Henry Mayo Newhall: Rail riches became real estate riches
The fulsome dreams of glittering gold and untold wealth that brought thousands of immigrants to California stands in stark contrast to the harsh realities they encountered. Despite more than $100 million in gold mined in California between 1849 and 1851, few of the Argonauts prospered from prospecting. They endured freezing waters and blizzards in the winters, scorching heat in the summers, and outrageous prices for the most basic goods and services year round. Interest rates were 3 percent or more per month. Most left the gold fields defeated and sought refuge in the cities. Some contemplated a return to their homes and families back east. In 1851, Henry Mayo Newhall dejectedly stood on a box on the Stockton wharf and auctioned what remained of his belongings to raise the funds required for the fare back to San Francisco, and then on to Saugus, Mass., where he was born and raised. He used the proceeds to buy some merchandise, shipped it back to San Francisco, auctioned it off for a profit and bought a steamer ticket.