Samuel Brannan was born in Saco, Maine, in 1819 and sailed to California aboard the Brooklyn, arriving on July 31, 1846. He was the leader of a Mormon colony comprised of 238 followers that was attempting to escape religious persecution in the east.
In the east, Brannan operated the religious publication, The Prophet, and arrived in California with enough equipment to start another secular publication, The California Star. The Californian and Brannan's publication joined and became known later as The Alta Californian.
Brannan was instrumental in spreading the news of the gold discovery as Sutter's Mill in Coloma which started the great California Gold Rush. He owned a store in New Helvetia, the area now known as Sacramento, near Sutter's Fort. Upon a visit to that store, he found that a few miners had begun paying for supplies with gold particles.
Brannon was an elder in the Mormon Church, and most of the workmen at the mill were former members, of the Mormon Battalion. So when Brannan went to the mill to see for himself, they readily gave him a tithe of the gold they had obtained in their spare time. When returned to San Francisco in the first part of May, Brannan paraded the streets waving a quinine bottle containing the gold and shouting, "Gold, gold, gold, from the American River!"
Though many Californians had heard rumors about the gold discovery, it took Brannan's quinine bottle to convince them. Once convinced, however, they acted promptly. By June 1, San Francisco was reported to be "half empty" as the able-bodied males departed en masse for the mines. This scene was repeated up and down California as people everywhere responded to the irresistible cry.
Brannan became one of the most prosperous and wealthy men in California. He was a very important person during the Gold Rush because he organized banks, telegraph and express companies, and gave out information about agriculture in the Bay Area. He made a great deal of money, but lost it in very unusual deals with the Mexican Government in 1865.
In addition to being one of the founders of Yuba City, California, Brannan founded Calistoga and the Napa Valley Railroad in the Napa Valley of California and built the Cliff House in San Francisco. Brannan Street in San Francisco is named after him. He also performed the first marriage in California when it was ruled by the United States.