Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Lopez Gold Discovery in NY Observer, 1842
Placerita Canyon

California was still part of Mexico when, on March 9, 1842, Francisco Lopez discovered gold in Placerita Canyon. As such, Lopez's discovery didn't get as much attention or newspaper coverage in the United States as did James Marshall's discovery six years later at Sutter's Mill, at the tail end of the war that brought California into the Union.

But Lopez's gold strike did get some play on the East Coast, as proven in this original edition of the New York Observer from Oct. 1, 1842. The brief news item reads:

CALIFORNIA GOLD. — A letter from California, dated May 1, speaking of the discovery of gold in that country, says: — "They have at last discovered gold, not far from San Fernando, and gather pieces of the size of an eighth of a dollar. Those who are acquainted with these "placeres," as they call them, (for it is not a mine,) say it will grow richer, and may lead to a mine. Gold to the amount of some thousands of dollars has already been collected."

The item appears on page 3 of the four-page, large-format (22" x 29") broadsheet newspaper (Vol. 20, No. 4; the 1,019th edition overall). New York's oldest weekly newspaper still in publication at the beginning of the 21st Century, the New York Observer of 1842 was a religious and heavily abolitionist tract published by Sidney Edwards Morse, the son of a Protestant minister and a younger brother of Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of Morse Code.

Sidney E. Morse (b. Feb. 7, 1794, Charlestown, Mass; d. Dec. 24, 1871, New York City) graduated from Yale in 1811, studied theology at Andover seminary, and studied law at Litchfield, Conn. He came to New York in 1823 and founded the Observer with his younger brother, Richard C. Morse. Like Samuel, Sidney had a flair for invention, teaming with Samuel to patent the flexibile piston pump, then in 1839 developing (with Henry A. Munson) cerography, a method of printing maps in color. In later life he invented the bathyometer, a device for the rapid exploration of the depths of the sea.

Further reading:

California's REAL First GoldCOINage magazine, October 2005

Placerita Gold: Sutter & Marshall Knew They Weren't the FirstSanta Clarita Valley Living magazine, February 2006

LW2181: 4800 dpi jpeg from original newspaper purchased by Leon Worden.
• California Gold
• Lopez Discovery
• Placerita Post-Lopez
• San Francisquito
• Oak/Dream Dedication 1930
• Oak/Dream



Dissecting the Dream: Fact, Fiction & the Golden Oak, by Alan Pollack


New York Observer 10-1-1842


U.S. Treasury Voucher 1843


Abel Stearns Letter 1867


Francisco Lopez
• Baptism 1802

Pedro Lopez (Brother)
• Baptism 1805

Maria Felis (Wife)
• Baptism 1800

Maria Concepcion (Daughter)
• Baptism 1823
• Death 1825

Francisco Ramon (Son)
• Baptism 1825

Catalina (Pedro's Daughter)
• Baptism 1831

Francisco Garcia's Story 1896

Francisco "Chico" Lopez Obituary 1900


As Told by Jose Jesus Lopez


Sutter's Fort Error 1905


Prudhomme 1922


Engelhardt 1927


Francisca Lopez de Belderrain


Belderrain Story 1930


Who's Who, by Belderrain

• Story: Sutter, Marshall Knew They Weren't First

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