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SCV History: The First Gold Strike in California Was in Placerita Canyon, 1842

Many credit the first California gold discovery to James W. Marshall in 1847, but did you know that the actual first gold found in California was discovered in what is now Placerita Canyon in 1842?

9.07.2022

SCV History: The First Gold Strike in California Was in Placerita Canyon, 1842

California was still a part of Mexico when, on March 9, 1842, rancher Francisco Lopez discovered gold while herding cattle on his family’s ranch. It was Lopez’s 40th birthday, and around noon, he decided to take a nap under an old oak tree. The legend says that during his nap, he dreamt of a river made of liquid gold. When he woke up, he noticed an onion sticking out of the dirt near the stream (there was flowing water in the wash then; can you believe it?) and when he lifted the onion from the ground, he saw gold flakes all over the roots. Lopez and his family ended up finding over $8,000 worth of gold in Placerita, about $272,500 with today’s inflation. The tree under which Lopez took his nap before his discovery is commemorated in Placerita Canyon as The Oak of the Golden Dream by the State of California.

We know Francisco Lopez found the first official gold in California as he registered his discovery with the Mexican governor of Alta California in 1842. The official piece of parchment was stamped with the governor’s seal of approval, making Lopez’s gold discovery the first in California, and it was right here in what is modern day Santa Clarita.

By Loreal Renee