Gold and Cow towns - settling in the American West

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Sidra Hafeez 10L

History coursework (question 1)

There were many problems which occurred whilst living in a newly set up town in the American west. James Marshal, discovered gold in California in 1848. He discovered the gold whilst working for John Sutter. Sutter tried to keep the news quite, but the news quickly spread and gold fever began. Over 90 000 people rushed from the east towards the west, most of these were young men who worked as gold prospectors and were under the age of 30. Many of these men had never camped out in tents, hunted for food or built a fire before, which made their lives even harder. People thought that life was going to become better and easier in the west, but they soon found out that settling in a newly set up town was very difficult. This was because there were no running water supplies, and there was also pressure on the food and housing too, because the towns were so cramped.

One of the main problems which arose was overcrowding and this also leads to disease. After the gold discovery was made, rumours spread far and wide and hence, people from all over rushed to the west and set up their tents; in hope for a better living and lots of riches. In 1848 there 14000 people living in California, in 1849 there 100 000, then in 1852 there were 250 000 people living in California. People started to leave the east and head for the west, because it the east was over crowded. People thought they had left poverty and disease in the east, but many found that life was just as bad in the west. For example: the town was very overcrowded and also there was lack of amenities and bad living conditions. The overcrowding added to make living conditions even worse and with bad living conditions people got sick and so disease was spread even more easily. The bad living conditions occurred partly because of the water supplies, as there were no running water supplies people had to go to rivers etc… for drinking water. Drinking water from rivers was a problem because not only did they use them for drinking but also to dispense all their waste products into. So this added and made it much easier for disease to spread.

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Many people had the idea that they would get rich quick and would be able to move on, but living conditions were rough and only a few people found gold; as everyone was after the same thing. The miners lived in either filthy, prehistoric tents or basic wooden cabins and therefore, diseases like fever, typhoid and cholera also started spreading quickly and promptly. The cause of these diseases spreading was because there were too many people in one area. When the miners got together at the bars afters a hard day’s work there were so many of them cramped ...

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