Sacrificed to Gold

Jared Dixon Sheldon, a Vermont native and carpenter by trade, is thought to have arrived in California, then a province of Mexico, in 1839. When authorities at Monterey, the capital, hired him to build a customhouse for them, he asked for payment in the form of a future land grant at such time as he found land he wanted.  Two years later he was working as a carpenter at Sutter’s Fort, and two years after that his friend and fellow Sutter employee William Daylor told him of the beautiful Cosumnes River Valley south of today’s Sacramento, which Daylor had discovered while looking for a strayed herd of horses. In January 1844 Sheldon received title to the Rancho Omochumnes land grant, a spread that extended 17 miles from beyond today’s Rancho Murieta community on the Jackson Road, to modern Highway 99. Sheldon divided the grant with his friend and partner Daylor, and the pair became ranchers and farmers. In 1847 Jared completed the second grist mill in the Sacramento Valley (John Sutter’s was the first) on his share of the grant. When news of the 1848 gold discovery swept through local settlements, Sheldon and Daylor and a third friend reportedly found $17,000 in gold. California, however, became chaotic and dangerous: Jared Sheldon was murdered in 1851 by angry gold miners whose claim was upstream of a dam he was constructing on his own property.  He left a wife, Catherine Rhoads Sheldon, and three young children. A community, a school, and a road within the boundaries of Elk Grove, California, are named for Jared Sheldon. Today’s Grant Line Road marks one border of the original Rancho Omochumnes land grant.

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