Monday, July 11, 2011

US Summer 2011: Psyched With Mormon Battalion in Coloma,California!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

Date:July 2, 2011
Location: Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma, California

As a Latter-Day Saint, I always leave a room for anything Mormon during my travels - whether it be visiting temples or LDS historic sites. But when my host Fred and Jacque Wright of Sacramento, California brought me to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in nearby Coloma county, I never expected it to be Mormon related, and be filled with the pride of the past knowing more about the remarkable US Army Mormon Battalion.

The Mormon Battalion was the only religiously based unit in United States military history, and honored for their willingness to fight for the United States during the Mexican-American War from July 1846 to July 1847. The battalion consist of between 534 and 559 Latter-day Saints men led by Mormon company officers and commanded by regular US army officers. The Mormon Battalion displayed patriotism and service during the march which is said to be one of the longest military marches in history. The Battalion was also instrumental in helping the US secure much of the American Southwest, blazing new trails and being present when gold was first discovered in Coloma.

After being mustered out of the US Army on 16 July 1847 in Los Angeles, a small group under the leadership of Levi Hancock headed east over the California Trail, and met in the area of Truckee Lake, Capt. James Brown and Samuel Brannan's party coming from the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Brown had a letter from Brigham Young, telling the Battalion members to stay in California until spring, unless they had sufficient food for the winter. About 150 went on to the East, but over 100 stayed in Northern California for the winter, the majority finding employment with Capt. John Sutter, at Sutter’s Fort.

In the fall of 1847, seven (7) former Battalion men (Alexander Stephens, Henry W. Bigler, James Berger, William Johnson, Azariah Smith, James S. Brown, and Israel Evans), along with local Indians were part of the labor force of James W. Marshall when he began construction of the sawmill at Coloma. A few days earlier, spouses Peter L. Wimmer & Jenny Wimmer with their family and William Scott proceeded to the site and already commenced the erection of a rough cabin. A replica of the Mormon Cabin (where Mormons lived while working on the original mill) is a point of interest at the Gold Marshall Discovery State Historic Park.

On January 24, 1848 (the exact date of the gold discovery based on the journal entries of Henry Bigler and Azariah Smith), Marshall spotted some shiny flecks in the tailrace. Surprised with what he found, he told the Mormon mill workers, "Boys,by God, I believe I've found a gold mine."

These former Mormon Battalion boys and other Mormon immigrants led by Brannan (the same person who discovered San Francisco and Sacramento) and said to have paraded the streets of San Francisco yelling, "Gold! Gold! Gold", were some of those who initially discovered the gold and passed on the gold discovery “secret” that ushered the greatest migration in history called "California Gold Rush".

I was really psyched to learn more about the Mormon Battalion and discover the LDS folks who were part of California history. Truly, being in the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park felt like finding my own gold mine!

(This is part of the 5-week US Summer Vacation series, which took place from June 30, 2011 to August 3,2011 in California, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pemnsylvania, and Indiana)

1.Four Countries In One Day

2. Enjoying Cable Cars in San Francisco

3. Enjoying Union Square and Downtown San Francisco

4. Commuting Easy With Panoramic Views

5. Mad About Museum in Sacramento California

6.Museums Trekking in Sacramento,California

7. Catching Gold Fever In Coloma,California

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  1. Didn't know you're a Latter-Day Saint at Mhe-Anne! This religiouse military unit is pretty impressive! Can't wait to visit California again...

  2. hello Gay dear. yea my whole family are LDS for almost 25 years now. it is one of the great joys of my life to be taught the gospel and to build a family that can be together forever. do you know any Latter Day Saints Gay? enjoy your stay in Sydney.loved my visit there in 2009.


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