Gold rushes are periods in time when the discovery of gold has led to the migrations of large numbers of people to a certain location. The onus for this "rush" is the desire for wealth and independence. Often, people travel from all parts of the world to participate in the quest for gold and riches. While some were successful in their endeavor, many were left broke and disappointed. Although most associate gold and the gold rush with California, America has had several gold rushes in its history. In fact, some took place before gold was ever discovered in California. American gold rushes were important in that they often led the expansion into new territories and heralded the growth of the nation.

In the year 1799, North Carolina became the location of the first American gold rush. That year a twelve-year-old boy named Conrad Reed discovered a seventeen pound gold nugget while fishing in Cabarrus County. The gold was not recognized for its worth until 1802 when it was taken to the jewelers in exchange for money; word of the discovery spread, leading to the gold rush. The next major gold rush in America occurred in Georgia. There are several accounts of who actually found the gold that started the Georgia gold rush. One account involves a man named Benjamin Parks, who in October of 1828 caught sight of gold while walking and kicking rocks in the woods in Dahlonega. News of this and other discoveries encouraged and enticed thousands of miners to come to the area. The historical significance of the Georgia gold rush isn't the gold, however. The significance lies in the fact that the eventual removal of the Cherokee was due in part to the presence of gold.

The California Gold Rush, which took place from 1848 to 1855, is the most recognized gold rush in America's history. The discovery that started this rush was near the American River by a man named James Marshall. Marshall worked for John Sutter, the owner of Sutter's Fort, and it was while he was working that he discovered gold. Sutter attempted to keep this a secret, however his attempts were unsuccessful and soon news spread. By 1849 people from all over the world flocked to California, with many leaving their jobs and old lives behind in search of wealth. Although the California Gold Rush did not end in prosperity for all, it did play a key part in the westward expansion of the United States. It also bought California into the union. Unfortunately, it also had a negative impact on the environment as mining leached chemicals into the water and certain animal species were killed. The Native Americans also suffered tremendously due to mass murders, racial hatred, loss of lands, starvation, and disease.

Gold rush fever also extended to Canada and Alaska in what is referred to as the Alaska Gold Rush, the Klondike Gold Rush or the Yukon Gold Rush. This was one of the last great gold rushes in America and attracted approximately 100,000 people between 1896 and 1899. The discovery that started the gold rush came in August of 1896 when an American prospector by the name of George Carmack and his brother-in-law Skookum Jim discovered gold on Bonanza Creek. Bonanza Creek is one of the Yukon Rivers tributaries and at the time was known as Rabbit Creek. Upon the registration of the claims, news began to spread amongst Canadians and new sources of gold were soon discovered by other prospectors. Eventually mined gold began to leave the area and caught the attention of the outside world. The journey to the Klondike was a treacherous one. Thousands traveled by steamer to Skagway, Alaska in order to begin their hike into Yukon territory toward Dawson City via the Chilkoot Pass. Unfortunately many died from the cold, disease and starvation. From 1898 to 1899 gold was discovered in Nome, Alaska which encouraged prospectors to search Alaska for more gold. The Alaska Gold Rush encouraged some to explore Alaska which at the time was still a fairly new settlement for the U.S.

The American gold rush is both a fascinating and important part of history. It was a time of great adventure for many who sought out riches in often unfamiliar lands. Although it was exciting and adventurous, it was also deadly for prospectors and the people who were native to areas where gold had been found. The gold rushes in American history forever changed the country.

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