August Riots, 1850

Vandalism and petty acts of violence had been escalating in Sacramento for months before finally erupting in bloodshed on August 14, 1850, at the corner of 4th and J Streets. The hotly contented issue was property rights, and emotions on both sides were boiling over. A number of Gold Rush newcomers, dubbed “squatters” by existing landholders, contested John Sutter’s land Continue reading August Riots, 1850

Feasts at the Fort

John Sutter’s wilderness trading post attracted a number of adventurers. By August 1840 he could boast that he had 20 men in his employ, at a time when his settlement was hardly more than a way-station. He arranged fur trapping brigades, and hired clerks, cooks, blacksmiths, and other tradesmen.  Over the years 1839 – 1849, the cooks at Sutter’s Fort included William Daylor, John Continue reading Feasts at the Fort

The Rise of Sutter’s Fort

John Sutter landed along the banks of the American River in August 1839, accompanied by a small, but loyal crew of Hawaiians and Germans he hired during his sojourn in the Islands.  The first order of business was to construct shelter. About a mile south of the river landing place, on a knoll that rose above the flat valley floor, the Hawaiian workmen constructed a Continue reading The Rise of Sutter’s Fort

August in the Valley

August in California’s Sacramento Valley, a place larger than some Eastern states: hot days, cooler nights, ripe corn and watermelon.  Gold-rushers and other intrepid pioneers settled here some 150 years back to create farms and industry, and raise their families. August, 1909: “The Sacramento Valley is as rich as the valley of the Nile,” boasted the Sacramento Union.

Long Circuit West

Fleeing from creditors in his native Switzerland, John Augustus Sutter landed in New York in 1834. He disembarked with trunks of books and clothing . . . and big dreams. In Missouri, he heard rumors of big opportunities in Mexican-owned California. Leaving Westport (now Kansas City) in the spring of 1838, Sutter journeyed overland to Oregon Territory, arriving at Fort Vancouver in October.  He had planned to ride south from there but snows were already blocking the passes, so he boarded a trading vessel to Hawaii, hoping to connect with a California-bound ship. Instead, Sutter ended up stranded in Honolulu for five months, finally arranging with the English owner of the Clementine to deliver cargo to Californiaon the condition that he first make a delivery to the Russian outpost at Sitka, Alaska. Arriving in Yerba Buena (now San Francisco) in July 1839, Sutter was told that he must sail to the official port of entry at Monterey. There, he met with Governor Alvarado and finally gained permission to proceed with his plans for a settlement in California’s interior. A month later, John Sutter and his small crew sailed up the Sacramento River in three boats. After several days of navigating a virtually unexplored wilderness, he found a suitable site in the Sacramento Valley, two miles east of the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. The date was mid-August, 1839.  He was the first European to establish residence in California’s interior.