Sunday, April 16, 2017

Notaries - Learn from the California Gold Rush!

Hello, Readers!

I hope you had a great Easter Sunday.

On my mind is the Notary Snake Oil that I wrote about earlier...and that always makes me think of the wild west and the gold rush years.

Gold rush miners were a lot like you.

They heard about a great opportunity and have invested in it.

In the mid 1800s, people swarmed to California because they heard there were veins of gold to be found in the hills and gold flakes flowing down rivers and streams. My own great-great-grandfather did! (If interested, see a note about him at the end of this post.)

There really was gold to collect!  But, just like notary work, there was a limited amount of gold.

Miners saturated California looking for gold.

If 100 people had flocked to the gold rush, there would have all gotten quite wealthy.

But, when the number became 250,000 hopeful people scrambling to California, there was not enough gold to go around.

Miners didn't realize this, but the only way to get rich was to sell stuff to miners!

So, they gave all of their money to people who would show them how to get rich.

Every book written on the gold rush will have a statement in it like this: 
Gamblers and con artists swarmed into the
camps to swindle the miners of their money.
 As a result, few miners grew rich.

Who actually became wealthy?  

The same folks who ran ads in newspapers to bring miners to the gold rush! For instance:

People who wanted to sell stuff to miners.  Shopkeepers who sold pick axes, shovels, buckets, pans, an evening with the ladies, whiskey, and pants.

People who would show miners how to find gold.

Levi Strauss got rich. Have you ever heard of Levi Jeans? Ol’ Levi Strauss became a multi-millionaire during the California Gold Rush by putting brass tacks on his pants pockets to keep jeans from wearing out. Would-be miners took their life savings to the West coast.

Transportation providers. To travel there, they first had to go by riverboat, horseback, or wagon to the Gulf Coast or East Coast and sail around Mexico and South America (because there was not yet a Panama Canal to sail through). Some crossed through Indian Territory. Many died. It was a treacherous trip to California’s hills and streams.



This story has nothing to do with notaries, but I've added it because it strikes me that the Gold Rush and the call for notaries to flock to the notary signing agent business is similar.

Benjamin Franklin Powell (my great-great-grandfather) was born on January 16, 1825, in Twiggs, Georgia. 
Benjamin Powell
Went to Gold Rush in 1851.

Travel to the Gold Rush
I found records on that indicate Powell sailed to California from Texas to join the gold rush.  To travel on land was quite dangerous because Indian Territory stood between Texas and the gold mines in California.

Powell paid to sail and traveled around the southern-most tip of South America to seek his fortune.  At the time, there was not a Panama Canal to pass through.

Jewelry and Heirlooms
When Powell returned to Texas, he brought back a beautiful 24K gold shell brooch that was gifted to my mother's oldest sister, a flat and dainty bracelet engraved with an ornate "P" and it belongs to my mother's youngest sister, now.  He also brought back a mechanical pencil with a ruby inset where the eraser would be in a traditional pencil.  That piece was given to my mother.

Powell also returned with wooden bedroom furniture, a dark set that included a marble-topped washstand (mine), a marble topped dresser that's with my cousin, and a bed that's with another cousin. When he returned, he didn't provide details of his adventure.  So, we really don't know how he got those things, but we have them and they are wonderful heirlooms.  

He was married three times and had five sons and two daughters. He died on February 11, 1908, in Terrell, Texas, having lived a long life of 83 years, and was buried there.

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