James Marshall was minding his own business, busy at work at John
Sutter’s sawmill on the American River, when he looked down and saw
gold Jan. 24, 1848.
Now, more than 150 years later, the historic moment was recreated
for Bret Harte fourth-graders by actor/historian Joel Greene. He came
to the school Friday to give the students a history lesson in the
auditorium, before taking them outdoors for a hands-on experience
panning for gold in one of four small troughs he brought with him.
“I learned that it was hard for the miners to get gold,” Jasmine
Velasquez, 10, said after she spent several minutes panning for her
small nugget of iron pyrite or fool’s gold, which resembles the real
Alex Fleming, 9, said it takes a while to pan for gold and it’s
frustrating when you don’t get any. However, Alex was able to find a
good-sized nugget, which he said he will take home to show to his
Before the students did the actual panning, Greene, dressed as a
miner in coveralls and boots, gave the children three important rules
“Rule No. 1, no claim jumping,” he said, asking students not to go
to another student’s trough to pan for gold.
His second rule was no complaining by the miners. The water is
cold and dirty, he told them, but that is what miners had to endure
in their quest for gold.
No greedy miners was his last rule. Children were asked to take
only one nugget.