California Gold Rush
The California Gold rush occurred many hundreds of miles from the American South, but its affect was felt throughout the country, drawing large populations of 49ers from most of the Southern States.
Alabama in particular was affected. While small in comparison to the California gold rush, a gold rush in the Alabama Creek lands in the 1830's lead to the spread of gold mining experience and expertise in eastern Alabama. With these skills and experience, the draw on Alabamians to participate in the California gold rush was great, causing a large number to travel west in search of wealth.
While the actual success of most gold seekers was minimal, with profits often just barely covering expenses (if that), entrepreneurs and adventurers from all over flocked to the West. Exaggerated accounts created by land speculators and the stories of hired letter writers further fueled the fires of opportunity, creating a massive emigration. The rapid progress in California was described well by a New Orleans newspaper that wrote, scarcely a year has elapsed since its acquisition by the United States, and already it is swarming with an active and industrious population. Attracted by the golden sands of the Sacramento, tens of thousands of the most intelligent and enterprising of our citizens have emigrate thither, among whom are to be found in the representatives of every imaginable profession and occupation. Lawyer, doctor, farmer, mechanics, &c. &c., all essentially politicians.'
This great emigration was also significant in American Southern history as the rapid increase in population helped to hasten and intensify the debate over the addition of California as the 31st state.