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Posted by: donbagley ( )
Date: December 30, 2013 08:58PM

Mormons had a small role in the local gold rush. They also established a neighborhood in Sacramento. Mormonism used to be the second largest local religion after Catholicism. But times have changed, and regional Mormons are out-numbered by Christian unity churches.

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Posted by: Senoritalamanita ( )
Date: December 30, 2013 09:09PM

Thanks Don for the information. I had no idea Mormons were in Sacramento or were so connected to the Gold Rush. Was this mandated by a church leader, or did they go on their own?

Didn't they also have settlements in Barstow and San Bernardino? What were the purpose of those settlements?

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Posted by: donbagley ( )
Date: December 30, 2013 09:33PM

I don't know about Barstow and San Bernardino. Sacramento was founded by a man named John Sutter. He had a mill on the river in nearby Coloma. Some of his employees were Mormon, and one of them was said to have been the first to spot the gold nuggets. Sutter tried to keep the find secret, but word leaked out and there was a great rush of gold mining. Sacramento grew up around Sutter's fort, which still stands as a living museum of history.

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Posted by: Senoritalamanita ( )
Date: December 30, 2013 09:40PM

Thanks Don!

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Posted by: !!! ( )
Date: January 30, 2014 01:43PM

Am reading Turner's bio on Brigham Young right now. It says that San Bernardino (and Los Vegas) was established by Mormons, one of Young's colonies. It was at the southern end of the overland route through Utah, near which the Fancher party was massacred. Young wanted San Bernardino to supply the Utahns with all the wine, etc., they needed.

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Posted by: cynthus ( )
Date: December 30, 2013 10:14PM

They were also in Nevada-- In Genoa there was an outpost where some Mormons bought the horses from pioneers and sold oxen and supplies to the same folks going over the Sierras. Las Vegas started out as a Mormon outpost btw. Plus Mormons did some mining in Utah, California, Nevada (most of the Western States). They tried to claim a huge portion of the West-- Utah, Idaho, Nevada, California, etc. (I think a portion of Arizona too). Hunt was a wagon master (Capt. Jefferson Hunt) and would take gentiles through the southern route to California. He also was the wagon master who told the Donner Party NOT to go the Northern route when they did... So Mormons in the 1850s was all over the West.

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Posted by: Mormon Observer ( )
Date: December 31, 2013 02:54AM

The Mormons arrived in SLC in 1847.

The Donner party was stranded in the mountains in 1846.

How was it a Mormon wagon leader was out west in 1846 to tell the overloaded Donner party to not go forward over the passes?

The Donnor party apparently had very large cumbersome luxory wagons that slowed their trip. When they got to Ft. Laramie they were told to leave within three days or they wouldn't get over the passes in time. They stayed for three weeks for R & R.

In Reno area they were told to winter it out along the Truckee River, but they plowed ahead anyway into the infamous Donner pass.

The above information about the wagons and the advice to winter over were from a TV documentary about the Donner party broadcast in the 80s or 90s....

The worst irony was one of the canibals later opened a successful resturant in San Francisco! eeew!

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Posted by: Tammie1 ( )
Date: December 31, 2013 09:24AM

Good point. Timeline is missing. I suppose the story is incorrect / missing some details, or this wagon master was already in the area. It can't be both.

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Posted by: judyblue ( )
Date: December 31, 2013 12:51PM

Yes, San Bernardino was established by Charles C Rich, one of BY's stooges/apostles.

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Posted by: Tevai ( )
Date: December 31, 2013 02:01PM

There is a good (and complicated) explanation of all of the California/Gold Rush-era Mormon colonies and settlements in John G. Turner's bio: BRIGHAM YOUNG: Pioneer Prophet (which I highly recommend to anyone interested), pp. 179-182.

Re: the Mormon California settlement in San Bernardino (p. 181):

"In 1851 Young sent colonizers to southern California to establish a settlement near Cajon Pass, resulting in he city of San Bernardino. ... Young hoped that Mormon vineyards in California could fully supply the church's need for olive oil, wine, and raisins."

[My comment: "...the church's NEED for ...WINE???"] [Emphasis added, needless to say. ;-) ]

Continuing the same quote:

"Young called thirty men to settle at the Las Vegas Springs, which became an Indian mission and an important way station on the route to San Bernardino." ;-)

"By the mid-1850s, the Mormons under Young's leadership had audaciously laid claim to a thousand-mile corridor of colonies and forts within the American West."

There is a discussion of Young's fondness for California gold, and how he got as much of it was possible (whether from Mormons or non-Mormons) under his control, and how this fueled his desire to be independent of U.S. monetary control.

There were complicated geographical and financial Mormon goings-on back then, all very closely supervised by Brigham Young, and they stretched over a gigantic distance, from what we would now call the general "Utah" area to the Pacific Ocean, and they included "a thousand mile corridor of [Mormon] colonies and forts within the American West" (p. 181, Turner's BY biography).

