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In California, in a mill race on an undistinguished stream, an astonishing discovery was made. It was gold. Gold said to be so plentiful that it just lay there waiting to be picked up. Nuggets of gold that you could just bend down and put in your pocket. Big nuggets, some weighing six ounces or more. A six ounce nugget was worth $120 in 1849. Today? $3,000 in today’s dollars! How excited would you be to look down on the ground and pick up $3,000? And it could be easily had. All you had to do was get to California and grab a shovel. You didn’t need an education. You didn’t need a family connection. You didn’t need anyone’s permission. You just had to get there and start digging.
Every eager and aggressive second son or stuck-in-a-rut store clerk dreamed of striking it rich in California and coming back with pockets stuffed with golden nuggets. Easy. It would be so easy. All it would take was a little effort to dig it up. But there was also something else. Land. More land than any single individual could farm. Untold acres of land that had never been touched by a plow and had lain undisturbed for millions of years. There was so much land available that the United States Homestead Act was offering it to all comers for free. Free land. All you had to do was stake a claim, register it, and live on it for five years. Then, it was yours. In the 19th century, most of the world farmed. But in America, you could farm land that was owned by you, not someone else. That meant that your crop was entirely yours, not just a small portion of it. That meant that you were your own boss. In America, there was no limit to what you could accomplish. No class distinction, no rules to follow, no one to tell you what you could do or what you couldn’t do.
Freedom. Liberty. A new start. People came from around the globe seeking a new life. Most risked everything they had. This is their story; It could be yours, as well. Here's where you find out what it as really like.