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'Treasure!' Part 2

The story so far: Tommy Thompson is a scientist and inventor who discovered the location of 21 tons of gold at the bottom of the ocean. Here's how it all began.

September 19, 2006|By Jennifer James | Times Staff Writer

"Gold mine found. In the newly made raceway of the Saw Mill recently erected by Captain Sutter, on the American Fork, gold has been found in considerable quantities … great chances here for scientific capitalists."

— The Californian newspaper, March 15, 1849

THE 1849 Gold Rush in California was a unique time in history. The gold in California did not belong to any government, king or church. If you found it, you could keep it. Sailors deserted their ships. Soldiers deserted their posts. Thousands of people came from all over the world and from all walks of life to seek their fortunes.

Imagine what it must have been like living in Ohio and loading up all your belongings into a covered wagon and setting out for California. A pair of oxen pulled your wagon. You had to walk because the wagon was so loaded down. It took five months to get to California, walking 20 to 25 miles each day. Danger lurked everywhere, either from suspicious tribes, dangerous snakes or poisonous water. You had to know how to hunt for food and find fresh water or you would die. There were no telephones, televisions, trains, movies or automobiles. When you got to California, mail came by steamship only.

With your eyes glistening from the promise of gold, you might sing the song that became the anthem of the Gold Rush: "Oh, Susannah!"

When you finally arrived in California, you found that panning or mining for gold was the hardest work you had ever done.

Many people did not find gold at all and made just enough money to get back home. Many others made their fortunes here.

The 21 tons of gold that Tommy Thompson discovered in 1987, at the bottom of the ocean came from the California Gold Rush.

Wednesday: How did the gold get to the bottom of the ocean?

This story will be on The Times' website at

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