The California Gold Rush
The Mexicans gave John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant, permission to start a colony. Sutter's Fort was located near the Sacremento River and became a popular rest stop for American emigrants. The Donner party was a group of 87 travelers that went to California but were then stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains starving and freezing. Of the 87 travelers, 42 died. They were forced to choose between life and death. Some chose to eat travelers in their group so they wouldn't die of starvation.
In 1849, nearly 80,000 gold-seekers came to California and were called the forty-niners. 80% were Americans and the other 20% came from all over the world. Few people escaped the sickness called the 'gold fever'. Few of the forty-niners had experience with gold mining but, everyday they all would prospect along the banks of streams or in shallow surface mines. In order for the placer miners to reach gold resting in the hills, they had to dig shafts and tunnels. This was done by mining companies and not just by individuals.