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JOHN A. SUTTER AND THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH
SUTTER'S FORT, SACRAMENTO
MAY 25, 2008
1) Sutter's oldest son, called August, arrived in California in 1848. As his father's business manager, he helped clear his debts. But Sutter Sr. never forgave his son for helping establish Sacramento, and fired him as business manager. August lost money in his own real estate dealings and, in poor health, moved to Mexico. There he became a successful business man, diplomat. and American Consul in Acapulco, Mexico.
3) With part of the money from the sale of the fort, Sutter was able to send for the rest of his family. Arriving at Hock Farm in February 1850 was his wife, Anna, pictured here, daughter Eliza and sons Emil and Alphonse. The family was reunited for the first time in 16 years.
4) When his daughter Eliza married a Swiss music teacher in 1952, Sutter threw a typically extravagant celebration. Many of the more than 200 guests arrived at Hock Farm on a steamboat hired by Sutter. After a sumptuous banquet and fine wines, there were speeches, Indian dancers and fireworks. The marriage ended in divorce a year later.
5) Emil Sutter enjoyed working ins his father's gardens and vineyards at Hock Farm. Later, he was a notary public in San Francisco and a member of the Pioneer (?) Society. In 1881, while visiting Europe on business, he committed suicide.
6) Sutter's youngest and favorite son Alphonse, wanted a military career. After a stint as a military aide to his father and then to Governor Bigler, the young Sutter went on an ill-fated military campaign to Nicaragua in 1855. He returned in 1857, sick with fever, and died in Nevada City in 1863.
I was so foolish. I understood so little about business. I gave men powers of attorney to sign deeds and they swindled me on every side... I was the victim of every swindler that came along. These swindlers made the cornerstone of my ruin.
John A. Sutter, Sr., 1876
The Fort and the Park
Due mostly to the infancy of archaeology and a lack of funding during the restoration, the current state park differs in many ways to the fort Sutter built. Above is a look at the fort just prior to the discovery of gold:
Differences between Sutter's Fort and the State Historic Park on the Fort's location:
* The fort was 428 by 178 feet with 18-foot walls. The park is 320 by 129 feet with 15-foot walls.
* The fort's east wall was 129 feet long. The park's is 137 feet long.
* At the fort, enclosed corrals abutted the north and south walls and the three room abode occupied by Sutter during construction abutted the western wall of the central building. None of these are represented at the park.
Sources: California Department of Parks and Recreation, "Dogtown Territorial Quarterly"
Bee graphic: R.L. Rebach
15 Private rooms Sutter provided free room and board at the fort to new immigrants, making it a popular destination for Europeans and Americans settling in California.
16 General store (no images)
17 Jail Located under the southeast bastion, the jail confined drunks or brawlers or served as a holding cell for those awaiting trial or punishment. As the civil authority of the area, Sutter was charged with enforcing the laws and issuing punishment. I believe, this is where the Restrooms are located today :-)
1 The Main Building
A three-story building, this is the only part of the original fort that exists today. It was the hub of the fort's operation. It housed: Sutter's business office, where accounts were created, cattle registered, and inventories tallied; the dining hall, where the residents of the fort were served their meals; the doctor's room, where various wounds and ailments were taken care of, broken bones set, and rashes and simple fevers treated; and Sutter's private office, where Sutter launched industrial and agricultural efforts and probably discharged his duties as a Mexican official.
European OakQuercus Cerris
This tree came from Kandern, Baden, Germany, the birthplace of General John A. Sutter.
The Native Sons and the Native Daughters of the Golden West planted it on July 19, 1939, and dedicated it September 9, 1949 on the occasion of the celebration of admission day and the centenary of the founding of the modern city of Sacramento.
D Beehive shaped oven
This oven was called a horno.
4 Temporary home (Building above corner back)
These three rooms were Sutter's home during fort construction.
Cannon demonstration at Sutter's Fort in Sacramento
6 Blacksmith's shop (Building above left)
Possibly the most important craftsman of the fort, the blacksmith made many essential items: hinges for the gates and doors, fittings for carriages, shoes for horses, lanceheads for defense, knives for cooking and tools for other craftsman. If the smith didn't make the original item, he was often asked to repair it.
