A gold prospector’s life was far from easy and although there were some respectable prospectors, by-and-large they were a rough and rowdy group that became known for their unscrupulous practices. Many of the original prospectors came without their families since the trip was so treacherous. Since loneliness was common for these single prospectors, many would migrate to the saloons on their off time. Once inside the saloons they would often drink and/or gamble away any gold they might have had.
Those that did bring their families often spent time with them when not panning for gold. Many of the prospector’s wives either helped with the panning or got jobs in town to help bring in money to support the family. Children also often helped with the mining and prospecting. Native American children were kidnapped by some prospectors and made to work panning gold and attending to other duties. Some prospectors even enslaved some black Americans, some of whom were able to buy their freedom with the gold they found.
In general, the lives of prospectors were hard and short. Illness and disease often ran rampant through mining towns and since there was seldom enough to eat, this led to the early demise of many of the prospectors. This was especially true for some prospectors, afraid of having their finds discovered, stayed in remote areas to avoid being seen. Among families, once an illness had been contracted by one member, it often spread through the family and then the mining town. In some extreme instances, entire mining towns were wiped out by a single illness or virus. Long life spans were not the norm at the time among miners and prospectors.