They took their name from the year the rush began. On Jan. 24, 1848, James Marshall, while making his daily inspection, discovered gold in the mill race of his employer, John Sutter. The news was told in a short paragraph in the March 15, 1848 issue of The Californian.
In 1849 alone, it was estimated that 9,000 men traveled the southwestern route by way of Santa Fe, while 22,500 traveled the emigrant tails. St. Joseph and Independence, Mo., as well as Council Bluffs, Iowa, were staging areas for the westward-bound wagon trains.