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Style Magazine

Go Back In Time

Sep 30, 2008 05:00PM ● By Super Admin

The sawmill, known as Sutter’s Mill, stands not far from the main parking lot in Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. The only piece of metal to be found on this entirely wooden structure is its saw blade. Even though the sawmill is a replica, the attention to historic detail is exquisite. The crafters of the replica utilized only the tools and methods that would have been used to build the original, creating a sawmill strikingly similar to Sutter’s. In that same vein, if you happen to be in Coloma October 11-13, you will see this same attention to historic detail transposed upon people.

Following the south fork of the American River, a tent encampment has sprung up over night. Filled with people who come from all walks of life during the 19th century, the encampment brims with a life of its own. Musicians play period instruments and music, adventurers spin yarns of undiscovered riches in the hills of Coloma, merchants attempt to sell their goods to anyone who passes by, and miners tell stories straight from the goldfields while cooking their supper over an open fire. Winding your way amongst the tents and people, you may even run into the man who discovered those first flecks of gold in the tailrace section of Sutter’s Mill, James W. Marshall. All this blends together seamlessly to form a picture of life as it existed during the California Gold Rush.

Yet what fun is history if nothing is learned from it? From volunteers dressed in period clothing to hands-on activities for both kids and adults, this event provides an environment rich with education as well as entertainment. Children can learn how to pan for gold on the bank of the American River, or they can learn how to make rope or other such necessities from one of the many different volunteers skilled in a particular trade. Blacksmithing, weaving and basket-making demonstrations are but a few of the trades represented at this event. If anything, this event will certainly garner an appreciation of California’s rich history.

The progression of the Gold Rush Live event itself is as interesting as the historical period it represents. It has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception, originally starting out at just three tent encampments, the event has grown to accommodate well over 54 encampments today. The event has also enlisted the participation of volunteers from other states, like Arizona, Utah and Nevada. By lending and combining their shared expertise and love of the 19th Century, these volunteers help create a more authentic and realistic atmosphere. And that’s what it all comes down to: these volunteers are sharing their passion with others in hopes of keeping the memory of California’s historical past alive in the minds and hearts of others.  

If you walk over to the replica sawmill, you may notice a long structure behind it, framed with glass windows. Approaching the structure, you’ll only be able to see your reflection in the glass until you walk right up to the viewing windows and see what is contained within. Inside are wooden beams, crusted with age, thicker than a human being. These are the remains of the original sawmill, the one that James Marshall discovered gold under back on that January morning in 1848. Even though the original sawmill was all but destroyed, it’s legacy lives on through its replica. So to, does the legacy of those early pioneers and fortune seekers live on through the Gold Rush Live event.