Student: Census/Gold Rush Town

The census of 1852 provides a picture in time of the people populating an El Dorado County, California mining town. This lesson will allow you to examine some of the occupants of a gold rush era town.
Compare census data, draw conclusions from the data, use online sources to see paintings of camp life and read accounts of gold miners lives.

The instructions below are for students who would like to complete this lesson without a teacher’s direction.

When you click on the links that take you outside LearnCalifornia.org, a new window will open.


  1. Develop a mental picture of a gold miner from the gold rush time. Think about the age and where they might have come. Think about how they might have come to California (overland or by boat).
  2. Open, print and complete Looking at Census Data, using El Dorado County 1852 Census Data document (examine the census data). Look for people who interest you or raise questions in your mind.
  3. Think about the people in the census, pay attention to the age of the people and their occupations. Try to draw conclusions about the age of the miners. Think about what life in a mining town would be like without many women in town. Think about how that would change the actions of the men. Speculate why the women had no occupation listed. Think about what life might have been like in a mining town. Remember there were no paved streets, houses were rare and that many people lived in tents or crude cabins. Visualize themselves walking into town—imagine conversations and sights—read Official Report on the Gold Mines by Colonel Mason, especially the section on the towns along the American River.
  4. Look at the printed scenes of Jackson 1854 and Columbia 1852 to get an idea of what the towns looked like.
  5. Read the Gold Miner Writing Prompt then create a letter to the family at home.
  6. When you finish your letter, read the Letter Home From a Miner – transcript and view the Letterbook Photograph. (You can read either a portion of the original handwritten version or a transcribed copy). Compare your letter to the one written by the miner.
  7. After you complete this lesson, please remember to Grade Our Site. Thank you.

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