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January. James Marshall discovers placer gold in the tailrace of Sutter’s Mill on the American River near Coloma, California.
December. U.S. President James K. Polk delivers his famous message to Congress announcing the California gold strike. Gold fever spreads across the nation.
New England law student Charles Fernald sails from New York to San Francisco to “strike it rich” in California. The dangerous journey takes five months and claims the lives of thousands of “Forty-Niners” in the disease-ridden isthmus of Panama.
Fernald spends eighteen months in various mining camps throughout the Mother Lode. Finding no gold, Fernald returns to San Francisco and completes his legal studies. He earns money by writing articles for the San Francisco Alta.
Major fires sweep through San Francisco in May and June, destroying Fernald’s precious law library, which he had shipped from Maine. Relying on borrowed books, Fernald passes the bar examination and practices law for the next year in San Francisco.
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