The park was named after James W. Marshall who discovered gold in January 24, 1848 in Coloma, CA. This discovery started the great gold rush in California and resulted in its admission into the union as the 31st state. Soon after gold was discovered, experienced miners from Chile came to California. They introduced the Chilean wheel which crushed the ore beneath heavy round stones.
The discovery of gold also brought attention to western migration. One of these groups was the Chinese people. They set off across the Pacific with hopes of finding gold and returning to China with their treasures. What they found in the mining camps & towns in California was resentment and prejudice. They were pushed off their claims. Despite their lack of acceptance, they formed communities whereby they started businesses such as laundries, tea houses, restaurants, gaming houses, and grocery stores. Between 1850 and 1883, Coloma was home to a sizable Chinese community. Stone buildings with wood paneled doors were formed. The Chinese merchants supplied their countrymen with mining necessities from their homeland. Their stores also served as a gathering place. After a fire destroyed Coloma’s Chinese quarter in 1883, most of the Chinese miners & merchants left town.
Local Indian tribes also were hired to help in the mines. They built huge baskets for carrying items. Freed slaves moved into California in 1850. Peter & Nancy Gooch, one such couple, became successful fruit farmers in Coloma. Their grandson, Pearly Monroe became the blacksmith of the town. The building still stands, but Pearly died some time ago. Volunteers run the shop as part of the historic site.