Gold Towns: Sutter Creek

Prior to the Gold Rush, the site that became Sutter Creek was the “piney woods” locale where John A. Sutter, owner of a trading post in the Sacramento Valley, sent his employees in search of a source of lumber in 1846. Two years later, while gold-seekers were creating havoc to his settlement, Sutter himself yielded to the lure of gold. He arrived where the town of Sutter Creek is currently located with a crew of Hawaiians and Indians, and began mining along the creek that also bears his name. He was not particularly successful. Nonetheless, a small community began to grow. According to legend, it centered around a cloth tent where the miners met on rainy Sundays when they couldn’t get to Drytown or Jackson. In fact, there was little mining activity at Sutter Creek until 1851, when quartz gold was discovered. Quartz mining was a very hazardous occupation. Many cave-ins resulted from inadequate timbering of shafts and tunnels. Further, large amounts of capital were needed to construct those shafts and tunnels. However, some properties were incredibly productive, such as the Central Eureka Mine, which produced $17 million in gold from a shaft that reached almost the 5,000-foot level. The town also developed an industrial base: the first foundry and furniture manufacturing plant in the gold country was built there. Sutter Creek was incorporated in 1854, by which time it had grown into a significant camp boasting several restaurants and stores, and an impressive hotel. Educational and religious activities also thrived there, making Sutter Creek a cultural center distinct from the wilder mining camps of the region. With the centennial of the gold discovery in 1939, the town turned its attention to tourism—and today attracts visitors from around the world to its classic Old West charm.


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