On January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall and his crew found gold at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. This discovery would lure tens of thousands of people from the United States and foreign nations. People packed their belongings and began to travel by covered wagon to what they hoped would be new and better life. Since the first great influx of these pioneers began in 1849, they are generally referred to as 49ers.
One of the supply points along the trail was Salt Lake City, where pioneers prepared for the long journey across the Great Basin desert before climbing over the High Sierra Mountains to the gold fields of California. It was important to leave Salt Lake City and cross the desert before snow began to fall on the Sierra Mountains, making them impassable.