8 Coal storage (Building above corner)
7 Gunsmith's shop (Building above right)
Whether the gun belonged to the individual settler, or was part of Sutter' s arsenal, a skilled craftsman was needed to repair or replace broken parts.
G 1848 Colt The 1848 Colt was favored by Wells Fargo.
A Carronade Used to defend the fort walls.
2 Bastion (top)
Protecting the fort from attack, two towers were armed with two types of cannons. One kind shot iron balls to stop attackers at a distance. The other kind was like a giant shotgun, shooting bags of musket balls, against attackers and their ladders along the wall of the fort.
5 Carpenter's shop (above)
Second in importance only to the blacksmith, the fort's carpenters made everything from the roof shingles to the windows and doors to the tables and chairs, beds and cupboards, even some of the cooking utensils. The molds for the adobe bricks and the cannon carriages were also made by the fort's carpenters.
F Carpenter's plane Used to shape wood.
3 Kitchen (Building above left)
Serving mostly bread and beef, the kitchen fed the fort's residents and visitors, who might number as many as 50 people at one time. This number swelled at planting and harvest time, to perhaps 150 to 200 workers.
E Hamer and anvil Used to shape metal.
14 Cooper's shop
Holding wet and dry items, barrels were an important method for storage used all over the fort. A barrel maker, called a cooper, would be called upon to make wooden buckets, barrels, butter churns, drinking casks and large tubs.
H Butter churn
These churns were made by coopers.
12 Blanket factory Part of Sutter's overall plan to establish industry at the fort, sheep were raised for wool and weavers were hired to make blankets. Natives were trained to supply any additional labor needed. The final product would be sold or traded to the local natives in return for goods or labor.
C Spinning wheel Used to turn wool into thread.
Two men were employed as bakers at the fort. They produced the bread that was eaten daily by the employees. The bakers used an outdoor beehive-shaped oven, called a "horno". They prepared a fire in the horno, heating the adobe bricks to the correct temperature.
10 + 13 Grain storage
B Cast iron pot
Cooked mostly meat. (?)
9 Guardroom Posted on either side of the main gate, a member of Sutter's garrison would greet visitors to the fort and inquire as to their business.
Retreat and Reunion
By the summer of 1849, Sutter's debts were paid, thanks to the booming Gold Rush economy and his oldest son's efforts as business manager. At his 600-acre Hock Farm (today Yuba City), Sutter became what he once said he would be - a farmer, planting seeds and cuttings from throughout the world.
But in time, his lack of business sense, his extravagance, and his drinking led to financial ruin. Squatters overran his property, his real-estate ventures failed; dishonest partners exploited his gullibility. Finally, he lost title to two-thirds of his land when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him in a review of his Mexican land grant titles. To make good on his tentative sales of that land, he had to sell most of Hock Farm.
On June 21, 1865, fire destroyed his Hock Farm home and with it, his letters, memoirs and photographs. Suspected was a man to whom Sutter had given food. When the man was caught stealing, Sutter ordered him whipped. Arson was the thief's revenge.
Sutter's oldest son,
John August Sutter, Jr.
was laid to rest at the
Sacramento Historic City Cemetery,
located near the Sutter Fort.
Obituary for John August Sutter, Sr.
published by the "Sacramento Record-Union" on June 21, 1880:
Though he had enjoyed what to some would have been splendid opportunities, he was never able to avail himself of them. Nor was this to be wondered at, for he had all the tendencies of the pioneer, and the pioneer is never the millionaire.
He acquired large tracts of land when nobody thought they would be fit for anything but cattle ranges. When the real value of these possessions began to be perceived, this simple and large-hearted pioneer found himself surrounded by cunning and unscrupulous men, whose first object was to be the better of him, and who experienced too little difficulty in this.
The gold era swamped him. He was a good pioneer, but he was not made for prosperity. He never could have been a rich man, because he never had the capacity to hold on to wealth.
John A. Sutter, Sr. was laid to rest at the Moravian Cemetery in Lititz, Pennsylvania
2)When Sutter was off mining in late 1848,
his rivals persuaded his son, August, that
the riverfront was a better site for a city than Sutterville. They even convinced young Sutter
to pay for laying out the town of Sacramento.
It soon eclipsed and engulfed Sutterville.
Did you know? Sacramento, California and my Swiss "hometown" Liestal (Basel-Landschaft) are Sister Cities!