On January 24, 1848, James Marshall set off early and alone to inspect progress in deepening the ditch that channeled water from the sawmill back to the river. Suddenly, he bent over and picked up a few particles gleaming in the icy water. "Hey, boys, by God, I believe I've found a gold mine," he called, walking toward the mill hands.
The men ran to meet him. One seized a flake, bit it, and when the metal did not break, yelled, "Gold, boys, gold!" After they had further tested the metal by boiling it in lye and beating it thin, the men were convinced that Marshall had found gold. Four days later, on January 28, John Sutter wrote in his diary, "Mr. Marshall arrived from the mountains on very important business."