But the amusing part is: one of the major reasons for establishing San Bernardino (and Las Vegas!), was to fulfill the Mormon "need" for WINE.

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 12/31/2013 02:06PM by tevai.

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Posted by: !!! ( )
Date: January 30, 2014 01:47PM


I just wrote a reply to a post above that made these points. Then I see that you beat me to it, and with far better detail!

I also recommend the book. It's the best explanation of Young I've ever come across.

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Posted by: CBJack ( )
Date: January 30, 2014 01:27PM

As I have heard the story, the Mormon Battalion, raised and mustered into Federal service for the Mexican War just south of present day Council Bluffs, IA, in July 1846. The Mormon "in-gathering" was taking place, and the Mormons were encamped in the area of what is now Omaha/Council Bluffs. After marching from Council Bluffs to Ft. Leavenworth KS, where they were outfitted by the military, the 5 companies of young Mormon men proceeded to make the longest overland march in the history of the US Army, to San Diego, CA. By the time they got to San Diego, the Mex War was nearly over, and after pulling garrison duty for a few months, they were mustered out in July 1847. The elders of the group wrote to the head of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young, now in Deseret (Utah) for orders. Brigham said that the young church colony was in need of cash money, and the Mormon men should hire themselves out in groups and send the wages "home." Some of the young men went north to Sacramento, where John Sutter was expanding his empire, and needed all the disciplined help he could get. He hired a group to assist John Marshall with the lumber mill he was building at what is now Coloma, CA. According to some accounts, it was they who took the suspect "pebbles" to Marshall, who then tested them with acqua regia, and "discovered" gold. Mormon Island was the first gold camp in the California Gold Rush, founded by some of them.
So one of the tales we tell here in the Council Bluffs area is that the California Gold Rush really started on the grounds of Iowa School for the Deaf, in Lewis Township, which is now part of Council Bluffs!

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Posted by: Lostmypassword ( )
Date: December 30, 2013 09:47PM

Q: What do you call a Mormon town under 90 feet of water?
A: A good start.

Note: Above jest does not refer to Surgar City. You don't have to send the Danites after me.

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Posted by: csuprovostudent ( )
Date: December 30, 2013 09:54PM

My gg-grandfather was sent with a group from SLC to seek gold in California by Brigham Young.

It wasn't a successful venture.

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Posted by: ozpoof ( )
Date: December 30, 2013 09:58PM

Is this like inverse irony? The actual CULT is sinking.

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Posted by: kj ( )
Date: December 31, 2013 10:06AM

It's been a source of so low it's frightening.


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Posted by: stang99_tls ( )
Date: December 31, 2013 12:04PM

Samuel Brannan, who started the California Star newspaper in San Francisco was a prominent Mormon who was sent to the west by ship around the cape horn by the Mormon church around 1946. They church sent a few hundred Mormons with him, they practically doubled the population of San Francisco when they arrived.

Brannan traveled east to meet BY in Green River, Wyoming in 1947 and encouraged them to continue on to California, but they settled in Utah instead. Brannan returned to California, he was a mission president I believe and was the highest ranking official in CA. During the gold rush he collected tithing from the Mormon miners and sent some back to Utah. He also was siphoning the tithing money for his own use and was disfellowshipped a few years later, but not before he had numerous real estate investments.

There were a lot of Mormons in California, and lots of them mining gold. Lots of gold was sent to Utah, I think that is one of the reasons BY was able to compile such great wealth as well, since he was also siphoning off tithing money for himself.

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Posted by: !!! ( )
Date: January 30, 2014 01:59PM

Again, Turner's bio of Brigham Young is very good on this topic.

BY tried to keep the Mormons out of the 1849 gold rush. He knew that sudden riches would tear the church apart. He also discouraged prospecting within Utah and broader Deseret because he realized that gold would bring in lots of non-Mormons. It turns out he was right. The discovery of gold in Western Nevada led to an influx of people who then pressured Congress to cut their region out of Deseret, which Congress did.

This isn't to say that Young didn't get a lot of gold for himself and the church. He did. But part of that was from remittances from Mormons in CA and most of it was by selling supplies to the emigrants at very high prices. There were lots of people who came from CA with lots of money but little water, etc., and they transferred a lot of gold to Utah.

If you think about it, the Utah church benefited from some interesting things. It made money from the Gold Rush, from Utah's situation on the overland trail(s), from the transcontinental railroad, etc. Then there was the Civil War, which preoccupied Lincoln and persuaded him to leave the Mormons more or less alone rather than repeat Buchanan's abortive invasion of UT. That was the key to Brigham's continued reign as king of Deseret.

So lots of historical, chance advantages.

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Posted by: presbyterian ( )
Date: December 31, 2013 12:41PM

I am a distant relative of the Rhoads family. The were among the rescue party, and.....they were Mormon.

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