Fact #3

Do you recognize the name, Samuel Brannan? Many will know this man as the big mouth who started the California Gold Rush. For although James Marshall and John Sutter discovered the gold, they tried to keep it a secret. Brannan, on the other hand, shouted the news far and wide the second he returned to San Francisco from a trip to the new mines.

 Brannan’s adventurous personality and keen business instincts made him a wealthy man. So wealthy, in fact, that throughout the 1850s and 1860s he was known as the wealthiest man in California. One of his ventures was the establishment of a resort for the wealthy, to which he even built a private railroad. (Something I briefly mentioned in Harmony on the Horizon.)

The story goes that one evening when Brannan was drunk, someone asked him about the resort he was constructing and he mistakenly replied that it was “Calistoga of Sarafornia.” He’d meant to say the resort would be the Saratoga of California, but the name Calistoga stuck. This is why today there is a beautiful town known as Calistoga, California, located in the Napa Valley.

Sadly, Mr. Brannan was a gambler and womanizer which led to the dissolution of his marriage. The divorce would ultimately prove his undoing, as he was forced to liquidate his assets in order to pay the divorce settlement. Though he tried many business schemes in the subsequent years, he never recovered from this setback, and in the end, the wealthiest man in California died nearly penniless on a small fruit farm in San Diego.


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