biography by Theressa Gay (1967).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.