Following their discharge from the military, some former members of the Mormon Battalion traveled north in California before turning east toward the Great Basin.
While traveling through the Sacramento, California, area, they learned of the need for skilled laborers to help John Sutter and James Marshall build both a sawmill and a gristmill on the South Fork of the American River about 45 miles to the east. As many as 100 former battalion members were hired in one capacity or another.
Marshall discovered gold on Jan. 24, 1848. This discovery was documented in the journals of Henry Bigler and Azariah Smith, who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bigler made an entry in his journal on the day of the discovery.
This discovery radically changed the course of California and American history. Some 80,000 immigrants came to California in 1849, as did thousands more in subsequent years. In the 1850s, miners came from countries all over the world.
Once the gold rush had run its course, many miners stayed to enjoy the beauty and climate of California and to farm the productive land. In 1898, Bigler was invited to California to participate in the 50th anniversary celebration of the gold discovery. Presently, the Marshall Gold Discovery Park at Coloma, California, preserves and interprets the story.