The work was almost completed at Coloma (above) late
in January, 1848, but the tail-race was too shallow. Marshall was
trying to deepen it by flooding water through it each night. On the
morning of January 24, after turning off the water, he stepped down
into the ditch to see what progress had been made. There was something
shiny on the bedrock under the standing water. It looked like gold. He
picked up a nugget.
The camp housekeeper, Mrs. Elizabeth Wimmer, had a kettle of lye boiling for soap-making (left). According
to her story, she boiled the shiny bit of metal all day and when it did
not tarnish, Marshall was sure he had found gold.. At Sutter's Fort,
Marshall and Sutter made further tests and were convinced. Complete
secrecy was sworn, but the word soon got out. Gold-Gold on the American
discoverers had no luck. The erstwhile Baron of the Sacramento spent
his old age in futile petitions to Congress for return of his lost
acres. Marshall advertised his fame on the printed card shown below. He died a poor man; but he and Sutter had started something.