This is Sutter's Mill, where James Marshall (who was building a saw mill for himself and John Sutter) found gold on January 24, 1848. Historians believe the person in the photo is not James Marshall but is likely the photographer's assistant.
Marshall, who was born in Hopewell Township (New Jersey) in 1810, lived until he was 74 years old. He died, in 1885, in Kelsey, California. This photo depicts how he appeared, circa 1884.
The saw-mill property, then owned by John Sutter, was located in Coloma, California (at the bank of the American River).
Finding gold at Sutter's Mill triggered the American "Gold Rush." Not only that, it led to a mass migration of people. The California Department of Parks and Recreation tells us how Marshall’s discovery changed America forever:
James W. Marshall discovered gold in 1848 on the South Fork of the American River in the valley the Nisenan Indians knew as Cullumah.
This event led to the greatest mass movement of people in the Western Hemisphere and was the spark that ignited the spectacular growth of the West during the ensuing decades.
The gold discovery site, located in the still visible tailrace of Sutter's sawmill, in present day Coloma California, is one of the most significant historic sites in the nation.
This image depicts James Marshall’s cabin near Sutter's Mill—in today’s Coloma, California—as it appeared on October 8, 2008. He was living in this cabin at the time he found those flecks of gold.
Click on the top image to see a larger view of Sutter's Mill.
Lead image, online via California Geological Survey.
Image of James Marshall, online via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of Marshall's cabin by Swampyank; license: CC BY-SA 3.0
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