Going for Gold: Santa Clarita’s Pioneering History

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Looking around Santa Clarita, it’s hard to imagine that it was once completely devoid of civilization and a perfect hotspot for the gold rush of the 1850s. The discovery of gold in ‘them thar hills’ in Sutter’s Mills in Northern California in 1848 precipitated the evolution of California as it is known today as many flocked west to find riches – and helped create a thriving community. But did you know that Santa Clarita’s very own Canyon Country was also involved in the gold rush – some years before the illustrious sparkles in the water at Sutter’s Mill. What is Santa Clarita’s gold rush history and why are we still enamored with the idea of pioneers?

In 1842, Francisco Lopez discovered golden flecks in the ground as he was digging up wild onions in modern-day Placerita Canyon. Already harboring a knowledge of mining from the University of Mexico, Lopez knew that there were some elements of the golden element in the hills. Lopez sent his findings back and was given permission by the governor of California to prospect for more.

The gold rush – and the idea of the new frontier of the USA – is a popular topic and one that many still idealize as a golden time in the country’s history. The Gold Rush is a popular theme for slot games, for instance, including those far beyond the USA, as providers of online casino in NZ show with titles such as the Wild Falls slot. The Wild Falls slot infuses the gold rush theme into traditional slot gameplay. The tension found in the slot games will replicate what the pioneers must have felt as they sifted through earth to find gold.

Moreover, the Frontierland attraction at Disneyland also takes inspiration from the cowboys and gold rush pioneers that inhabited the American West in the late 1800s. Popular console game Red Dead Redemption 2 is set during the winding down of the traditional Wild West at the turn of the 20th century. Using the themes of the gold rush to help bring games to life helps imbue them with the spirit of the time and the prosperity and hope that was fervent during the discovery and search for gold.   

As a result of Lopez’s assertion that there was gold in the Santa Clarita Valley, 2,000 pioneers then headed to the hills, foreshadowing the great gold rush that changed the tone of the 1850s and beyond. For those skeptical of Santa Clarita’s early gold rush claims, the petition approval that Lopez received is held in the National Archives proving that he was one of the first to discover gold in California and that it occurred in Santa Clarita itself.  

People enjoy the concept of the new frontier and the gold rush because it embodies hopefulness. Many people take inspiration from those brave enough to make the journey from the safety of established cities towards the parts of the country that were still more exposed to the elements and had no guarantee of being habitable, safe, or even that gold-filled. As Lopez’s discovery led in some ways to Santa Clarita being what it is today, we look to events in the future that will reflect this hope and potential – which is why people like the idea of the gold rush so much.

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