Date: January 30, 2014 01:27PM
As I have heard the story, the Mormon Battalion, raised and mustered into Federal service for the Mexican War just south of present day Council Bluffs, IA, in July 1846. The Mormon "in-gathering" was taking place, and the Mormons were encamped in the area of what is now Omaha/Council Bluffs. After marching from Council Bluffs to Ft. Leavenworth KS, where they were outfitted by the military, the 5 companies of young Mormon men proceeded to make the longest overland march in the history of the US Army, to San Diego, CA. By the time they got to San Diego, the Mex War was nearly over, and after pulling garrison duty for a few months, they were mustered out in July 1847. The elders of the group wrote to the head of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young, now in Deseret (Utah) for orders. Brigham said that the young church colony was in need of cash money, and the Mormon men should hire themselves out in groups and send the wages "home." Some of the young men went north to Sacramento, where John Sutter was expanding his empire, and needed all the disciplined help he could get. He hired a group to assist John Marshall with the lumber mill he was building at what is now Coloma, CA. According to some accounts, it was they who took the suspect "pebbles" to Marshall, who then tested them with acqua regia, and "discovered" gold. Mormon Island was the first gold camp in the California Gold Rush, founded by some of them.
So one of the tales we tell here in the Council Bluffs area is that the California Gold Rush really started on the grounds of Iowa School for the Deaf, in Lewis Township, which is now part of Council Bluffs!