Placer Camp and William G. Russell
In July 1858, William Green Russell was travelling south along the South Platte river when he came to the mouth of a nearly waterless creek situated a few miles from the mouth of Cherry Creek in present-day Denver. Not far from the mouth of Dry Creek, he washed out the first significant amount of gold to be found in the Rocky Mountain area, the discovery setting off what became known as the Pike's Peak Gold Rush.
Russell was no novice when it came to prospecting for gold. Raised in Hall County in Northern Georgia where gold was found nearby, he was interested in all that happened on what was known as Gold Diggers' Road, which connected the two rival gold towns of Auraria and Dahlonega.
At 12, he began accompanying his father on mining and surveying trips, learning from him not only how to pan for gold but also how to handle surveying instruments. Following the death of his father, he and some of his brothers worked in the nearby gold mines, where William saw the progress of how gold was mined: from pans and picks, to rockers and cradles, to the expensive yet more-efficient gold washing machines that did the work of many men.
Green Russell talked endlessly of gold and promised his younger brothers they would become miners and make great fortunes in gold when they grew up. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, Green and his brother, John, soon headed there. Their past experience gave them an edge over most other prospectors. They knew good outcroppings from poor ones, and by year's end had mined a sizable amount of gold to take back home in 1850. The following year, Green returned to California with his youngest brothers, Oliver and Levi, wanting them to experience what it was like. By the end of that trip, Levi had amassed $10,000 in gold, enough to pay for his medical training.
With all that experience, it makes sense that Green would be the person who ignited the Pike's Peak gold rush. I'm currently writing the sequel to my first novel, Passage of Time. The sequel is set in the exciting time of the gold rush and the early days of two rival Cherry Creek towns, Auraria and Denver. Here's a snippet from Chapter 3: