One moment the California creek beds glimmered withgold; the next, the same creeks ran red with the blood ofmen and women defending their claims or ceding their bagsof gold dust to bandits. The “West” was a ruthless territoryduring the nineteenth century.
With more than enough golddust to go around early in the Gold Rush, crime was rare,but as the stakes rose and the easily panned gold dwindled,robbery and murder became a part of life on the frontier. The “West” consisted of outlaws, gunfighters, lawmen,whores, and vigilantes. There are many stories on how the”West” begun and what persuaded people to come andexplore the new frontier, but here, today, we are going toinvestigate those stories and seek to find what is fact orwhat is fiction. These stories will send you galloping throughthe tumultuous California territory of the mid-nineteenthcentury, where disputes were settled with six shooters andthe lines of justice were in a continuous chaos. Where’s the West How and where did the West begin? This is the questionthat is asked most often and there is never a straight-forward answer. Everyone has their own opinion on thesubject: “Oh, it started sometime in the nineteenth century,”or “The west is really just considered to be Oklahoma,Texas, and Kansas.Order now
” Whatever happened to Californiaactually being considered the “West?” With all honesty,even into the twentieth century, California is not thought ofas being the “West,” or the “West” in the manner in whichOklahoma, Kansas and Texas are thought of. Cowboys,horses, and cattle are only considered to be in the centralstates, but what about California? To give a straight-forward answer on where and how the “Real West” oreven the “Wild West” began; it began by a millhouseworker named James Marshall. On the morning of January24, 1848, Marshall was working on his mill and lookeddown in the water and saw a sparkling dust floating alongthe creek bed (Erdoes 116). Assuming it was gold, he toldhis fellow workers what he had found and they begansearching for the mysterious metallic dust as well. Fourdays later Marshall rode down to Sutter’s Fort, in what isnow Sacramento, and showed John Sutter what he hadfound.
They weighed and tested the metal and becameconvinced that it was indeed gold. John Sutter wanted tokeep the discovery secret, but that was going to beimpossible. The rumor flew and Sutter’s mill workers,which were Mormon, caught wind of it and begansearching for their own fortune. Shortly after they fled, theytoo found gold. The site in which they found their fortunesbecame known as Mormon Island, the first mining camp tobe established after the discovery of gold at Marshall’s mill(Erdoes 119).
From that moment on, the west began toboom in population and prosper in every direction. First BloodGold fever caught on in a hurry, and this attracted manydifferent people to the new frontier. Dreams of gold andsuccess sparkled in the eyes of every cotton picker, farmer,and blue- collar worker west of the Mississippi. Once thefever spread across the nation and throughout theterritories, bloodshed was going to be inevitable. Greedtakes a toll on the mind of many and convinces people todo things that aren’t even logical.
People become veryprotective of their property and are willing to do anything toprotect it, even defend it to their death. The violence musthave started somewhere and at sometime oversomething. . .
. But when? On the night of October 1, 1848,eight months after James Marshall’s discovery, several menwere sleeping in James Marshall’s sawmill, originally ownedby John Sutter (Erdoes 137). Peter Raymond beganbanging on the door of the mill. Raymond, a twenty- oneyear old sailor from Dublin, Ireland, was drunk and irritatedfor not striking his fortune as fast as he planned.
Raymondstaggered in demanding more liquor from the nowawakened men. John Von Pfister, arose and as aprecaution shoved his knife into his waistband. Von Pfistermanaged to quiet the drunken sailor down and set himdown on a bench to rest. Von Pfister leans over and says”Rest now my friend and we’ll be laughing about this in themorning” (Brown 13). Raymond sticks one hand out for ashake and with his other he strips Von Pfister of his knifeand buries the blade into his heart. It is ironic that the firstmurder in the Gold Rush, the first of many that wouldfollow, took place at the