Historic Resource Study, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 1984
II. White Men Slowly Penetrate the Southern Oregon Wilderness
D. Gold Rush of 1849 Accelerates Oregon Settlement
In July 1848 a supply schooner sailing into the Columbia River harbor brought news of the discovery of gold in California by James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill on a branch of the American River. Overnight the rush was on. In Oregon it turned immediate attention to the Mother Lode country and brought startling changes to the Columbia River valley’s pattern of settlement. New impetus was added to westward migration, resulting in a greater movement of Americans to the Far West than ever before. Traffic along the Oregon and California trails swelled to flood proportions, and new routes and shortcuts were blazed by impatient goldseekers. Oregon settlers were not left behind in the great Gold Rush of ’49. While those that could afford it took immediate passage on ships heading for the California coast, others less fortunate hurried south with packtrains and wagons. Among the earliest in the fields, the farmers, soldiers, tradesmen, and officials of Oregon who joined the mad rush fared better than later arrivals and helped to open and drain the virgin fields in northern California. By wintertime scores of these lucky individuals had filled pokes with thousands of dollars worth of gold dust. Married men in particular began drifting home to develop the resources of Oregon, having apprised the profitable market that existed in California for foodstuffs and lumber. An estimated two million dollars in gold flowed into Oregon during early 1849. Merchant ships supplying California entered the Columbia River daily to trade, millowners made staggering profits, and the wages of laborers multiplied.